Well, we’ve made it this far. Still pregnant. Still currently carrying a rather large foetus inside the tummy area. And boy, are we ready to meet him or her.
Having had a very normal textbook pregnancy, with no complications or real discomforts to speak of, the final few weeks have been a bit of a shake-up to the system. I did not realise that it was possible to be this uncomfortable ALL the time. And I didn’t think I would be one of those expectant Mommys, who would turn into a whinging waddling mass, moaning all day long about how to ‘get this thing outta me’. But I did and I am. I’m such a stereotype.
Here are the Top Ten Things to Know About the Final Stages of Pregnancy. (Reader caution; there may be some complaining).
Get used to it. The baby will grow so gradually into your womb, tummy, ribs and back that one day you wake up and realise you can’t remember what it feels like not to have a tiny turkey stuffed in your insides. Sitting down is terrible. I took early maternity leave because of it. You will want to stretch out backwards in a C shape to counteract the pressure on your torso, but unless you have backwards C shaped furniture you’re out of luck. I’ve found a gym ball up against the couch can help. Just don’t bounce off!
2. Are those my feet?
About halfway through pregnancy, you will find that your stomach muscles have more or less separated. Technically known as diastasis recti, this normal pregnancy process allows the tummy to greatly expand. It also means you will not be able to sit up or bend down. Do you know how many times you need to sit up or bend down during the day? A lot. Forget socks. Forget shoes. Forget pretty painted dainty feet. You won’t be able to see them and you WILL NOT be able to reach down to them. You can get your partner to help, or in my case, just wear slippers all day. I do accept help to get up from the couch though. If you’re on your own, just roll.
I truly believe that the mind and body are wonderful things. There are aspects of our brain and subconscious that we just don’t understand. One aspect I have come to greatly understand however is the body’s preparation for infant induced sleep deprivation. In late pregnancy, you will not be able to sleep. You will wake, when tired and have to get up, maybe every two hours, maybe every four. A seven hour sleep was months ago. Little tricks the body uses are; toilet – you will need to go; hunger; you will need to snack and brain activity – the mind will not switch off and you will have to get up. All those people telling you to ‘get as much sleep in now as possible’ don’t know what they’re talking about. We are trying!
Some ladies don’t get heartburn or may only experience some mild fire breathing. In general however, most pregnant women will find they suffer, as the stomach gets pushed right up under our chins. Heartburn will make you avoid certain foods, (goodbye chillies and in my case; bread!), drink lots of Gaviscon / Maalox or chew chalk tablets and on some nights, sleep sitting up. I have a pregnancy nursing pillow which allows me to sleep at an angle, while still feel like I’m lying down. There is an old wives’ tale that bad heartburn is a sign of a baby with a good head of hair. Considering my baby has been head down for weeks now, I think my little one also has a hairy arse.
5. Michelin Man
Weight gain. Inevitable. But you know, after a while, you just don’t care. There’s a recommended amount of weight gain (two stone) which seems, depending on where you are on the weight richter scale; way off. I passed that milestone months ago. It’s important to look after yourself and ensure as much self-confidence as possible though. Showering helps. As does doing your hair. While it’s nice to have photos of your bump and pregnancy, some photos, may shock you and I have been avoiding them. Give yourself something to look forward to. I have booked a weekend away a few months after baby is due to give me a goal to work towards. I plan on walking a lot after the birth. No crazy weight loss diets; but hey, you do want your body back.
6. Prison term
When you got your due date all those months ago, the time stretched out in front of you like a long college year that might never end. Reaching the end stages however, brings a whole new set of time keeping. You will begin to scratch the walls, marking off days in bunches of fives, counting down the very minutes until your DUE DATE. You will begin to use a new time method. Today I am 39 + 3. Tomorrow I will be 39 + 4. Every twinge is a potential labour pain. But; only 5% of babies are born on their due date and most first time mums go over their due date. This doesn’t stop you convincing yourself you will go early however and when you don’t; well, everything sucks. When will this pregnancy sentence end?
7, Maternity Leave
In Ireland, you must legally take stop work two weeks before your due date for health and safety reasons. Having had a problem-free pregnancy I expected I would work right up until the end. Afterall I have a desk job with no heavy lifting. You may pass a point however, where the tiredness, insomnia and incessant rib kicking cracks get too much and you will opt to take some extra time off, or some holidays, as I did. Your first week of maternity leave will be great. You will make a list of all the things you have to do. Pack hospital bag, get baby’s room ready, clean house, finish off odd jobs, food shopping, comfort clothes, clear out cupboards, maybe even a spot of home décor. Then you will finish the list. And you have this time off. And nothing to do, but wait for baby. For a busy professional, this time can be angst-ridden and boring. You need to plan appropriately and enjoy the extra days you have been given. If you don’t, your moods will fall and you will turn into narky pregnant bitch. (Not good).
Every innocent phonecall you make will be answered with a scramble dash to the phone at the other end and a nervous HELLO ANY NEWS??! You will feel guilty having to explain to your parent, colleague or friend, that you were just calling about that appointment or article you saw or some other mundane reason to make a phonecall and no, there is still no sign of baby. Carrying the weight of expectation along with your own frustration and weight of expectation is part and parcel of being heavily pregnant. But, if I go way over, I’m disconnecting the phones.
9. Labour inducing
I always thought those TV or movie scenes of women trying to bring on labour were comical. Women didn’t really go to those lengths to kick start baby, did they? Wrong. Even way before your due date, your mind switches from being scared about the birth, to wishing you were in the throes of it, because you are so ready to meet baby and to not be pregnant anymore. So far we have tried bouncing ball, raspberry leaf tea, hot curries, long walks and soothing baths. They don’t work. There are just one or two things left to try. Watch this space!
10. Private v Public
How’s your cervix? Be expected to talk about these things. Complete strangers will ask you the most intimate questions. They will take your big bump as carte blanche to discuss their own horrific birth stories and lacerated private bits. Childbirth used to be a personal matter; now with TV shows like One Born Every Minute and access to the internet, people are more educated and open to discussing the ins and outs of the process. I don’t want to talk to people about these things. In fact, I’d be quite happy to go back to 1950s style and just appear home with baby and no questions asked. Besides, babies are found in cabbage patches. Aren’t they?