28w, 0d. I find it hard to believe that there are just 12 weeks between here and my due date. It seems like it finally feels right to start really thinking about the birth and what I hope for in those moments.
My family and I went down to Charleston, South Carolina for the long weekend (in part to celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary!), and the only book I brought with me was Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery. Despite all of my reading about birth over the past several years (and I have done a lot of reading about birth), I had never read this particular book of Gaskin’s (who is one of my idols in the birthing world, along with Ricki Lake—I swoon over The Business of Being Born). There’s little I love more than birth stories—and the collection contained in the pages of Spiritual Midwifery is definitely a snapshot in time; lots of talk of “psychedelic” births, babies born in school buses on a caravan… and enemas. I don’t really want any of those things for myself, but reading all of those women’s stories got me thinking about my past birth experiences and what I’m hoping for this time around. I still don’t have all of the answers, but luckily I have time to figure out some of them…
I met with one of my midwives today, and after taking care of all of the physical stuff, she turned to me with a smile and asked how I was doing emotionally. She and my other midwife were aware of my mom’s deteriorating health during my last pregnancy and knew that we had originally planned for my mom to be present when I gave birth to Henry (which I did in her house because we’d had to move a couple of hours away). But when what was supposed to be a single night in the hospital turned into several weeks and the news that her breast cancer had spread far and wide, I was understandably devastated. I kept in touch with my midwives after the birth and let them know of my mom’s passing less than two months later, and they of course remember that the house where we’re living now was my mom’s—and that her absence was palpable at my last birth.
I was surprised to find myself crying before she even finished asking her question. For many people who experience the loss of someone really close, the period immediately following the death is terribly painful. For me, I cried constantly, missing my mom daily as I tried to tend to the needs of a newborn and a toddler, to be present as a mother in the fresh absence of my own. But then, time does indeed make things easier, and I went from crying several times a day to just once a day, once a week, once a month… to almost never. I forget to allow myself that space emotionally—but I’ve noticed in recent weeks that I seem to need it more than ever (thank you, pregnancy hormones).
When I pulled myself together enough to answer her question, I thought about what it will mean to give birth without my mom here (not that she’s been present at either birth before, but there was the promise of seeing her immediately after and introducing her to her new grandchild), to know that she will never meet this daughter… I thought about all of the people who may be in attendance at the birth—my husband (a definite), my brother and his fiancée (a medical student in OB-GYN; both maybes), my kids (maybes), a close friend (maybe), our doula (a definite), and my midwives… I thought about how I want this birth to be festive, like that time of year (I’m due the day after New Year’s), that I want this birth to be a true celebration. And then I thought about how privately I’ve wanted to birth in the past—the feeling of wanting to hide in a dark bathroom on the toilet and labor on my own. I don’t really know yet what I want for this birth, at least in terms of whom I want there. I may not know that until I’m in labor, and it may change at times during labor. I’m letting folks who might be present know that I may need space alone—that they may not get to be in the room for the birth itself. I thought about how I have no plan for handling labor pain (I tried Hypnobirthing the last time around but didn’t find it as effective as I’d hoped—and there’s no way I’m going to successfully convince my husband to attend weeks of hypnosis classes with me in the next couple of months). Anyway, all of this is to say that I’ve been feeling kind of teary and a little freaked out—but my midwife reminded me that dealing with all of that stuff at 28 weeks is a hell of a lot easier than at 38 weeks. Okay, back to sobbing now.
What worried or preoccupied you in the final months of pregnancy? Leave a comment below!