You know how pop culture tells you pregnancy is a 9-month-long affair?
Pop culture is full of shit.
Your due date is set for week 40 of your pregnancy. 40 weeks, divided by 4 weeks a month… that’s 10 months. Yep.
I’m currently in the middle of week 38. And at this point, pregnancy has turned into a waiting game. When will she make her appearance? Today? Tomorrow? In 4 weeks? (Docs usually wait til week 42 to induce labor, barring any complications.)
Here’s the thing: Patience has never been my strong suit.
But I gotta say, I think I’ve been pretty fucking heroic in terms of patience these past few weeks, amidst increasing physical discomfort. Really, at this point, pregnancy just starts to feel like one indignity after another. To wit: I’ve previously mentioned my middle-of-the-night crab-walks to the bathroom; well, they’re only getting worse. The pain is excruciating — truly, searing pain from the pressure on my bladder, to the point that I’m afraid I won’t be able to walk the five feet to the bathroom and will need Jordan to bring me a chamber pot or something. (Note: We do not own a chamber pot.)
Add to that: feet and ankles that are fat and swollen (the only shoes that fit these days are flip flops); dull pain in my left hip and thigh that makes it impossible to lie on my left side (sciatica?); a belly so itchy you’d think it was covered in poison ivy; and, lately, recurring (mild) headaches. Walking around the block exhausts me, and I gave up on the subway a few weeks back because the stairs were just killing me — so now we’re slowly spending our life savings on cabs to and from Manhattan for our weekly doctor’s appointments. Oh, and I snore so loudly that Jordan needs to wear ear plugs in order to sleep.
Hooray! The miracle of life!
Now, I know I sound negative, but I’ve actually been pretty Zen about all this. I don’t constantly feel sorry for myself or complain. First, I’m grateful that she’s healthy, and I’m healthy — I’ll take discomfort over serious health issues any day. Second, my friend Katie advised me to think about this phase of pregnancy (and labor… and new-parenthood…) as a yoga practice, and that metaphor really works for me: These discomforts are like challenging yoga poses, and I need to breathe my way through them, rather than fight them, resent them, hate them. Kicking and screaming just exhausts you and makes you unhappy. Giving up — well, you can opt out of a difficult pose in yoga class, but there’s no opting out of the reality of my body these days. Acceptance, while difficult, is really the only path forward. That said, as with a difficult yoga pose — you can and should certainly make adjustments, and breathe, to find equanimity; suffering is not the goal. The goal is to be able to coexist peacefully with discomfort, and maybe to discover potential and abilities you didn’t know you had. And if I can do that now, my chances of doing it during labor, and as a new mom, are bound to increase.
Also, as much as I want the Hirschling to make her grand debut, so that (a) I can finally meet her! and hold her! and (b) I can end the discomfort of pregnancy, I also realize that as soon as she comes, I will miss this. There is a sweetness to these days, and sometimes it’s hard to see beneath all the discomfort, but — Jordan and I will never be on the verge of having our first baby, ever again. We are on the cusp of something huge, and when we look back, from the other side, it will be hard to remember what it felt like.
It feels like: Let’s go on a lot of dates, even though it means springing for a taxi or taking two buses to get to our destination, since I can’t take the subway. Let’s cook dinner and eat it with Cosmo lying on his spot on the carpet, waiting for permission to get up and sniff for any crumbs we might have dropped. Let’s watch multiple episodes of “Parks and Recreation” or “Bored to Death” or “Breaking Bad” and eat ice cream (well, Stonyfield organic frozen yogurt) on the couch. Let’s sit on the deck and listen to the rain on the roof. Let’s read in bed, with Cosmo at our feet, until we tell him it’s time for bed, at which point, he dutifully climbs down the pet stairs to his dog bed, below.
Let’s try to relax, as terrified as we are, as excited as we are, as expectant as we are.
“Expectant” is the right word; truly, it’s not just me that’s pregnant — our lives are pregnant. With anticipation. With wondering. We’re scared of the change ahead of us, no matter how many workshops we may teach on rolling with the punches. We know we’ll roll — it’s what we do, and we probably do it better than most…not that it’s a competition, but it’s a strength we have, as a couple.
But — what we’ve had for these almost-13 years of marriage, and these almost-18 years of being together, is so special, and we’re worried that she will jeopardize that. That having a child will jeopardize our freedom to pursue our creative interests, our passion for travel, our need for down time.
We embarked on this journey because — well, for a lot of reasons, that are hard to sum up in a sentence, or two, or three. And now, with my due date just over a week away… it’s like staring down a path that curves, and you can’t see around the bend, no matter how much you strain; and you can’t help straining to see, no matter how much you realize that straining is silly… that it’s just a matter of taking a step, and then another, and another.
Other travelers tell you what they’ve seen, but their words don’t conjure your own journey; you know you’ll see something different, through your own eyes. That the terrain will feel different, under your feet.
And you worry: what dangers might there be? Maybe you should have stayed home, should have avoided this journey altogether.
(That is a hard thing to write. It makes me feel like a bad person. But it’s the truth.)
And then — she kicks, and our faces light up, and metaphors melt away. Fear and doubt melt away. She isn’t an abstraction — she’s… her. And I am overcome with yearning — the yearning to HOLD her, after all this time. And a feeling of peace comes over me, the peace that comes from faith… my deep and abiding faith in anything that grows from our love.
And so… we wait.