As I’m currently in my 38th week of pregnancy, I am discovering new ways to distract myself. It can be easy to obsessively read all the articles in pregnancy books, or online sites like Baby Center, Dr. Sears, or Mothering about how to know when labor is near, how to know if you’re in labor (even if you’ve already been through it), how big your baby is, etc. But at some point, you will start to lose your mind, as you think that every little twinge or Braxton-Hick contraction is the beginning of labor and you are almost done being pregnant.
In my first pregnancy with my son, he was born 2 weeks and 5 days early. It never occurred to me that labor was approaching, as I so rarely heard of someone delivering more than two weeks before their due date. So, I never felt like I was in the pre-labor waiting stage. It can be easy to expect the second pregnancy to go like the first, and forget that being pregnant with a completely different child is a completely different experience. In some ways the second pregnancy is harder than the first, because we think we know what to expect or we assume we know how it’s going to go. Except as I’ve learned this week when my second baby wasn't born (despite being the same size as its brother at 7 and half pounds), we don’t. In general, anytime we have expectations, we set ourselves up for disappointment. So to expect we have some clue about what’s going on or we know when baby is set to arrive can make the rest of the pregnancy hard when our expectations fail to happen.
Surrender to the not knowing.
Except that surrendering is easier said than done; we often don’t think we have expectations or assumptions to let go of when we do, or until they hit us on the head. Letting go takes practice. Buddhists spend their entire lives practicing letting go of their attachments, cravings, desires, expectations, etc, so we can obviously allow ourselves some growing pains as we try to surrender our own expectations about our pregnancy, labor and birth. I mean, we’re pregnant and hormonal and cravings are just part of the process – we can’t be expected to give them all up.
I find that while I am trying to learn to surrender, it helps to distract myself from my own last few weeks of pregnancy doing any number of things. So I made a list of some of the things that I’ve been doing and some suggestions for my fellow mothers wondering if their pregnancies will ever end. (They will. I promise. It feels like we’ll still all be pregnant at Thanksgiving, but we won’t.) (At least I hope not.)
1. Go to Yoga. Yoga teaches you to go inward, tune into your body and focus on your breath – all things you’re going to need in labor anyway. It also increases flexibility, strength, helps ease the aches, relaxes you, and reminds you to honor your body however it is in that moment, which, as we know, changes moment to moment when you’re pregnant.
2. Get a massage, acupuncture, Reiki treatment, chiropractic treatment or whatever form of bodywork that works for you. It could actually help speed things along, and it can leave you feeling like a brand new person.
3. Spend an entire day in bed reading a book you’ve been meaning to read. My aunt told me to do this in my first pregnancy, and I didn’t because I was too busy listening to the nesting instincts that had taken over my body and possessed me to fill my entire freezer with soup. But within weeks after my son was born, I was sorry I didn’t. In this pregnancy, I insisted on a day in bed with a book. It ended up being my Mother’s Day gift and was far more luxurious than anything else I could have received.
4. Go outside and walk. Yes, it is the middle of the summer and hot. Yes, the only bearable time to be outside is at 5am, just as or before the sun is rising. But you know you’re not sleeping anyway and the air will do you good – as will the walking.
5. Make plans as if you were NOT about to go into labor any second. Much like a watched pot never boils, sitting around wondering if every little thing you feel is “it” gets old fairly quickly. Babies come when they’re ready, and it seems like they often come when we’re distracted and least expect it.
6. If you already have children, relish the time you have with them. Fill them up with your undivided attention, one-on-one playtime/interactions, new experiences, and so on. If they’re older, you can probably have some pretty cool conversations about what they think about baby coming, what it will be like, their concerns, or things they can do with the baby or that will help you.
7. Go to the movies. Or as my sister recommends, watch the series “This Emotional Life” on PBS.
8. Have date night with your partner/spouse
9. When strangers look at you and your belly and try to guess what the sex is from the shape of your belly, if they are correct, tell them that the sex is the opposite just to mess with them. (Do they really think the belly shape is an accurate indicator of gender? And if it were, would we all really be running out and getting ultrasounds?)
10. When people tell you how huge you are, correct them that the actual appropriate thing to say to a 9 month pregnant woman is, “Does your partner/husband know to call me when the baby arrives, so that I can bring you a lasagna or send over a housecleaner?”
11. Bake a pie. Don’t let all that summer fruit at the farmer’s market go to waste.
12. Start a new project, like a quilt or a novel or screenplay or something you’ve always wanted to do. Or learn something new - preferably something difficult that will require your entire brain to wrap your head around.
13. Get a haircut, pedicure, your eyebrows waxed, or whatever it is that has you feel like you’ve nurtured yourself.
14. Write in a journal. Write down your fears, hopes, concerns or thoughts about your birth. If you need a good hormonal cry or tantrum, go for it. The release will feel good. But when your husband tells you you’re just being hormonal, tell him to leave your hormones out of it.
15. You’re nesting anyway, so you might as well just go ahead and paint the kitchen, clean out the closet and filing cabinet, clean out the garage and have a garage sale.
16. Start a garden. Then if after you give birth no one brings you food, you can just wander out to the yard to eat.
17. Remind yourself to breathe, to trust the process of pregnancy, labor and birth, trust your baby, and trust yourself. Remind yourself that your experience is valid, whatever it is, and all of it is just as emotional and even spiritual as it is physical.
When my husband and I were trying to get pregnant with our son, we had a good friend who told us to relax, that our potential child had already chosen us as the perfect parents, it was just out in the ether waiting for the astrological alignment it wanted to be born under. I think he was right, and constantly am reminding myself that the same goes for waiting for the baby to be born. This baby chose us as parents and it’s just waiting for the right moment and the right astrological alignment to be born under, which means there’s nothing else for me to do, eat, or figure out. I just have to keep myself entertained in the meantime.