I nearly forgot that I had my own blog.
To me, pregnancy feels like a long, solo journey to a strange, distant land. I turn inward. I slow down. I retreat. I wait. I process.
This year and last many of my writer friends and I who were turning 39 and then 40 wrote about what the end of our thirties and the beginning of our forties meant to us. (I particularly loved Alison Slater Tate’s and Lindsey Mead’s pieces on turning 40.)
As I enter the last days of my pregnancy, I know that I’m on two very different sort of journeys: one of entering a new phase of middle adulthood and my forties and another of adding a new daughter to our family.
Being 39 weeks pregnant feels so much like being 39 years old to me. You’re on the edge of a new path, a new direction. You feel very much like your old self, but know that new versions of yourself are about to be born.
Being 39 weeks pregnant is a time of uncertainty. Your life might change at any hour… Or it may stay the same for weeks. Both states — change and stasis — terrify you.
Being 39 weeks pregnant is about managing discomfort. Even if you’ve had an easy pregnancy so far with no complications — as I have — there’s no getting around the fact that your last days of pregnancy will make you feel large and plagued with annoying physical ailments, from constant cramping to the need to pee more than five times per hour.
Being 39 weeks pregnant is about knowing — and being told again and again — that you need rest to prepare yourself for what’s to come, but finding restorative, fitful rest elusive. Despite my pregnancy pillow, early bedtime, and exhaustion, the quality of my sleep has deteriorated beyond recognition. I toss. I turn. I jump up out of bed with leg cramps. I waddle to the bathroom. I throw my pillows to the floor in frustration.
Being 39 weeks pregnant is about alternating bursts of energy with crushing exhaustion. An hour ago I was on my hands and knees trying to find dust bunnies in every corner of our bedroom: under the bed, in the closets, under the dressers. Then I decided to reorganize the drawers of the baby’s bureau. In the middle of that project, I was overcome with a fatigue so all-consuming that I took to the couch. (With a bag of Halloween candy.)
Being 39 weeks pregnant, with a first-born child in the house, is about looking forward to spending many weeks consumed with getting to know, learning to love, and focusing intensely on your new baby. And then feeling anticipatory guilt about neglecting and confusing your older child. You wonder if your heart is big enough, and if you will have enough energy, to love two small children completely, passionately, and patiently.
Being 39 weeks pregnant for a second time is believing that you are an expert in childbirth one minute — after all, you have done this before — and next wondering why you didn’t take a refresher course because you don’t remember a thing that matters.
Being 39 weeks pregnant is about being confused by your body’s signals. You feel steady contractions and think that maybe it’s the time to start timing them. Then nothing.
Being 39 weeks pregnant is about becoming a public conversation piece. Earlier in pregnancy, you may have received warm and knowing smiles, an opened door, and a pregnancy-related comment here and there from strangers. Now, you cannot leave the house without continuous commentary from nearly everyone you encounter, from the preschool parent that you’ve never spoken to before who tells you that you’ve definitely “dropped” to the elderly ladies at the coffee shop who ask to feel your baby to see if you’re having a contraction, to the librarian who asks if you’re past your due date yet because she thinks you look like you are.
Being 39 weeks pregnant is about using Google more than 100 times a day. Today’s Google search terms: signs of prelabor, chance of labor at 39 weeks, average length of pregnancy, pregnancy nausea, pregnancy gas pains (Note: Be very careful when googling late pregnancy signs. I searched “mucus plug” — because I thought I had maybe lost mine — and what appeared on my computer screen traumatized me.)
Being 39 weeks pregnant is about panicked Amazon orders. Until the last few weeks, I have managed to avoid the sort of useless, anxiety-induced buying frenzies that characterized my first pregnancy — during which I bought three baby carriers, about ten types of baby bassinet sheets, five different styles of swaddle blankets, five different types of bottle systems, and assorted styles of onesies (kimono-style, snap-neck, no snap, long sleeve, short sleeve) “just in case.” But now I’m realizing that I do in fact need some things: diapers, wipes, baby soap, a rug for the baby’s room, a sound machine, etc.
Being 39 weeks pregnant is about being sick of baby name lists, despite the fact that it has been your dream to name a girl since you were a small child. You wonder if there is any name that you and your husband can agree upon. And if there isn’t, you secretly think that you should get to name the baby because you are the one who is carrying around nearly 40 pounds of extra weight and hasn’t been able to see her toes since the Fourth of July.
Being 39 weeks pregnant is about giving up any control over your moods. At the beginning of pregnancy, I was irritable and often downright nasty. Constant morning sickness for weeks on end will do that to a person. For the most part, during the rest of pregnancy, I didn’t feel all that much snippier or unreasonable than usual. (My husband may dispute this.) But now my moods are less stable than a toddler without an afternoon nap. Any given hour can bring giddy excitement, crushing disappointment, frantic anxiety, and unfocused annoyance.
Being 39 weeks pregnant is about saying, typing, and texting over and over, “Nope. Nothing yet.”
Being 39 weeks pregnant is about being asked, again and again, “Oh, how are you feeling?” and realizing that you cannot give the whole truth because no one really wants to hear: “I’m leaking pee and mucus. My back aches. I’m so constipated that I haven’t used the bathroom in over 10 days. I have varicose veins in places where no one should.”
Being 39 weeks pregnant is about knowing that you are about to meet one of the most important people in your life. She’s in many ways a stranger, but also more a part of you than anyone you know. You will be a new mother, even if you have other children at home.
You know that you will give your heart and all your love to this new person. But before you can meet, you both have the last part of this long journey to make.
What was the end of pregnancy like for you?