I’m writing this post purely for myself, to remember what it was like to be 38 weeks and 5 days pregnant with my first baby.
I’m still feeling good in general, not too tired, not in pain, not weird. I don’t think I’ve had any contractions, or at least if I have I haven’t felt them. I’ve had what I’d describe as various types of niggles and twinges, not consistent or lengthy enough to be considered contractions per se, but I think they are just signs my body is getting ready and baby is changing position to engage. In the last couple of days baby has gone from moving crazily to being incredibly quiet and moving only very gently. Gone are the big belly flops and twirls and spinning that baby has been doing since the beginning of the third trimester.
I still have reflux, on and off, but I’m so used to it now that although it’s uncomfortable I just kind of deal with it. I haven’t taken a tum in ages. I also still have swollen ankles, despite having discovered the magic of Spirulina, whose initial effect was to dramatically reduce the swelling. I think it’s just because I’m getting so close to birth and my body is focused on that rather than keeping the fluid moving. I’m heavy, I notice it whenever I stand up, and my pelvis aches, as does my tailbone occasionally and my lower back on and off. It’s not really painful, it’s just noticeable, it’s just there from time to time. Sleeping is hard because I have to keep changing positions from one side to the other and as much as I want to it’s not comfortable to lie on my back for any length of time. I have been randomly waking in the middle of the night, getting up to go to the toilet because I’ve got nothing else to do, and then lying there waiting to go back to sleep. It’s odd, I haven’t ever had broken sleep in my life except when really sick.
A week or so ago I had a positive test for Group B Strep which was initially a little off-putting and worrying, but I read up on it and realised there was no need to panic. I thought long and hard about it, based on what I had read, and I decided a few things. Even if the second swab, which I did last night, proves to be positive, I won’t have antibiotics at any point unless I am seriously running a fever and clearly have an infection that I can’t shake. Their effect on me is so awful, instant thrush, and I can’t imagine the agony of thrush and recovering from birth, not to mention the fact that I’d be concerned for baby ending up with thrush on its face and then passing it to my nipples, could be absolutely disastrous! In the UK, they don’t do the GBS test; instead they monitor mum and baby during birth, and offer antibiotics if there are risk factors. Then they monitor baby after birth to see if any fever strikes, which they would do anyway. The GBS test result is often ambiguous, or rather, it can show up one day and then be gone the next. If I didn’t have any bacteria in my vagina, baby wouldn’t receive it during birth and the formation of gut flora would be seriously compromised, a huge issue in terms of digestion, and probably even worse for a new baby whose digestive system is being used for the first time really. Lastly, I also realised why this positive test had occurred; to teach me to take my diet seriously! I’ve been pretty good since the positive test came through, avoiding refined sugar almost entirely, which is a huge deal for me, as my diet is the one thing in my life I have problems controlling. I’ve even cut right down on my bread intake, in order to avoid the yeast. What I also realised is that this bacteria is me; I’ve always had high levels of bacteria in my system, high acidity. I know this because as a child I always had thrush and spent many an hour sitting in a basin of salt water to soothe it. I think the concentration of bacteria is normal for me, but it has been kicked out of balance due to my poor diet and indulgence in foods infused with refined sugar. It’s been a great wake up call!
I still think the baby is a girl, although it’s been hard to work it out, and Mr Chewbacca is now saying he thinks it’s a boy. Because it was so active and a few people had looked at me and said it was a boy I started to wonder. I’ve thought it was a girl ever since that 13 week ultrasound when I saw its face it was like a miniature version of myself. I’ve studied the 19 week ultrasound images and can’t see anything resembling a penis or a vagina, despite having looked up what ultrasound pics should look like for both sexes.
I’m almost totally prepared – birth pool and oxygen have been delivered, I have the hose and fitting, plastic sheets, Emergency Essence, apricot kernel oil, maternity pads, biodegradable wet wipes, cloth nappies… I’ve even washed all the baby clothes and re-folded them in their drawer in piles of ‘types’ (ie. all singlets together, all onesies together etc). I’ve read all the books I wanted to – Michel Odent, Sarah J Buckley, Pam England, Ina May Gaskin and so many more than I didn’t have on my list but were lent to me by my midwife.
Speaking of the midwife, she asked me an interesting question at our appointment yesterday: what do you plan to do for pain relief? I was slightly taken aback, I have to admit, because I’m having the baby at home, probably in a pool – I mean, there is no pain relief, or at least no real external intervention. I just assumed that because I’m giving birth at home, we won’t think about the pain as real pain per se, it’s more about the psychology of birth and how I’ll turn off my brain that registers that pain and work with it to give birth smoothly and as I’m meant to. I can’t ever imagine being in enough pain to want to have, say, an epidural. The idea of someone sticking a thick needle in my spine in order to inject fluid that will numb my legs is far more frightening than being torn in two to allow a baby to pass through… I know, it probably sounds weird, but I only feel like this because I think of vaginal birth as natural, but an epidural as very unnatural. So what happens naturally in birth is ‘right’, but what is caused by external intervention is ‘wrong’. It’s just how I think of it, what works for me.
It’s true, I haven’t done the preparation I expected to do, like prenatal yoga and meditation. I didn’t read the Hypnobirthing book or Calmbirth, and I don’t have specific techniques for breathing or noises or focusing or positioning that I plan to use. I have read about so many different ways of doing things, and the way I see it, I’m really good at listening to my body and what it needs so I will do what it asks of me. My pain threshold, or more precisely, my ability to deal with pain is pretty high; especially this kind of pain. Of course I’ll also listen to what others say, especially the midwife, as her experience is really why I hired her. I am also acutely aware of my family history in birth and that no woman on either side of my family has ever had a caesarean or a really complicated pregnancy or birth. The worst to happen was stillborn babies or miscarriages, and there were always clear causes – alcohol, cigarettes, bad diet, advanced maternal age. I also think babies come when it’s time, when they want to be here, and this one really desperately wants to be here. I think it’s like its daddy, impatient, full of energy and desperate to connect!
My prediction for the birth date? 17 May. This will be three days past my due date, and a full moon, so that’s when I’m expecting to at least have some movement. I’ve thought for the last few days that things are happening because of the lack of movement and the deep ache in my pelvis, but I know I won’t go into labour before the 40 weeks. I occasionally have odd ‘scared’ feelings, usually just after I get into bed with my husband. I feel a little overwhelmed at what I’m about to go through and what might happen. It’s purely fear of the unknown and it’s okay. I just keep focusing on the fact that baby will arrive, eventually, it will come out and I will have a baby, one way or another. So one day this will be over. One day soon in fact. I just hope it is the transforming and rewarding experience I have heard it is, and I hope I have the capacity to stay calm, tune into my body and my baby, and let them do their work.