The Home Stretch
My swollen feet, as I write this article, are propped on a chair opposite me. I try not to look at them because I no longer have ankles. Last night, I was up for a bathroom run every 45 minutes! And getting into or out of my truck has become an event that needs planning, as has shaving my legs, putting on my shoes and bending forward for any purpose.
Sound familiar? Welcome to the limbo land of the last few weeks of pregnancy. Having nurtured your baby through the tumultuous first trimester, into the (comparatively) easy second and the increasingly impactful third, you’ve reached the great 37-week milestone: your little one can survive on its own outside your womb!
Suddenly, the objective of pregnancy changes. No longer are you concerned with keeping the baby in residence in your body—now, any time, you will enter labor and usher him or her into the great world. And, if you’re like me and many other increasingly pregnant women, that moment can’t come soon enough!
Of course, there’s the rub. Unless you’re being induced or undergoing a C-section, you have no control over when the baby arrives. The suspense can be grueling. Each ache and pain has a possible second meaning. Disappointment blooms over muscle spasms, cervical pressure from baby’s head and Braxton-Hicks contractions that lead nowhere. Waiting is hard! And every day seems to bring new levels of discomfort.
It’s tempting to fret, to feel helpless and to ride the emotional roller coaster high into hope and low into despair. But there are things you can do to ready yourself for the joyful ordeal that lies ahead.
This is the time to catch up on details: freeze meals, pack hospital bags, re-read literature on birth and new parenthood, put a waterproof sheet on the bed in case your water breaks and catch up on laundry. Just make sure you don’t overdo. Rest often, whenever you feel tired—which leads to the next important step in preparation:
From all I hear, giving birth to a child is perhaps the most physically demanding (and rewarding) challenge we’ll ever face. So one of the best things you can do to prepare is to relax!
Pause whenever you need to. Put your feet up, literally. Take naps and warm baths. Let your body fulfill the natural cycle of rest and exertion. It’s important that you have all your resources when you begin labor. Which leads to the third point:
You may not feel able to prepare adequately for the emotional impact of childbirth, but now is the perfect time to give yourself space, journal thoughts and feelings, meditate and enjoy reading books or watching movies. Now it is essential for you and your partner to really focus on each other, discuss your emotions over the upcoming change in your lives and to enjoy the ability to go on a date without a babysitter. This is a wonderful period to connect with friends, go to coffee shops alone to read and walk slowly through a museum.
This time of waiting can be a gift, full of surprises and meaningful interactions with yourself, your waiting little one and others. With patience and grace, you can actually enjoy it—or at least certain parts of it.
Emily McIntyre lives in Kansas City and has traded the home stretch for snuggling with her brand new daughter.