I had my 28 week prenatal appointment earlier this week. I value my midwife and enjoy our visits, but I had a nighttime epiphany recently that I had more options to choose from, because I miss the kind of relationship I had with my midwife during my second pregnancy.
At this appointment, I had my blood sugar checked (2 hour post-prandial) and it was 91 (same as it was with my first baby at this point). I also had my hemoglobin checked and it was 11.5 (same as with my first baby—with second baby, it was 12.9 at 26 weeks). I now weigh almost as much as I did full term with number two! (still five pounds to go). Baby wiggles a LOT—sometimes it almost hurts, which I don’t remember from before. She also has hiccups regularly, which are always cute. She also seems to be head-down. When I heard that, I felt really strange—like, “there is a head in there?! And, I’m going to give birth to it?!” I have been much more reluctant to read about birth during this pregnancy—I think because I’ve been concentrating so much on successfully growing this baby to term, I don’t want to plant any subconscious ideas too early about giving birth and send myself into labor early, or something. I used to read a lot of birth stories and I have some great books of birth stories, but I don’t feel like reading them until I’m like 36 weeks—just in case. After this appointment, I started to think birthy thoughts some more—thinking about ideas and plans for when she is born. I also had a birth dream—the placenta came out first and after a while I was like, “wait, but I didn’t have the baby yet!” and then she was born—enormously fat with small eyes and she gave me a big hug.
The same night I realized I wish I had some more midwife choices, I had another realization (not exactly a new one, but a new version of it) that I still have a big root fear that something wrong with ME is what caused my miscarriages (like a clotting disorder) and that I still do not trust that I can really give birth to a living baby at the end of this pregnancy. I’m worried that my body was responsible for the loss of my other babies. I don’t know how to get rid of this or work with it really—I’m at an impasse and since I truly do not know the cause and I can’t talk myself out of logically/rationally or just “think positive.” It is buried down there—most of the time I feel happy fine, but when I catch sight of the fear again (that night it was because she wasn’t moving as much as she usually does at that time of night), I realize that it is this bone deep fear-based thing that I don’t know how to shake. I do not want to have a fear-based pregnancy or to live a fear-based life, but there it is…
When it isn’t the middle of the night and I have my logic brain back, I feel more certain that my m/c experiences were chance based—Noah perhaps some kind of abnormality and the second perhaps a progesterone deficiency or something else related to getting pregnant again fairly quickly after a significant loss—and thus have no bearing on my current pregnancy, but still.
However, speaking of fears and returning to my plans for this birth, someone recently expressed surprise to my mom that I’m planning to have this baby at home after what happened with Noah. Hmm. This is completely irrational to me, because what happened to Noah had nothing to do with being at home—he died, we found out, I gave birth to him at home. How would that mean that my new baby should be born in the hospital instead? Not to mention that fact that when I did go to the hospital postpartum because of blood loss, rather than being helped by the assumed-fabulous skills and resources at the hospital, I was dismissed in life-threatening condition! (and was instead helped by a midwife at her home.) Having Noah only reinforced for me that the hospital is not somewhere I want to be when I’m giving birth, postpartum, or in need of compassionate attention. Giving birth to him at home reinforced for me that home is where I can most capably, peacefully, respectfully, powerfully, and safely give birth to my babies.
I keep feeling this “call” to retreat—to quit most of my nonessential responsibilities and just hang around at home. I had this fantasy recently of a year-long postpartum retreat where I just take care of my baby and read and write and play with the kids and look at the clouds (or something). Ever since I had Noah last year, I’ve been feeling like turning inward/away and just spending time by myself. I also felt like I needed to take a break from being of service/helping other people and needed to tend my own hearth and take care of myself instead. I rarely actually follow-up on this urge, even when I have a chance to do so. There is always too much “work” to be done or things to “catch up” with or just “one more thing” and before I know it, my window of alone time has passed. This might just be a fantasy notion—if I really wanted to take the time out, wouldn’t I do it?—but I think it is a true call to self-care that I’m not heeding (even now, here I am writing a blog post while my kids are visiting their grandpa—couldn’t I be having a mini-retreat right now?). This is one reason I’m taking a leave from birth classes and LLL right now—I want to be able to focus on my own pregnancy, birth planning, babymoon, and new baby, rather than focusing on those things for other people. I also feel like writing about my own pregnancy and my own birthing thoughts, rather than writing posts or articles designed to help other people—sometimes I get bogged down in feeling like I should be writing helpful and informative posts and the time for personal reflection passes. Maybe this sounds selfish, but I don’t think so. I’ve always had a fear that if I am not “of service” in some capacity I will cease to exist/have any worth/be a real person—I’d like to get over that!
I often tell my college students that we cannot expect more from our clients than we are willing to do ourselves. I also tell them that sometimes we want to do for others what we are unwilling to do for ourselves. This is where I am right now—I have lots of great ideas for things I’d like to do for other women on pregnancy retreats or in birth classes for women who are having their second or third baby rather than their first and want to deepen their understanding of the meaning of pregnancy and birth in their lives. Why don’t I experiement and do all those things for myself? And, then, see about offering those things to other women…I can see it now—“My Year of Self-Care.” (Inside joke to those who know how I disklike “year of” experiment books.) I feel like I rarely do what I actually want to do with my days, instead of doing what I should do, or what makes the most sense. Sometimes it is what is most pressing, but more often it is should-based or internally driven, rather than an actual issue of priorities.
This actually isn’t the post I set out to write today, which was originally intended to be some self-care tips from Renee Trudeau with a short intro from me about my own “call” to rest and renewal. Perhaps it was the post I needed to write though! Perhaps not, because now I feel like I’ve “wasted” my chance to do some of those other things I’d like to do with my time!
You’re thinking thoughts I spend a lot of time thinking! I’m glad you’re trying to be nice to yourself. I just wanted to say–you’re wondering “if I really wanted to take the time out, wouldn’t I do it?” But you totally know that we train ourselves over years and years to DO and GIVE and WORK (and to judge ourselves and our days based on very particular definitions of that doing/giving/working). So of course you can’t just STOP, with no lingering impulses. It has been so difficult for me to give myself permission to read books for fun, or start drafting a memoir instead of revising a conference paper into a journal article, or take a bath now that I’m between jobs. But when I succeed in dropping the ‘but that’s not work! it’s lazy! you’re wasting time!’ internal monologue, I enjoy whatever I’m doing so very much. It’s not that I don’t WANT relaxation/self-care/etc. enough; it’s just that I’m not very good at it! I’ve actually done better with it when I’ve mentally defined THAT as my job, as in: you’re wasting your time between jobs by not relaxing with a book in the tub while you have a chance! stop cheating by working; that’s lazy!
Also, have you thought about the idea that maybe what you need to do in order to feel like you can birth your daughter and watch her grow up is just go right along experiencing your pregnancy (however that feels) and birth your daughter? I’m sure you’re looked into a laboring woman’s eyes when she’s saying “I can’t do it” and responded with “You ARE doing it.” Does it help at all when you remind yourself that you ARE doing this, living your life, growing your baby?
I don’t know; being all philosophical is sometimes just annoying when you’re gut-scared. And it’s terrible not to be able to control the future, understand the past, protect our children–I don’t think there’s any getting around that. I guess I’m just saying what you’re already saying: our best hope is probably to try to love and accept ourselves as strongly and unquestioningly as we love and accept our babies and partners and friends and all those other terrified pregnant and birthing and parenting mothers, right?
Wishing you all best. I think you’re amazing.
Thanks, Molly. Your words made me tear up! I actually thought as I was typing that I know why I don’t—because everything else feels more “important” and it is easy to push the “want tos” to the “never dos.” I do live pretty consciously and am always mindful of how I spend my life energy (though, usually in a not-very-cheerful, “if I died tomorrow how would I feel about what I’ve done today?” sense!), but as I’ve written before, there is always so much *good work* to be done (and that I DO, also, want to do), it is hard to take some time out rather that creating my own rat race (a rat race of meaningful, yet still other-centered, work…). Lately, I’ve been having more thoughts like, “I have plenty of time” and “I can do this later,” but I still feel a perpetual time shortage as well as a fear of, “what if I die before I do XYZ…” (that is like my driving force!)
And, you’re right. I AM doing it. I like that—good one 🙂 I don’t want to make it sound like I’m quivering in fear all the time, because I’m not—I’m fine 90% of the time, but the other 10% is very, very, very near the surface and comes popping up to visit…
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