Monday, February 23, 2015

The Final Month

{Selfie} Taken the day I went into labor with our daughter...

Today I bought nursing bras and newborn sized diapers. Because the purchases were made online, it didn't have the same thrill as picking out products and putting them in a shopping cart, wheeling them to a checkout clerk who knowingly eyes the products and my oversized belly with a smile. It's a bit less climactic picking them up at the post office wrapped discreetly in boxes, loading up a cart full of mail before loading up the back seat and eventually bringing it all home. 

With our daughter I wasn't totally prepared when she arrived two weeks early. We had one package of newborn diapers--provided by the hospital--and another package of size 1 given to me at a baby shower. With her delicate weight of less than six pounds, we hardly had an outfit that fit her, and I totally forgot to pack one to take to the hospital anyway. I took a trip to Target with my four day old baby to buy nursing bras, a task I was planning on taking care of that week, just without a baby in the changing room with me. I chuckled to myself as I struggled to try on the different sizes without leaking all over them, ever aware of the sleeping time bomb resting on the bench next to me. 

I have been warned not to expect the same delivery scenario as last time; a first child born two weeks early hardly ensures that the second child will do the same. It seems presumptuous in some ways to plan on having a baby at all. Sure, at 35 weeks the baby is viable, more than able to survive outside the womb, but I know so many people whose babies don't survive thanks to genetic issues unforeseen, delivery complications, or even spontaneous death before labor and delivery even start. Many would say it's morbid to even acknowledge or consider that these possibilities even exist, but I tend to believe that they are good reminders to appreciate what you have--every day, every week, every month. Nothing is guaranteed.

Lately one of my daughter's favorite toys has been a metroishka doll my sister gave me after a trip to Russia. When she can't find it, she walks around looking in the usual places, muttering to herself "Baby, mama, baby, mama". If she can't find it, she will come up to me proclaiming the same thing, hoping I can offer some insights as to its whereabouts. A couple weeks ago when I gave her the doll, I was hopeful that this might help enlighten her 23 month old brain about what is about to happen in our lives: a baby with pop out of a mama and then exist out in the world out on its own. I am hopeful that I won't be completely split in half (as the doll does) in order for the smaller version of myself to make an exit. I am also hopeful that the baby won't be lovingly thrown down the stairs by our toddler, and then retrieved with a squeal to repeat the exercise again.

It is impossible to prepare for a life changing event as an adult, even more impossible to impress upon an almost two year old how her life will shift dramatically. Our house will turn into a regular host of visitors from in and out of town, and while everyone gleefully celebrates the entrance of a new child into the world, she will undoubtedly struggle to process what exactly is so great about this mini-human that cries and sleeps and grunts. 

Perhaps the preparation we do in advance of delivery is more of a comfort to us than a practical plan of attack. We can freeze meals, wash clothes, and stack diapers, but nothing will hint at the temperament of our child: whether he or she will sleep or cry or eat well or rest contentedly in the swing. Until the details come to light, in a glorious influx of data met with sleep deprivation and exhaustion, we wait, ever thankful that the data comes alongside a precious, tiny bundle that smells delightful and inspires gentle care and deep attachment--even in the most discouraging moments. 

Stretching {35 weeks}

Taken at 32 weeks...
I have always been very aware of my body. As a runner engrossed in training, I constantly assessed aches, pains, strains, strength. My shoe wardrobe has never been particularly fancy, mostly practical more than anything--a testament to the desire to support my joints and not add any additional strain to a body that I put to work--sometimes in gut-wrenching ways--challenging and testing and seeking to create new limits.

Pregnancy feels very similar at times, a rigorous, daily workout that I have no say in. I wake in the middle of the night and feel my spine adjust to the weight imbalance. I crouch to pick up a fallen Cheerio and sense the extra weight I have to bear as I struggle to stand. I walk and I bend and I groan, weighing the activities I desire to accomplish and my body's ability to realistically do them. 

My daughter sensed this shift in ability the minute I stopped carrying her as frequently. It's worth noting that she is generally very independent and enjoys being off to enjoy her freedom. With that said, when in the company of large groups of strangers (or in the company of good looking food decidedly out of her reach), she seeks to be held. And about two weeks ago, my ability to hold her--while also carrying her sibling--was fading. Thanks to my large belly, I was unable to hold her in a neutral position out front any longer, and hoisting her on a hip out to the side created a strain on my back that wasn't sustainable for long. 

Her persistence in asking to be held was admirable, and she wouldn't take anyone else for a substitute. At times I would sit on the floor and offer my lap as a peace offering. Other times I would be forced to ignore her please for my arms as she expressed her dissatisfaction at being held by someone else. In some ways this is good practice for the near future when she won't be the only child I'm caring for, when her needs won't be met quite as quickly. Perhaps this is good practice for me, conceding to the reality that I cannot be everything to everyone--now or ever.

This new child, still happily in the womb, challenges and stretches me already. His or her growing body is pushing the limits of the space I have available--head driving down, feet in my ribs, torso arching against my stomach creating an arch that grows by the week and sometimes by the day. My shirts are getting shorter; my meals are getting smaller. Shallow breathing plagues me when the child settles just right, cutting off the expansion of my lungs. 

Even still, I find myself content with the status quo---one child that sleeps within me, the other in the next room. My nights are far from peaceful, thanks to restless legs and hormones that cause my mind to race. Yet the quiet is something I cherish, knowing these evenings are numbered. One night, not so far from now, this child will stretch my body to the breaking point and emerge an independent (and oh-so-dependent) human being, and our lives will be changed. And though my body will begin to recover from the strain it has experienced in pregnancy, we will be stretched in different ways beginning the minute the child emerges. It is coming, ready or not.