There is nothing else in life that compares to being nine months pregnant.
Imagine knowing that the Publisher's Clearing House guys and the lottery and Oprah are all about to show up at your house with the most incredible of prizes... something you know is going to change your life completely, in innumerable ways, forever. Except you have no idea when they'll show up... it could be tonight at 3am or next Tuesday when you actually had some plans, or not for two more weeks. You're constantly on pins and needles, knowing that massive life change is imminent, but having not even the foggiest of clues of when this massive sea change is coming your way. Oh, and PS: when Oprah does finally arrive, she's going to viscerally torture you for some undetermined amount of time...anywhere from two to twelve to twenty-four hours or more...by pounding on your midsection and lady parts with a spiky mallet before handing over said dream prize. She may or may not arbitrarily deem that you need surgery to deliver this prize, or drugs that make the spiky mallet feel like a flame-throwing spiky mallet, or any other of a million variables that could make this experience everything or nothing like you thought it would be. Childbirth is truly a great unknown, and especially for those of us who take comfort in planning and preparation, the overall effect of this mass of unknowns is entirely unnerving.
The very mystery of the timing makes every moment seem incredibly loaded. You might go into labor fresh off of eight hours of sleep, having just triumphantly shaved your own legs and finished a wholesome breakfast of Greek yogurt and multi-grain toast thinking, "bring it on, universe." Or things might get rolling when you've just caught a cold from your preschooler, are suffering a raging sore throat and night sweats, and have a massive case of heartburn to boot from drowning your sorrows in a double helping of Ina Garten's Apple Crisp sometime just before midnight. You'll wake up with pain at 4am thinking "is this it? Or do I just really have to pee (again)?" Every twinge and tweak of your body seems significant.
The physicality of it all is insanely intense. Right now, there is no part of my body that feels like any approximation of normal. I'm permanently hot. My hands feel like mighty, massive, man-hand meat hooks, and my feet aren't far behind. My normally quite functional digestive system is completely on the fritz due to my massive uterus having squashed my stomach and intestines into disarray like so many bugs on a car's grill. When I lie down to sleep at night, everything shifts just slightly upward into my diaphragm, making breathing seem impossible. Unfortunately, my husband reports that I'm snoring like a drunk frat boy. And the weight gain. Good God. It's not about a number on a scale, but rather the feeling of actual weight on my joints and bones. Imagine strapping eight five pound bags of sugar on your body and then attempting to go about your day. I'll just leave it at that. Intense.
The days seem hyper-colored and filled with electricity. All your loved ones are on this same level of red alert as you are, tinging things with a light undercurrent of mass hysteria. Is tonight the night I have to rouse my parents at 2am to come over and be with little J when we dash to the hospital? They are already leaping a mile each time their phone rings. Will I fortuitously have this baby during my mother-in-law's visit this week, or will she be forced to board a plane home mid-labor like when she came around my due date with J (who was born just hours after their plane landed back at home, of course).
This hyper awareness extends over your whole household. Suddenly every bit of dust on the radiator, every speck of mildew in the shower grout, every errant crumb in the fridge must be eradicated in order to achieve inner peace. You make crazily specific and random lists of things to do like "clean out cup holder in car" and "install dimmer light bulb in front hallway" and you do more hot loads of laundry than you ever thought possible. You try not to drive your significant other crazy with your attention to arbitrary detail. This is only augmented when part of your "go time" plan involves people coming to your house to watch your existing little one... I have this adamant passion that no one know how much dog hair usually graces our floors. They must be ever dog hair free (a nearly impossible task, as any pet owner knows). Why this matters to me so much I don't know. This has to be part primal mammalian instinct around creating a safe and disease-free environment for your infant, and part modern woman's need to exert any element of control possible when swimming in a sea of out-of-control.
And then there is the fashion situation, or lack thereof. At this point literally nothing fits, even your biggest maternity gear, and you staunchly refuse to buy anything else or anything bigger because you may only need it for twenty-four hours. Or two weeks. Right now, all I want to wear is my favorite pair of yoga pants and a soft striped maternity shirt on loan from a dearest friend which feels like having a bit of her with me each day (the outfit you see pictured above). I wash these things almost nightly so I don't have to chose something else the next day. Any outfit I put together seems to belie my underlying feeling of madness. Yet, clothes must be worn.
But all of these little quirks, trials, pains, and worries are merely distractions against something so much bigger that is about to happen to your life and the life of your family. This is it. This is the stuff of life. All those times in your life when you said, "yes, I want to have kids someday"... today (or tomorrow) is that day. This is the physical work, the literal labor of love, that it takes to manifest this dream. You're actively building the family that you want and have chosen. This person who is about to arrive is going to be an elemental part of that, with tastes, opinions, idiosyncrasies and politics all their own. They're going to have an identity, a family role, and a life path which is going to shape the rest of your life, and for these last few days, all of that is unknown, and they're still just this glimmer of hope and promise resting quietly inside you. No wonder everything looks more vibrant and feels more significant at this time... there is truly no more profound moment in life than this one right here.
I don't know that I'll have the opportunity or that we'll make the choice to be pregnant again, so this time feels especially sweet and loaded to me. As intensely uncomfortable as I am, I know how lucky I am to have this experience and I just wanted to take a moment to document and record it, from the swollen hands to the ill-fitting clothes to the housecleaning projects to the sappy emotions. I wouldn't trade this adventure for anything. Bring it on, universe.