- Weighs as much as your average cantaloupe (4.75 pounds-ish) and is almost 18 inches long.
- Reaching the 34-week mark is a big milestone for anyone concerned about pre-term labor, as babies born at this stage usually do just fine (provided they’re otherwise healthy). Other than a slightly longer stay at the hospital, they generally don’t experience any of the long-term health problems that prematurity can cause.
- That said, don’t let your baby go and get any big ideas about escaping just yet. More baby fat and a few more weeks of lung maturity will still make everybody’s lives easier.
- Fatigue, heartburn, nausea, frequent trips to the bathroom. It’s like the Return of the First Trimester, only much bigger and rounder and gruntier.
- Don’t forget to do your Kegel exercises, not only in preparation for childbirth but also to stop the unfortunate peeing-when-you-laugh-or-sneeze phenomenon, which can get pretty out of hand in these final weeks.
- SO NOT KIDDING ABOUT THAT.
The Birth Plan
So. Does everyone have their Birth Plan written up yet? Have you typed it? Double-spaced it? Printed up back-up copies and filed one with the county courthouse and gotten one notarized?
Yes, I am a little bit snarky when it comes to the Birth Plan.
Not that I don’t understand and agree with the logic behind a detailed Birth Plan — I’m all for removing the fear from childbirth, for helping mothers feel empowered and in control of their bodies and the entire situation, and for doctors respecting their patients’ desires to go natural or stay upright and out of bed or have immediate post-delivery skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding or whatever the hell they want. All for all of that.
It’s just that I’ve also seen the Birth Plan morph into something terrifyingly inflexible — more like a woman trying to choreograph the birth down to the right song playing on the iPod. These ultra-detailed plans, with their high expectations and hopes for everything going so incredibly perfectly, sometimes seem more like the mother-to-be is trying to obsessively checklist her fears away rather than work through them with her midwife or doctor, or perhaps confront her instincts that her OB is not the sort who will respect even the most basic of her wishes. And even worse, anything that deviates from the Birth Plan will often get classified as failure.
Look, they don’t give out medals in the maternity ward. There’s no I Avoided The Episiotomy wall of fame bulletin board and they don’t put little stickers on the babies’ foreheads to distinguish whose mother had an epidural or not. (Although I do remember seeing a sticker on Noah’s bassinet chart that read “I’m a breastfed boy!”, but somehow I doubt the bottle-fed babies’ stickers featured frowny judgement faces, or anything.)
Obviously, birth choices are personal. And important, to a degree. We all have our preferences and images of how we’d like childbirth to happen — hospital, home, birthing center, water, dolphins, whatever. And you absolutely should voice your wishes and concerns with everyone involved in the experience. But like motherhood, childbirth requires a certain acceptance that you cannot control every aspect of it, and that sometimes you simply must stop and reassess things. Be it your own tolerance for pain or your baby’s well-being. And you need to be able to reassess these things without feeling like you…gag…FAILED. Seriously, THEY DON’T GIVE YOU GRADES.
If you had asked me for a birth plan before my son was born, I would have probably started AND finished it with the epidural. I was certain I’d want it right away. I did not want to be miserable and in pain. Oh, that and breastfeeding as soon as possible. And I was pretty terrified of c-sections. So…let’s try to avoid one of those.
Then I went into labor and discovered that I could handle the contractions after all, and that I found the whole thing incredibly amazing and empowering. I started thinking of going all the way unmedicated, but changed my mind at the very last minute (9 centimeters), when it was confirmed that the baby was badly positioned (occiput posterior), fairly large (macrosomia) and very, very high up in my abdomen. Lots of pushing in my future. I needed some rest.
So I reversed courses AGAIN and got the epidural after all and fell asleep for a little bit. Then I woke up and pushed and pushed, until alarms started going off and the baby wouldn’t budge any further down the birth canal and his heartrate started to plummet with each contraction. Time to reassess again.
As I breastfed my 9 pound, 15 ounce son for the first time in the recovery area, I did have a few minutes when I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. My childbirth experience was nothing like I had expected or planned for. When I tell the story to other women, it almost sounds like a worst-case scenario to them. But it really wasn’t. It was amazing. I’m completely happy and at peace with how it went and how it ended. I did what I could. I experienced everything I really wanted to, but in the end, it was never about me and what kind of transcendent empowering experience I wanted. It was about a safe delivery of a healthy baby, full stop. And I got that. Oh, yes, I got that.
Oh Yeah, THIS: I’m done. I’m SO READY TO BE DONE. A few weeks ago the thought of being “done” was terrifying — my due date was approaching much too quickly for my taste. I wasn’t ready. I needed more time, GAH. I couldn’t imagine feeling impatient and swore I would treasure every day of pregnancy because hoo boy, SO NOT READY TO BE DONE. And now I’m big and uncomfortable and awkward and just…just…DONE. Let’s have a baby already!
New This Time Around: Oy, the heartburn. Nausea. Food aversions. All back in full force. If this keeps up until my due date, I’ll have had exactly three months of NOT throwing up or suffering major gastrointestinal problems throughout the entire pregnancy. That is backwards as hell, and I would like to officially file a complaint with someone.
Finished with the Pregnancy Calendar and want more? Visit Amalah’s postpartum weekly column, Bounce Back. Bounce Back is about the postpartum experience — the good, the bad and the gory.