Sunday, October 17, 2021

Ready To Pop

The countdown begins.

I am on the cusp of the 37-week mark of pregnancy (aka the milestone when a baby is considered term, even if born before the due date). Theoretically, I could go into labor at any time. (But probably won’t for at least a couple more weeks.)

I’m in the home stretch, but it’s the most uncomfortable part of pregnancy for me. It is a time of breathlessness, backaches, indigestion, and incessant urination. I'm already dipping into my postpartum supplies (hello Poise pads, Preparation-H, and Hemorrwedges, my old friends) because my body is in revolt. My breasts and belly are too cumbersome for running. Very few of my clothes fit, but I don’t see the sense in buying more maternity wear because I am never going to be pregnant again. (Mark my words!) I am hungry all the goddamn time, but the only things that appeal to me are fruit and baked goods. I am beyond exhausted but often find myself awake at 3 a.m., Googling, worrying, and revisiting All The Ways I’ve Irrevocably Fucked Up My Life.

I am not nesting; quite the opposite. I scan the tornado of crap that is our house and make mental lists of all the baby-related shit I want to get rid of. I want nothing more than to purge this living space of all things infantile, but I can’t…just in case the baby stays. (And that is how I preface pretty much every statement these days: “If the baby stays…”) So I fill online shopping carts with more baby merch because as it turns out, there are still some things you need, even if you’re preparing for your fourth kid.

I pack my hospital bag – perhaps the one exhilarating task amidst all this ambivalence, indecisiveness, and tumult. I am terrified of giving birth (especially without a beloved support person present), but I am so looking forward to not being pregnant anymore. I can’t wait to have some semblance of a normal stomach again; I don’t even care if it’s a pooch streaked with stretch marks. Just get this baby out of me.

I paint my toenails for the first time in over a year, my vanity somehow reemerging with the anticipation of my bare feet in stirrups and a bunch of medical professionals surrounding them. I wish I could properly tend to that *other* area soon to be on full display, but my bump is so huge I can’t see well enough down there to do anything about it. Au naturel it is.

I scroll through newborn pictures on Instagram and try to feel…something resembling excitement. I see babies out and about and try to imagine a little being burrowed into my chest…but it’s difficult for me to fathom loving anyone as much as I love my toddler.

Nevertheless, support seems to be bubbling up out of nowhere. I interviewed an excellent (if outrageously expensive) nanny. A daycare I’d been on the waiting list for contacted me with an opening. My mom offered to babysit when the baby arrives (and she hasn’t even said “congratulations” about this pregnancy yet). I had a blissful string of days where I felt calm and confident, a la “I can do this. I can take care of another baby. I am supermom. Watch me juggle it all!”

Then my toddler kept me up one night and the furnace refused to ignite (on a frigid Friday evening when no pro was available to repair it, of course) and just those two little things combined resulted in one of my now-signature mommy meltdowns, the ugly-crying “I can’t do this” kind of upset. And when those happen, my mind returns to adoption, which is not something I want to do, but something I fear I have to do. Knowing there’s a couple across town who would be over the moon to welcome this baby just makes me feel worse about my lack of enthusiasm for her arrival.

I consult with the pregnancy counselor on contingency plans. What if I don't want to bring the baby home from the hospital? What if I do but I change my mind later? "If I decide to go through with adoption, I want it to move quickly," I tell her. "I don't want too much time to change my mind." I collect cell phone and on-call numbers of adoption agency employees. The counselor offers to reach out to the social worker at the hospital so she has a heads-up on my situation and can check in with me during my stay.

I pray: “Please, God, let me be strong enough to give this baby up.” And then a breath later: “Or let me be so enamored with this baby at first sight that I can’t give her up.”

I see a church sign: “God’s plans are bigger than your mistakes.” (But what exactly is the plan? And what is the mistake?)

I “like” an Instagram post: “Sometimes your heart needs more time to accept what your brain already knows.” (Wise words indeed.)

I read on a mommy message board: “You can hate being pregnant but still love your baby.” (Is that what’s going on with me?)

I rewatch Californication (I know, of all things) and this statement sticks: “I’m disgusted with my life and myself, but I’m not unhappy about it.” (Hmm…)

I go back and forth and back and forth. I prepare for two possible outcomes simultaneously. (Isn't there supposed to be a middle way? Anyone know what it is?) I wait and wait and wait...

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