Is the baby here yet?
Are you a mother yet?
Are you a mom yet?
Are you a mommy yet?
Every morning since October 31st I have woken up still pregnant, to a flurry of messages from well-meaning people asking if the baby was "here yet," as though there is some possible reality where the baby would be born, I would be in a position to update them about the baby's condition, but had instead opted to keep the baby a secret from everybody and not posted a peep about it on social media, until directly asked by them individually. That is not how birth announcements work. I know they mean well and I'm touched that people care, but, taken cumulatively, I feel overwhelmed, like my body isn't cooperating, like I'm letting people down.
I want to throw my phone in the ocean.
My baby was "due" on Sunday, but here we are, on Wednesday, and said baby is doing what it has been doing for the last four months, which is float around absently kicking and elbowing me, with the occasional head butt to my cervix, which feels a little bit like getting kicked in the crotch, except from inside. The baby seems to have no idea that they were due anywhere, at any time soon, nor do they have a concept of their own size relative to mine, or the fact that their flesh playpen contains nerve endings. Every morning that I wake up even more pregnant than I was when I went to bed. With every passing minute, I move further up the rankings of the World's Most Pregnant.
My friend Molly, who was due 5 days after me, has already been in and out of the hospital for her C-section and is home with her adorable little daughter recovering, doing great.
I feel like I showed up to the airport for a flight, only to find out that it's leaving next week, and by the way, I'm not allowed to leave the airport.
I told Josh that I am now convinced the baby is a boy, because a girl would not do this to me, but he didn't think it was a cute or funny joke. He's right; it's not a good joke, because the premise is incorrect. A girl would absolutely do this to me, too.
My birth care providers-- a doctor, a midwife, and a doula--have all done everything they could to prepare me for the fact that first babies come late, on average. I am aware that globally, without any induction measures, first babies arrive around 10 days "late." I have read Britta Bushnell's Transformed by Birth and thought the chill vibes of the book would loosen my expectations when it came to how long pregnancy lasts, and how I can tell specifically when mine is coming to an end (According to the book, my doctor, my midwife, and my doula: impossible to know! Until it happens! So relax!).
But that's easier said than done.
On Monday, because I was 40 weeks and one day pregnant, I had to take a series of tests at a hospital where I'd never been before, so my doctor could make sure that my baby was still okay. Due to overload and an inconvenient hospital renovation that limited available space, I waited almost two hours for that test in chair in a hallway in the Labor & Delivery ward, surrounded by the ambient sounds of women giving birth. I had forgotten my book at home (to take my mind off things, I'm reading a scary Paul Tremblay book called "A Head Full of Ghosts") and didn't have headphones, so while I waited that long time in the chair, I heard one woman's birth in its entirety, up to and including her baby crying and her relieved sobbing. After that, a woman whose contractions weren't separated by more than 30 seconds showed up, doubled over with agony as the staff rushed to prepare one of the beds in the triage room. By the time she was led to a bed, she could barely walk and was gasping in pain until she was administered something for it. A few minutes later, I was put in a bed next to hers, separated by a curtain. The nurse strapped a monitor to me and told me to lie still as the device registered whether or not my baby was still receiving adequate nourishment and oxygen from its now-elderly placenta.
The baby is fine. I am fine. Unless this kid arrives overnight, I have to get another one of those damn tests in that same chaotic L&D ward tomorrow. This time, I won't forget my headphones.
I know, logically, that this is all normal, and that I am lucky to have access to high-quality prenatal care. I know that blowing past a "due date" happens to millions of mothers around the world, all the time. I know that there's a school of thought that dismisses the concept of "due date" entirely, as it sets unrealistic expectations and causes undue stress. My sister had my nephew over two weeks past when doctors told her she was "due." My friend Liz had both of her kids weeks before she was "due." I know that it wasn't until recently that many American doctors decided that 42 weeks was the absolute maximum amount of time a pregnancy should last. I know that it's not up to me, really.
But my emotions have decoupled from my thoughts, and, like a basketball player continuing to play on several seconds beyond the referee whistling the play dead, have run all the way down to the other end of the court and dunked, wasting everybody's time and scoring no points. There is no controlling how down I feel, no reigning my panic in with logic or mantras. I did not think that it would be this psychologically difficult for me to watch a deadline pass. I know this is silly. I feel silly.
I went to an acupuncturist who performs "labor induction massages" today because the availability of top-notch alternative medicine that some of my more crotchety Midwestern relatives would dismiss as "woo woo hippie nonsense" is one of my favorite perks of living in Los Angeles. I thought at least that a massage from a highly recommended pro who deals with nervous pregnant women all the time would help me to relax and give me something to do for a couple of hours.
I gave her a rundown of my mindset, and the acupuncturist looked at me like she knew I had been hormonally crying off-and-on for a few hours.
"Babies don't understand time," said the masseuse. "You're not doing anything wrong."
Her words felt like a hug, the massage was great, by the way, and I'm glad I had it.
But the baby still is not here, and I'm back to feeling like this is because I'm messing up.
Is this "mom guilt"? Is this how I'm going to feel for the next 18 years?
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Image via Netflix/I Think You Should Leave