Sunday, July 24, 2011

A temporary appearance

"Do you feel that?" the midwife asked me. "There's his foot. Oh, and there's the other foot. Looks like he's got one leg crossed over the other."

The midwife has magic hands; they press and rub my belly and discern legs, elbows, feet, hands. I feel lumps that move -- something is there, but I have no idea what it is.

This time, figuring out the baby's position had a different purpose. The midwife planned to paint a picture on my stomach of his current state. She debated with the apprentice before deciding he faced my left, then pulled out a paint crayon to sketch his outline on my skin.

I lay still on the bed, the wet crayons and her hands cooling my stomach as they pressed and glided, and I saw the baby's bottom and legs take shape. Underneath the skin, baby wiggled at each touch and pushed one of those feet straight outward, creating a large bulge near my belly button. We laughed at his impatience -- what was happening out there?

I could see very little from my vantage point except the red placenta at the top, feeding my baby, and his little kicking legs, their tiny toes crossing my left side. He floated in a calming sky blue that made me envy his state. He sits in my belly, all his needs met, unaware of any other world. I carry him closer than I ever will again, yet it doesn't feel close enough -- I want him to be outside, laying on my chest so I can soothe him and stroke his head.

Soon the midwife had finished, and Stuart joined me on the bed for our first family photo. In my mind I imagined us doing the same after the birth, but with a writhing red baby in our arms -- many hours of laboring behind us, nearly forgotten as we smile at our son and he gazes back.

Not much longer now. Only a week until my due date, although he could come anytime between today and several weeks from now. We eagerly wait.

I didn't want to pull my shirt back down over the masterpiece on my belly; I wanted to show him off to the world. Soon I will hold his tiny hands, snuggle him close, and kiss him with a new kind of love that I've never known before.

That night I stripped and headed to the shower. The water splashed my belly and the blue, orange and red rolled down the drain. His external imprint was gone, but soon it would be replaced by something more real and infinitely better. Soon enough.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Am I ready?

37 weeks
Earlier in the pregnancy, I noted that everyone kept asking me, "How are you feeling?" Over the last month, as my due date rapidly approaches, the most common question has changed to, "Are you ready?" I get asked this at least once a day.

At first I didn't really know what this question meant, so I wasn't sure how to answer. It could mean so many things -- are you ready for labor, are you ready to have a baby around, are you ready to be a parent, do you have everything you need for the baby? A few weeks back, when someone asked if I was ready, I queried them back, "What do you mean?" They looked surprised, as if they'd just asked the question because it felt right, not really knowing what they expected me to say. They eventually answered, "Is the nursery ready?"

That was when I discovered that most people who ask this question really just want to know if we have our room prepared, if we acquired all the things we need for the baby once he's here. It's a perfectly understandable question, so now when people ask, I typically respond accordingly about all the baby gifts we've been moving into the nursery.

But inside the head of a hormonal soon-to-be mom, "Are you ready?" has much deeper connotations. In particular, I wonder whether I'm ready to go through this birth, and that's what I think about every day.

It's funny to me that I've been so confident throughout this whole pregnancy, knowing that I would be strong, I could handle a natural birth, and I was ready to bring my baby into the world at home. But the closer the due date gets, the more scared I seem to become. Some of this is due again to those pregnant woman hormones -- my emotions are up and down from minute to minute. But I'm also getting hit with the reality that the day is almost here -- it could, in fact, come at any time -- which is a bit frightening no matter how strong or excited I am.

I think part of the fear is in not knowing exactly when my son will appear. Those who know me know that I'm a planner. I like to know exactly when and where things will happen. Getting ready for a birth does not work this way. The baby will come when he's ready -- be that tomorrow or a month from now -- and I can't just schedule him into my online calendar like I do for everything else. Not knowing makes it more intimidating. But, oddly enough, it also makes it more invigorating. It reminds me that I can try to prepare all I want, but nature will take its course, just as it has for so many women before me. What happens will happen, and I will make it through, and soon enough I'll have a beautiful baby in my life, ready to accept my love.

So am I ready? As much as I can be.