This week I noticed how big my stomach is and put a lot of my labor fears to rest.
My stomach isn’t gigantic. I’ve seen bigger pregnant women, especially those carrying multiples. I don’t feel stretched or strained to the point where think, I couldn’t possibly grow any bigger. Heck, I wish I would grow bigger so that I could gain back some of my lung space. That being said, my stomach is still really big. Better still, I’ve learned that the pregnancy bump doesn’t smooth out all of the awkwardness your belly may or may not have. It just pushes them into the spotlight. I have really bizarre “rolls” on my stomach, which I’ve always had regardless of my weight. Now they band well out into view. With my swollen stomach comes a swollen uterus, which has compressed all of my organs. This is especially problematic when I need to yawn or want to eat a large meal. The bottom line is that this belly just ain’t big enough for the both of us, and baby is only getting bigger.
I also started reading a great book this week called Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Ina May is a very experienced midwife, revered in the medical community for her knowledge of natural birth, to include “high risk” births. She lives on a commune called “The Farm” with many other midwives who offer natural births, particularly to those who cannot afford medical care and as an alternative to abortion. She’s a bit of a spiritualist hippie and I get the impression we might clash in person, but her midwife care knowledge is impeccable.
The first two fifths of the book is filled with birth stories from women who have had their babies on The Farm through Ina May’s care. Some women had poor birth experiences elsewhere that led them to pursue The Farm for subsequent births. Every woman notes a sense of pride and accomplishment about her birth experience, even those who had hard, long labors or completely unavoidable emergency situations (which you could count on one hand).
I’ve only read through the birth stories so far, but I already feel more at ease about labor and birth. I didn’t realize how anxious I was until I started feeling relieved. The best thing about this book is that a great deal of the learning is through reading the experiences of others. I’ve learned a lot about how labor will feel, not just medically, but also emotionally and physically. For example, the women who retell their birth experiences give specific pains and sensations they had. Many note an “intensity” vs. a pain. Many also tell of heightened senses, like seeing colors more vividly or being hypersensitive to sounds.
Reading their experiences has also taught me that with all the people on the planet, birth simply must be a natural event in the life cycle. It’s not a disease to be diagnosed and treated, which I think is a jaded rut into which medical personnel could easily fall. Birth is a natural happening; when something goes wrong or requires intervention, that is the unnatural exception. Women giving birth instinctually should not be considered abnormal. They should be the standard for which we aim.
I’m just getting to the “informative” half of the book and I’ve already learned loads. I’ll update more next week. I intend to write a review blog because I found this book so informative and stress-free.
I can’t help but contrast it with What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I started What to Expect early in my pregnancy and I didn’t even make it halfway through. I knew that I should read it, but the amount of information in the book was overwhelming, and most of it didn’t apply to me at all. There are whole chapters on high risk pregnancies, what that means, what they entail, and all the bad things that might go wrong (even though they assure you the chances are very slim). Reading about them was making me rather anxious.
Around the same time I started trying to read through the Mayo Clinic’s Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. Many people who denounced What to Expect as being overwhelming and unnecessarily informative suggested the guide as an alternative. It was even less helpful for me than What to Expect. The first several chapters contained little useful information, and just when I thought I might learn something they assured me that I could “read more about it in chapter x.” Again, I felt anxious rather than informed or encouraged.
This was also my last week working, which was both relieving and frustrating. I’m sad to leave my job at Hobby Lobby for a number of reasons. I loved not only my job, but also the people I worked with. But from the very start pregnancy took a toll on what I was able to do. In my first trimester I was constantly fatigued, in my second I realized just how much that little growing baby restricted my motion, and by trimester three I was terribly frustrated with all I couldn’t do. I’ve always been the person who works until the job is done, then thinks about resting or eating. Pregnancy has forced me to slow down considerably, which was particularly frustrating at work. Now I’m free of work, which is bittersweet, and I’m free to get my home in order before baby arrives, which is a relief.
I should write a book. Pregnancy: the most frustrating relief of your life.