I am 37 weeks today. Full-term. Not that I'm counting or anything. But I have been pregnant since December 21, 2010. That feels like a hundred years ago.
This week we had our home visit. That means that our midwife came to our apartment. She scoped out the commute, the parking, the layout of the apartment. She gave us suggestions about where to put what, what we could use as what, how to set up the apartment as a birthing room. Then she did her exam right in our bedroom. It was pretty nice, actually! She gave us a copy of our records and paperwork, we scoped out the nearest hospitals (there's one around the corner) and we talked through any and all possible situations and our backup plans. Later, we met with our neighbor and friend who will be caring for Thora while I am trying to push out her sister. We talked about everything from what she likes best to eat to how to get her to sleep. I am going to pack her a little bag so she's ready at a moment's notice. Once I do that, I think we're good to go. The rest is up to Newbee. She is head down -- very low -- and so far she's not posterior like her sister was. Our midwife feels that we are ready to go anytime and that the baby is already big enough to be born at home should she decide to make an early appearance. So we are in good shape!
While Newbee might be almost ready, I am not. I have a ton of work to do both for my job and my sanity. But she'll come when she feels like it and I know I will drop everything. Knowing that my second and last pregnancy ever is drawing to a close, there are a few things I'm experiencing regularly now that I don't want to forget.
Now that I have the proper attention being paid to my back, it doesn't hurt much. Wouldn't you believe it? After years and years of pain and six or more months of constant agony that has kept me from sleeping or functioning normally, I am diagnosed with a slipped disc and told nothing can be done until after the baby except basic physical therapy, which is mostly massage and stretching just to get me through. And all of a sudden, that same day, the pain goes from a 12 on a scale of 1 - 10 to about a 3 or 4. Incredible. Still I have to waddle all over town to get to PT twice a week, the chiropractor once a week, the midwife once a week, other appointments as needed and necessary. It takes me three times as long to get anywhere so I am always late and huffing and puffing, which stimulates contractions that feel like I have to pee and poop out a bowling ball that's sitting right on my bladder and small intestine. And every day for the last two weeks it has been humid and rainy which means I also have frizzy hair and my feet and fingers are swollen and I am sweaty and gross on top of being heavier than I have ever been in my life. I have never been so attractive! Lucky me!
A few weeks ago, my amazing and wonderful friend J threw Newbee a "sprinkle." She decided to call it that because we didn't need a real shower and besides, it is sometimes considered tacky to have a shower for a second child but she did want to make sure we got the things we needed and had a chance to celebrate with friends. We have all of Thora's baby stuff so we really only needed new cloth diapers and washcloths, a second car seat, new accessories for the pump, and a handful of other tiny things in addition to the birth kit and all the home birth supplies. We created a small registry on Amazon for this but really didn't want people to feel obligated - it was much more important that I see everyone one last time as a mom of one! So at the sprinkle we had a wonderful afternoon with friends, awesome food, incredibly thoughtful and useful gifts, mostly books (which I love), adorable outfits (which I also love), a few choice items for Thora (which really warmed my heart), a gift certificate to Bliss that I immediately spent on a prenatal massage, and the world's best gift: my incredible and beautiful sister was there. I was raised as an only child but I'm getting used to saying I have a sister and I love how it sounds. <3
We had fun! Thank you, J! <3
With this pregnancy, the baby is in a different position than Thora was. Because she is so much lower she therefore has a lot more kicking room. She's extremely active. When Thora kicked, I felt it in the right rib and lung and it took my breath away. This baby's every movement seems to resonate all through my body, especially down in my pelvis. I see my belly jumping and jiggling all over from the corner of my eye. I feel her in my pelvic area all the way up to my chest. I feel her behind my navel and on either side, all seemingly at the same time. There are butts and feet and elbows and all kinds of pointy body parts making interesting shapes on my belly and I love to watch the bumps move around. She never for a second lets me forget that she is a different child already than her sister. And this never gets old. I bet no matter how many times you are pregnant there is always something magical about feeling your child move inside of you. Biology, my friends, is truly bizarre.
People ask me all the time if Thora is excited to be a big sister. Really? She's nineteen months old and can't yet tell me when she has to go to the bathroom, so I really have no idea how she is processing my pregnancy. I do tell her all the time that a baby is coming, and she genuinely seems excited, but she also thinks she is the baby of the family. Every time I show her a picture, I ask her who's in it. "Mama... Dada... Poppa... Hih-ree... Baby!" she will rattle off as she points at each of us. I got a book called Hello Baby that is the story of a family with a toddler and a pregnant mama. There is a picture of mama with the baby in her belly in a cross section. There is a picture of mama nursing the new baby with the toddler in her arms too. I have tried to show these to Thora but she loses interest after a few seconds, preferring Frog and Toad or whatever else. So who knows what's in that head of hers.
She likes to jump all over me so a thousand times a day she hears "Thora, be nice to Mama's belly. Be careful with the belly, Your sister is in there. Ouch!" In the last few weeks she has been losing interest in nursing and is easily distracted away when she pulls at the neck of my shirt. This is fine with me as I am not that excited about tandem nursing but I realize that she may regress as soon as she sees someone else get an all-access pass to Mama's milk.
She likes to push in my belly button like she's ringing for the elevator. I don't love this because my belly button, which is currently a major pregnancy-induced outie that sticks up through all my clothes, is squishy and feels weird being poked but I think it's cute that she plays with her sister in some small way. At least once a day she wants to see my belly and either kisses it or just waves hello to it. True, there are the times that I ask her to say hello to her sister, lifting up my shirt to show her my belly, and her response is "NO! No! No!" shaking her head vehemently while she pulls my shirt back down. We try hard to explain that there is a baby in Mama's belly. We tell her the baby is her sister. We include her sister's name in songs we sing and we ask her where the baby is all the time. Still, I am not exactly sure what, if anything, she actually understands. Someone suggested I buy her her own baby doll long before our new baby arrived, so I ordered her a handmade baby doll from Etsy. I also bought her a baby doll sized stroller. The stroller she loves. She loves it so much that she pushed it around the toy store for a half hour while I looked around for other things she might like. She tears through the apartment with it and wants to take it everywhere. But she refuses to put anyone in it. When the baby doll arrived in the mail, she looked at it disdainfully, pulled the ribbon out of her hair, and tossed her right on the floor. I've tried to stick her back in the stroller a few times, which has only resulted in Thora picking her up by the hair and tossing her on the floor again. She's managed to pull out some of the yarn-hair, and will then show it to me and tell me it's "bahj" - her odd little word for garbage.
Of course I've had some of those annoying experiences every pregnant mother has. There are people who like to rub bellies, people who feel compelled to comment on my rapidly expanding size. Oh, if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if I was ready to pop (grrrr) or if I was sure I wasn't having twins! Ha-freaking-ha. When you weigh more than your husband and your father but you're only 5'4" and shouldn't weigh more than 135, you hate hearing crap like that! And there are people who ask random questions. In an elevator full of strangers, I can always count on someone asking "So, when are you due? What are you having? Is this your first?" On line for the bathroom at Barnes & Noble, I can count on another mother telling me about the hell I am in for having two under two. People I don't even know ask me if she has a name. (To which I simply say "Yes" and wait for the awkward moment where they wait for me to say it before I hastily add "...but we're going to keep it to ourselves until she's born just to make sure it suits her." This time I get a lot less unsolicited advice and fewer horror stories about birth, presumably because I say as quickly as I can that this is my second child.
Meanwhile, this little one already has a lot to live up to. People say I can't possibly have a cuter or smarter kid than Thora. They say it's going to be wonderful to have two girls so close in age so that they grow up the very best of friends. They warn me that she will be everything Thora is not and more. That's a lot of pressure! Adding to that, she has a name with big meanings. Thora Bea was named in part for my great-grandmother, my Nana Bea. My Nana Bea didn't live to see me grow up, get married or have Thora, but I loved her so much and have fond memories of her from when I was a tiny girl. This baby is being named in part for her biological grandmother, who wanted her very badly and loved her from the moment she was conceived but did not live to see the pregnancy through to the end. This grandma was going to play a large role in Newbee's birth -- and of course in her life. She was the first person apart from Johnny who knew I was pregnant. She kept tabs on the baby and me, talked about taking us shopping and getting us ready, and was the only one we wanted with us at the birth. This invitation moved her to tears but really, who else could be better? She birthed three babies, raised two, and fostered upwards of 65 babies awaiting adoption placement. If anyone knew babies, it was her, and she was more than happy to sign on to roll up her sleeves and see the whole family through the days leading up to the birth, the birth itself, and the transition to a family of four afterward. We miss her terribly. And we are hopeful that our baby's name will keep her memory alive for all of us who did not have enough time with her. This is something I already think about telling my daughter when she's older.
I would like to write a letter to my second daughter now, including that and other stories. I want her to know that she already has a place in our lives and in our hearts. I want her to know that she is loved and wanted every bit as much as her big sister is and was. I want her to know that we were so happy to have a second daughter, that people predicted she would be beautiful and charming from the time they knew I was pregnant, that I knew she would be a busy and driven person from how she moved around inside me. I want her to know how much we love her already.