of peace and power; a manifesto (of sorts) for the pregnant mama
I explained to her that I had just been on vacation for three weeks and perhaps indulged a bit more than I usually do (maybe.)
That is when she said the words that really sent me over the edge, “Well the vacation is now over.”
Currently, I am in my last trimester with my third child. I readily admit that I get irritable on occasion. And this day was no exception. Two days prior I spent four hours at their office fasting and blood letting, I mean drawing. And there I was yet again, this time waiting to get a shot. I was well aware of the fact that the vacation was now over .
Fortunately, I felt some much needed kinship this past weekend amidst a torrential down pour which resulted in our street being flooded and our kids getting stuck at the neighbors for hours (unplanned on my part, I swear!) while my husband and I obsessively watched the last three episodes of our new favorite T.V. show, Catastrophe. The female lead, also pregnant, begged for her doctor to tell her some good news for a change after being told she was at risk for having a baby born with a genetic abnormality due to her "geriatric pregnancy."
I too am considered to be of “advanced maternal age” (much better than geriatric but still not great) or “high risk” (worse.) There have been a lot more tests and a few more complications this go around.
And the problem is, just hearing the words "high risk" makes me more anxious. It is no surprise that my blood pressure has been high. Probably because I feel terrified that every time I go in for an appointment (which is an awful lot these days,) I am going to hear that something else is wrong, in addition, to my aging uterus and elevated blood pressure.
My blood pressure is always high the first time the nurse checks it and better the second, although, still elevated. This is when I breathe deeply and try to visualize a peaceful and calming image usually the lapping of ocean waves crashing on the shore. But the last time I did this, I thought about flesh eating bacteria which I had just read about in the paper. There went my relaxing moment on the beach in my mind!
When I was young, I remember my mom talking about suffering from "white coat syndrome." I tried telling my doctor that this too was my problem, that getting nervous when seeing a doctor in a white coat runs in my family. He didn't exactly buy it. Understandably and responsibly, after allowing me to try and control my blood pressure naturally, he recommended medication.
This same angel doctor is the first one I met after changing practices during my last pregnancy. When he walked into the room, he looked alarmingly young. But with kind eyes, he heartily shook my hand, and thoughtfully asked, “So tell me why would you like you to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean)?” It was the first time anyone had actually asked me this question. There was no judgement or patronizing tone, he was just curious and wanted to listen to what I had to say. His kindness and sincerity brought tears to my eyes.
My husband and I were both overwhelmed with gratitude during this interaction. Especially after an ultrasound technician (the same one who told me once that I had a "bi-unicorn" in my uterus - at least that is what I thought she said - but she really said a bicornuate uterus - which was also incorrect) while putting jelly on my belly said, “You know, it doesn’t make you any more of a woman to have a baby this way” upon learning that I wanted a VBAC.
Another great weird ass comment came while in the delivery room and in active labor with my son. My hospital gown, unbeknownst to me, had opened up in the back, exposing my bare bum. The nurse, horrified, said in a really off putting and snippy way, “Let’s close this up, the doctor doesn’t need to see that.” As if showing my butt was what I was trying to accomplish in the midst of contractions and awaiting an epidural.
I can laugh at these comments now because they seem so ridiculous. But really they all pissed me off considerably. However, I am nice, and I put up with it.
But you don't have to put up with anything. The thing is, this sort of negativity can certainly impact our pregnancies. With the growing list of rules and limitations - don't eat soft cheese, drink more water even though it might make you feel like you are going to throw up everywhere - and unsolicited advice - think positively, don't get stressed, do kegels, exercise, play Mozart for your baby...now, have a water birth, don't drink caffeine or alcohol, save your placenta to plant under a tree, etc. - it is no wonder we get irritable from time to time and want to yell at our midwives.
The reality is, when we can keep it all in perspective, we are so fortunate to have the opportunity to carry a child. Not everyone who wants a baby is able to experience the trials and triumphs of being pregnant. It is a miraculous, sometimes challenging, and incredibly sacred time. And although it doesn't always feel like this, it goes pretty darn quickly.
It is also true that we don't have much control over how people speak to us or how the whole birthing process goes down. But the great news is that we do possess the ability to choose who we want to care for us during this special time. And I for one, will not be making another appointment with "the vacation is over" midwife.
So in the spirit of Oprah, below are some of the things I know for sure...in regards to expecting a child:
Being pregnant is not a sickness.
Pregnancy is a time of wellness, health, wholeness, and empowerment.
Our innate wisdom and intuition are to be honored and trusted.
We deserve to be treated with kindness, respect, compassion, and dignity by those we are trusting with our prenatal care.
We are free to change our minds.
And we are even entitled to be irritable from time to time.
Prenatal yoga, prenatal massage, or even a foot massage from someone who really likes you are always a good idea.
So is watching something funny on T.V.
Walking, meditating, writing, and being out in nature are great medicine when feeling more panicky than peaceful.
We own the right to decide whether or not we want to stick around and hear the Negative Nelly at the party talk about her labor story and how everything went wrong (Not that you asked but I say protect your ears and your baby's ears and run...run away fast. You can send your best wishes and compassion from afar).
Most importantly, we choose what words and thoughts we tell ourselves. Choose to believe that all is well, and all will be well. (I keep an index card with a positive affirmation by my bed that I read before I go to sleep, and when I get up. It really helps ease my mind...if you are not familiar with Louise Hay check her out and her positive affirmations.)
And now that my vacation is over, I can go back to enjoying my chocolate croissant. I will go on trusting that I am where I need to be in this very simple moment…my dog breathing next to me on my son’s soft bed, my baby girl swishing around safely inside of me, the sound of the rain dripping from the metal gutter outside, the air conditioning kicking on providing a cool reprieve, and my son's clothes piled dangerously high on his dresser.
I feel a deep sense of ease and gratitude.
And this may be even better than being on vacation.