By the time this blog post goes live, Felicity will most likely already be here, becoming acclimated to life outside the womb in the new home that she shares with her mother, father, and brother. Right now though, I am actually sitting in my living room at nearly 5am experiencing the infrequent, yet uncomfortable pains of early labor. We thought we still had a few more days to prepare for our little girl’s arrival, but it seems that she has decided to arrive a little early. Rather than waiting days to meet her, it looks like it’ll just be a matter of hours before our little princess makes her debut.
Already, this labor is not like my last, though in other ways, it’s identical. With John, I knew the instant I went into labor. I had experienced no early contractions, no cramps, no Braxton Hicks contractions in the months and weeks leading up to John’s birth. When the first contraction hit, at four in the afternoon, I knew that my labor had begun. There had not been a doubt in my mind.
This time was different. It literally took hours before I was sure I was in labor. I had been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions on and off for days, and possibly weeks, before giving birth (I didn’t know what they were at first, so it took some time to identify them), as well as some minor cramping. Previously, I had assumed that the “practice” contractions and cramping were because I was much more active during the final trimester, maintaining a regular regime of walking, low-intensity cardio and strength training, and pilates, but it’s also possible that I experienced these differences for a much simpler reason: no two pregnancies are ever the same.
And that brings me to the second difference between my pregnancies. Everyone had been quick to point out that a summer pregnancy was going to be a lot less enjoyable than a winter one. John had been born in February, and I spent the majority of my last trimester indoors. My only form of exercise was playing DDR on a nearly daily basis. I barely went outside, especially after the huge snowstorm that struck that January. It took days to clear away paths, and weeks before all sidewalks were safe for a very pregnant young woman to traverse. But on the flip-side, I remained incredibly comfortable throughout my final trimester, and never experienced that dreaded feeling of overheating in your own body. I still bundled up to go outdoors, and my usual outfit on days off still consisted of sweats and long-sleeved tees.
I was prepared for a more uncomfortable third trimester with Felicity, knowing that I would be spending the last few months dealing with 85-95 degree days. In truth, the weather didn’t bother me too much. I still went out for daily walks with John, and I never felt the overwhelming desire to remove excess clothing. I was quite comfortable in shorts and tees, though I did spend a substantial amount of time floating around in the pool. Granted, that was as much to keep me comfortable as it was to keep John entertained.
The heat didn’t overly bother me, but I still found myself incredibly uncomfortable by the last few weeks. Though my weight gain with Felicity had practically mirrored my first pregnancy, I felt significantly larger this time around, a fact that could be attributed to the heat, weight distribution this time around, or the fact that I was chasing around a toddler at 39 weeks pregnant. By the time I hit the 38 week mark, I was totally over being pregnant. As my due date approached, I actually hoped that Felicity would arrive on time, or even early, as long as it didn’t cause complications. I was tired of struggling to get around, struggling to roll over in bed, struggling to keep up with John on the playground. I was tired of maternity clothing, and especially maternity bottoms with full stomach bands. I didn’t feel like myself anymore, and I was ready to find my “new normal.”
With John, I was actually happy when my due date came and went. I wasn’t ready to give up being pregnant yet. I enjoyed it right up until the moment I went into labor. I don’t remember feeling so huge, so uncomfortable, so “done” with being pregnant. I remember attending Sunday Mass on my due date, and very proudly informing anyone who asked that my baby could arrive at any time. I remember celebrating Valentine’s Day with Andrew at Cheesecake Factory later that evening (I specifically remember searching for a restaurant that brought us closer to the hospital rather than farther away, just in case). I still felt great, and four days later, when my first contraction hit, as excited as I was to meet my little boy, I was sorry to see my days of being pregnant pass.
There are plenty of reasons why my experiences during my third trimester differed so much between this pregnancy and the last. I was more active this time around, which will hopefully mean a swifter labor and delivery and an easier recovery. I had John to consider this time, which meant play dates, library days, and trips to the park when I just wanted to lie on the couch and nap. He kept me busy, which was both a good and a bad thing. I had less time to rest, but he kept me moving. I had the stress of planning for our hospital stay (there would be no heading to the hospital after enjoying a round of Mexican Crazy Train this time), and the stress of preparing a toddler for the day that he has to share his mother and father with another child, but I also had the confidence of having already cared for an infant.
I knew that if I had done it once, I could do it again. Our first two years with John gave me the confidence that I needed to raise another child. Though circumstances will be different this time around, and I will be balancing the needs of two children (and myself) rather than one (and myself), I feel a certain peace knowing that there will be an end to the sleepless nights, that there will come a day where Felicity will be able to run and jump and play just like her big brother, that there will be a moment in my life when I finally feel as though I know what I’m doing. I know that there will good days and bad days, days when I want to cry, days when I do cry, and days when I go to sleep feeling as though I have finally figured out this whole parenting thing. No day will be quite like the one before it, and my children will change from day to day in ways that I can barely imagine. There will be days where there are more tears than laughs, days of immense joy and days of immense frustration. I know these things now, but I also know that with each passing day, I will love my children more and more, and that’s what really matters.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!