The last time I attempted a normal-sized dinner was about a month ago. I went to a diner and had their house specialty: challah French toast with bacon and maple syrup. Who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner?! Mmm.
I went to bed at 9pm, a happy girl. Then, about an hour later, I woke up choking -- literally choking -- on Mrs. Butterworth’s-flavored bile.
Gasping for air, I lurched upright, belch-vomiting a sticky globule of Metro 29 Diner all over my husband’s and my duvet. The force of this caused stomach acid to shoot into my nose and pee to sally forth into my pajamas.
"OH GOD, GET UP, GET UP," I wailed at my husband, speed-waddling down the hall to the bathroom as he awoke from his pleasant dreams into what I’d unleashed all around him.
For the next 20 minutes, as Matt quietly balled our bedclothes into the laundry machine, I sat weeping on the toilet, burping bits of partially-digested challah into the trash can as my bladder emptied itself in angry little flourishes.
Needless to say, I no longer eat big meals after 2 pm.
At this point in my pregnancy -- week 36 -- I feel like I should make pro bono visits to local high schools, because I am walking birth control. I've gained 55 pounds, mostly in my face and ankles (or at least that’s what it feels like). I have to work flat on my back or standing DJ-style at my desk, as sitting up for more than 10 minutes causes searing pain in my spinal cord.
Every night, I sleep terribly, snoring so hard that my throat gets sore and drooling so much that I give myself a mucous facial. I’m usually in bed for eight or nine hours, but with five mandatory bathroom breaks, I’m only getting about six hours’ sleep. My nipples have begun leaking colostrum -- a moist, yellow pre-milk substance that stains my tank tops -- and my sinuses are closed for business. A good poop is as elusive and magical as a leprechaun.
And then there are the contractions. Until I got pregnant, I never realized that your uterus contracts all the time during the second half of pregnancy, usually starting sometime in the second trimester. About 5-10 times a day, I get the sense that my baby has grabbed hold of my uterus and is trying to burrito himself in it. It’s not labor -- they’re Braxton Hicks contractions, sort of practice runs for the main event -- but they sure are uncomfortable.
What horrifies me is that all of the symptoms above are normal. I do have some minor pregnancy complications -- which might send me into labor any day now, yippee! -- but they’re painless. All of the really annoying stuff is typical for late-stage pregnancy.
Not every woman feels these symptoms. The other day, I ran into an older work acquaintance in our office kitchen. She asked me how I was doing. I gave her an abridged but honest answer: I’m looking forward to the baby, but holy hell am I ready for the baby-gestating to be over.
“Really?” she said, staring dreamily into her memories as she washed her Tupperware. “I just LOVED being pregnant.”
I wanted to murder her.
Which brings me to the topic of my current emotional state. Murderous rage is just one of the many special, special feelings I am having every day. Weepiness is another one; my long-suffering husband had to hold me through a crying jag the other day after I saw pictures of myself and my upper arms at last weekend’s baby shower. (Said crying jag ended in more burp-vomiting.)
Don't get me wrong: I'm not depressed. Most of the time, I’m padding through life in a congenial, confused fog, bumbling my words and taking three hours to do work tasks that normally take me 30 minutes. I feel like little elves have removed half of my brain and commingled the rest of it with JIF peanut butter. But I'm vaguely content.
A couple of unexpected blessings steel me through the darker moments. The first are what I call the Manic Hours: chunks of time in which I get an unexpected surge of energy. I never know when they’re going to come or what I’ll be able to do with them, and I have no clue how long they’re going to be around. But they're amazing.
Abruptly and without warning -- usually at some point post-dinner -- I become possessed by the urge to clean my house, call repairmen to come fix all the broken or breaking appliances, ball up clutter to send to the Salvation Army, pay bills, and cross off every item on my to-do list. I feel like I’ve taken a fistful of my ADHD meds, although my actual prescription bottle remains untouched since last winter.
During one Manic Hour this week, I wrote, addressed, and stamped more than 30 thank-you notes, walked them to the mailbox, and then folded three loads of laundry. I’m writing this column during another one now.
Sources from the internet to my dog-eared copy of "What to Expect When You’re Expecting" warn me that neurotic cleaning urges are a sign of impending labor. They’re part of what’s called the “nesting instinct,” and they indicate that the Cervical Olympics are nigh. I guess that should make me nervous, but I’m honestly so excited to have any energy at all that I don't really care what it means.
Another delightful surprise is that I’m fiscally solvent for the first time in years. To shock and delight, I’ve unearthed myself from credit card debt over the course of this pregnancy -- and I was thousands and thousands of dollars in the hole at the beginning.
This achievement has a lot to do with a couple of big commission checks I got at work. But it doesn’t hurt that I’ve spent the past few months too knocked up to drink, too tired to go out, too big to fit into most clothing, and too afraid of indigestion to eat at restaurants. Just as my prepregnancy clothes are sitting sadly in my closet, waiting to play next year, my dollars are sitting in my bank account. And it feels good.
Of course, I’ll shortly have to worry about paying for a baby. And delivering a baby. And making sure the baby knows how loved he is and feels safe. But I have to say, if there’s one thing the third trimester really does prepare you for, it’s the unpredictable future.
Given the choice between leaping out into the unknown and languishing forever in the land of burp vomit, I know in a heartbeat what I’d pick -- and I suspect that’s just what Nature intended.