The contractions I've experienced lately have not, for the most part, been what I would call "painful." In fact, I haven't really tended to experience "painful" contractions until transition, and that's just the last few contractions (I read somewhere that it's only about 10-12 contractions, all told) of first stage before you begin to push baby out during the second stage of labor. If I were to wait until the contractions became painful, my babies would for sure be born at home or in the car on the way. The only reason I really woke up at all was because I had to time them. Then I began remembering my third son's birth, which went kind of fast, and then I got kind of anxious and had trouble falling back asleep.
The most consistent theme of this pregnancy seems to be anxiety. True to form, I had a lot of anxiety this week. I worried about whether we'd get to the hospital on time. Everyone has heard of other women who have accidentally delivered at home without a caregiver or on the side of the road. I personally know five such women, and I'm not anxious to join their ranks! I worried about my blood pressure and blood sugar readings once we got there, and whether the doctors would think they were bad (From the desire of being approved, deliver me, Jesus). As everyone knows, worrying about your blood pressure is probably the best way to be sure they'll show up higher than normal. I worried about the pain of labor, especially after I heard another woman enter the triage stall next to me in such obvious pain with her contractions. It's funny how three centimeters dilation can feel so different to different women... After the doctor sent us home, I worried that all the people we had told about our departure would think I was a drama queen (From the fear of being despised, deliver me, Jesus).
So how do I cope with the anxieties of the last few weeks of pregnancy? A few helpful suggestions:
1) Cry. Because you're allowed to, and it doesn't mean you're doing it wrong. It also might very well be better than getting mad. It also might make someone pity you enough to help you out. There's seriously no shame in crying for help when you are about to go through one of the most intense experiences of your life. I guess the Litany of Humility prayer might be working, because I really find it hard to care if people around uncomfortable about the fact that I'm weeping uncontrollably, and I also don't feel the need to explain myself to anyone. I cry at Mass, I cry in the grocery store, I cry while talking to friends, I cry while cooking dinner, I cry when no one is around and I'm lying in bed. I woke my husband up when I started sobbing early this morning, loudly proclaiming my desire for contractions that would either just STOP or SPEED UP.
2) Drink wine. I know the Surgeon General's warning as well as anyone, but...I'm having a hard time caring. I mean, as long as it's moderate. One doctor I spoke to said the only case of fetal alcohol syndrome she saw during her medical school education was brought about by a woman who was actually trying to cause a miscarriage in herself by drinking. In light of that anecdotal evidence, I figure a glass here and there is probably not going to do a lot of harm. Also, I've had more than a few glasses of wine during the second and third trimesters of this and my last three pregnancies, and no abnormalities have popped up so far with any of them.
3) Drink tea. Whatever kind makes you feel good. Put some honey in it if your blood sugar is low!
4) Pray. I always used to think that prayer was supposed to take the anxiety away, but ever since I became a praying person, it's never really worked like that. I used to think that meant that I was doing it wrong, and that made me even more anxious. But now I don't that's the case. Prayer doesn't take the feeling of anxiety away. It just helps me put words to the anxieties that I'm feeling, spend a little time figuring out how important they truly are, imagine how I might act if various worst-case scenarios came to pass, and then ultimately make an act of faith in God's providence. God's power and care for me does not depend upon my emotional state, so whether or not the anxiety remains when prayer time is over is becoming less and less important as time goes on.
Speaking of prayer, a friend of mine threw me a Birth Blessing party on Saturday. It was sort of last minute, pretty small, and almost got cancelled when we took ourselves to the hospital on Friday evening thinking baby could be coming soon, but it was really lovely. Obviously my level of anxiety about pregnancy speaks to this, but there's so much more to childbirth than just what's happening in the body. Caring for the soul in preparation for (and during!) birth is a great gift to give yourself and all the pregnant women around you. That's why I became interested in pregnancy and childbirth in the first place, why I went through doula training, why I followed a midwife around one summer, why I considered becoming a midwife, why I read birth stories at all. It's gotten somewhat lost in the diabetes numbers management of this pregnancy, but it remains a critical element every single time a woman becomes a mother. That goes for baby number one or baby number seventeen and every other one in between.
For now, I raise my glass (of wine, tea, sparkling water, Gatorade, or other beverage) to another week of waiting! (And I'll probably cry a little bit before I go to bed, too, because it's better than yelling).