At 38 weeks, I am so pregnant that people have stopped asking, “How far along are you?” and started opting for a more direct approach. “How much longer?” they demand. Maybe those two questions don’t sound very different, but it’s all about nuance. ‘How far along’ implies a journey, a joy-filled adventure with cake and hormones and butterfly kicks. When you’re as big as I am, ‘How much longer?’ feels grittier, more explicit. It’s rock climbing without a harness; it’s staring at your stretch marks with a magnifying glass.
Living in Bradford-on-Avon, I’m getting used to striking up conversations with strangers, like the posh grannie I met at the local café yesterday who, within seconds, eyed my bump and asked the dreaded question with sympathetic, borderline-cringeworthy curiosity. This woman knew what was up—a fellow veteran of the childbirth war, someone who’d been in the trenches and knew what I was in for. I appreciated that. It’s one of the universalities of motherhood. But after she left, another mum struck up a conversation as Trixie began to play with her two daughters. When it was her turn to ask ‘How much longer?’, she began to beam, confessing how badly she longed for a third child, and didn’t I just think pregnancy was the greatest—pure bliss? As if pregnant women are a team of jubilant unicorns.
I am not a jubilant unicorn.
With my first pregnancy there was pampering and balanced meals but the second time around it’s been harder. More achy, more exhausting, and forget about healthy snacks—who has time? With 2 weeks to go, I’m starting to wonder if maybe this pregnancy has turned me into a masochist. I know my father-in-law thinks so every time I politely decline a ride up the hill to our cottage. And I know my husband thinks I’m insane for continuing to go to pregnancy yoga, even though I pulled a groin muscle a few weeks ago and usually come home limping from class.
“But I don’t want to stop going,” I whimpered last night, dropping my yoga mat and wincing as I hobbled up the stairs to bed.
My husband knew better than to disagree.
Maybe I am a masochist, but does that make it wrong? Climbing Conigre Hill is draining and repetitive, but it’s the only gym membership I’ve got. And maybe I’m a fool for subjecting myself to groin-taunting sun salutations week after week, knowing that I’ll be crippled for days afterward, but I’ve made some good friends in yoga, and I like having the time to myself.
Tiring, painful, and embarrassing as it is (yes, I fell over on the sidewalk tying Trixie’s shoe this afternoon), I will miss being pregnant. I’ll miss the butterfly kicks (more like excavation of the ribs), and the wisdom with which my 3-year-old tells me what the baby will be like. I will miss the anticipation of it all. In two weeks (or three, or maybe even tomorrow), it’ll all be over, and that is surreal—which is probably why I push myself the way that I do. But it’s okay, I can take it. Give me leg cramps and heartburn, and bring on the occasional bladder control issues. I’ll suffer through yoga and false labor and indulge in ice cream, pedicures, and taking your seat on the bus. I’ve earned it.
But seriously, though. How much longer?