Thursday, July 06, 2006

Once and Again

Here I am, almost 32 weeks pregnant, solidly set sail well into my third trimester. Amazing, really: where have the past 32 weeks gone, exactly? This sure isn’t like when I was pregnant with Julia, when thoughts about and analysis of the pregnancy consumed every waking moment (or at least that’s how it seemed). If you asked me, back then, how far along I was, I could tell you practically down to the hour, faster than you could say the phrase, “due date calculator.” Nowadays, it takes me a minute, and the other day I actually had to check my calendar to be sure.

So many things about the second pregnancy are (emotionally) easier, less fraught than the first. Worries about learning how to breastfeed? My nipples could do it on their own! Wondering how many onesies and newborn side-snap t-shirts to buy? They’re already here, in a box somewhere, just waiting to be filled with little caterpillar arms and legs, and who knows, or cares, how many there are? There are enough. Baby shower? What baby shower? No one gives one for your second: one less thing to think about.

You’d think everything would be like that, then, wouldn’t you? Well, no. I was recently reading the pregnancy book my new doctor’s office gave me at my first visit—you know, to at least have cracked the cover before the baby is delivered. (That’s another difference: during my first pregnancy, I religiously read What to Expect and the pregnancy journal which told me down to the day which parts of the baby were developing when; this time, the only thing you’ll find me reading on a regular basis is my e-mail and the errant Pottery Barn catalog.)

I meant to familiarize myself with the chapter on Cesarean sections, since, you know, I’m going to be having one. But then I found myself wandering into the labor and delivery chapter, where each stage of labor is outlined in, on the one hand, what seems like excruciating detail when you haven’t yet given birth, and on the other hand, what seems like only the vaguest of terms once you’ve actually been through it yourself.

The first time I read about labor, when I was preparing to bring Julia into the world, such descriptions (and, later, in childbirth class, the dramatic videos) invariably caused an immediate emotional reaction on my part: my heart would race, I'd get teary with wonder and fear. Perhaps terror is a better word.

Let me tell you, I did not expect to have that reaction again this time, seasoned childbearer that I am. I mean, after Julia’s birth, pretty much anything should seem like a cakewalk. But there I was the other week, reading about the transition stage, when women often tremble uncontrollably and feel most chaotic and helpless, and then about end-stage labor, when the cervix stretches larger than a grapefruit (a grapefruit, people! a VERY LARGE grapefruit!) to allow the baby’s head to pass through…and, as if I were racing backward in time, I found myself freaking out again at the thought of this terrifying miracle that unfolds all the time, every day. All I could think was, there is only one way out of this, and that is the birth. It’s going to happen, as it did before, and I am merely riding a wave.

2 comments:

Heidi said...

But this time it *won't* happen "as it did before." You'll go into the hospital around 6 in the morning and have that baby girl in your arms before 8, I would guess. And at least *you* won't be exhausted from labor, as I was when I had my c-section, and you *certainly* won't be exhausted like you were with Julia. It's still a miracle, of course, but it'll be an "easier" miracle for you this time, by far.

Shan said...

You're right, thank God, assuming all goes according to plan. I'm still nervous the baby will come before the C-section date, and something unexpected will occur, and it won't be as easy as I hope. Plus, we still don't know who would take care of Julia for us if that happened. It's hard being still pretty new in town!