Nine months ago, Tom started getting up with David. He let me sleep an extra half hour or so while they did guy stuff like talk in grunts and leave their underwear on the bathroom floor. Every now and then Tom would have an early meeting or a doctor’s appointment and I didn’t get that extra time in bed. Whenever that happened, I stomped around the house and complained under my breath about unfair it was that I had to live my life as a single mom.
That’s what happened the day before I went into labor. There I was, 39 weeks and 6 days pregnant and deadbeat dad had to leave early to get the brakes fixed in his car, and I had to get out of bed at a reasonable hour to take care of my son. Unfair.
Tom also didn’t come home after work like he always does. Instead, he went to a concert with a friend, something I actually encouraged him to do because I am a fun, cool, easy-going wife who has no problem handling the responsibilities of a home and a child and wants her husband to have a life and friendships, and isn’t Tom so lucky to have me?
The point of all this is to say: the day before I went into labor was a very long day, made longer because the long nap I was hoping David would take was incredibly short. We went outside to sit in the shade after his incredibly short nap, and it crossed my mind: maybe I’ll go into labor tonight, and if that’s the case it’s nice that David and I got to have a long day together, just the two of us.
We went to the grocery store in the morning because my parents were coming to visit for the weekend, and David needed some Kroger stickers.
When I got home I realized they hadn’t given me one of my bags. I sat down to itemize what had been left and realized I’d left the bag labeled “This Woman is Pregnant and Can’t Be Trusted in the Grocery Store.” The bag I left included two bags of Sour Patch Kids, brown sugar, a bottle of iced coffee, and a bag of chips. Also one can of corn.
I was tired all day. Usually I go for a long walk after David’s nap, but I didn’t have the energy. Instead, David asked me to pull him in his wagon through our alley. One of my neighbors saw me and shouted from her deck, “Are you trying to walk that baby out?” As if it was my idea to pull a 30-lb. kid in a wagon. One of my pregnancy symptoms is The Inability to Be Polite or Gracious, so I yelled back, “No. I’m doing this because I have a toddler.”
After dinner, David played quietly in his room and I sat and watched him. As I’m writing this, it sounds a little heavy-handed with nostalgia, but I don’t mean it that way. I was exhausted, so the fact that David was quietly rolling his trucks around on the table rather than ramming his stroller into our front door demanding, “OUSSIDE!! MomoMORE stroller OUSSIDE!” was a gift I wasn’t overlooking.
I put David to bed a few minutes early, then took a shower, painted my toenails, and went to bed early. None of this is normal behavior for me. All of it says: something is wrong with this woman. Call her doctor.
When I went to bed that night, I was thinking about the 40-weeks pregnant blog post I was going to write the next day, and it was going to include how angry I get when people suggest that things like walking or a bumpy car ride or spicy food or listening to jazz while looking at pictures of donkeys will make you go into labor. I did a lot of research after I passed my due date with David, and I found out that NONE of that is backed by science, not even sex or castor oil or red raspberry leaf tea. The only things that will induce labor are 1) medical intervention 2) your body and that baby deciding it was time for labor.
And, I know, you ate taquitos at El Toro Loco and then you went into labor that night. If you tell me that when I’m 37 weeks pregnant I’ll fake laugh and say, “HA! It’s worth a try.” If you tell me that when I’m 39 weeks and 6 days pregnant I’ll say something like, “Were you also near your due date when you had that pancake? Perhaps that had something to do with it rather than EATING PROCESSED CARBS.”
Even if your friend and that midwife, your herbalist, acupuncturist and maybe even your doctor says that this or that might help, but I’m not impressed until I see a proven medical study. Science becomes very important to me when I’m 40 weeks and one hour pregnant.
I’d already talked to my doctor about the possibility of being late and my desire to avoid medical intervention as long as possible. My 41 week and 42 week appointments were made, and I was mentally preparing myself. This isn’t that bad. I’ve been pregnant since September, so what’s a few more days?
But ask any woman who has been pregnant past 40 weeks and they will tell you that, science be damned, they knew their pregnancy would last forever. And even though they’ve already been pregnant for 40 weeks, which is an entire school year, except longer because you don’t get weekends or a Christmas vacation or a teacher workday, adding just one more day to that seems insurmountable. And two days? Impossible. And then people start telling you about their grandma, who was 19 days late and you have to go sit in the corner and hum for a while.
That’s where I was mentally. I was in bed strapping on my crampons and stocking my backpack, preparing to climb the mountain I knew was ahead of me. Then I decided to chill out and write a letter to my daughter. I started writing her letters, just a few lines here and there, early in pregnancy whenever I worried about her — putting words to paper stops the crazy thoughts and reminds me to pray. So I wrote her a letter. I told her that I was very anxious to meet her, that I was very grumpy, and that she had the greatest little brother and Daddy who was so hip that he was out at a rock concert. And then I told her:
“Tomorrow is June 7 — your due date. You still have time to surprise me, but it looks like you’re going to be like your brother, headstrong from the start and working on your own timeline … I feel so blessed to have had a relatively easy pregnancy, and that you are healthy and growing. God has already been so good to us, and I’m praying for patience in these final days (or weeks!?). Little one, you’re helping me learn that being a mom isn’t about my desires, my comfort or my schedule. I love you so much already. Love, Mama”
I turned off the light and stared into the darkness for a while. Then the baby kicked, just like all babies do at night when you finally decide to get some rest. I shot up in bed, turned the light on, and added a postscript to my letter: “Your brother stayed on the right side of my belly, you like to be on the left side.”
For some reason, in that moment, that detail seemed important. Like if I fell asleep and didn’t write it down, it would be gone and I’d forget it forever.
And then, I closed my eyes and went to sleep.
I could go on and on, but I have two sleeping children right now and I need to brush my teeth. I’m obviously telling the long version of the story…and members of my family are rolling their eyes thinking, “Amanda, have you met yourself? You only know the long version of stories.”