Never have I had more conflicting feelings about gender and stereotypes and the norms of previous generations than the last couple of months.
I hate — HAAAAATE — the very idea that pregnancy is a disability or should be treated as such. I find the idea of a lady retiring from society and all manner of activity rather abhorrent, a throwback to a time that has never held any appeal for me, aside from the wicked hat designs.
My body tells me that there was some wisdom in that paradigm; not that pregnant people should be pedestaled, but that this process, even with the best advice and anecdata, is more physically challenging than you think it’ll be when you see a double line on a pee stick. The list of symptoms is endless and varied, and the combination is entirely personal. What I didn’t quite grok early on is that the effects of the combination would start to feel…cumulative. That I would not recognize the signs that it was time to slow down until they blinked neon, right in front of my nose.
And by “blinked neon,” I mean “were repeatedly brought up” by the person watching me most closely, worrying most regularly, and suffering most acutely from the effects of my inability to admit weakness.
“No, really, I’m okay. I’m just a little breathless,” said I. Daily, while breathing deeply. Then hourly. Then while swaying and breathing deeply, regularly, even when I can tell the baby isn’t pressing a fibroid up into my lungs, which is what generally hindered my breathing before.
This, apparently, may be how my body does Braxton-Hicks contractions. Good to know, right?
I have no explanation for why I am stubborn about admitting weakness. I think maybe because I come from Yankee farmers on both sides? If I’m not actively pushing a child out of me, surely I can still do chores!
Yeah, not so much.
I stopped working at Week 36, which was…a Tuesday. There was a part of me that wanted to go through that Friday, but “to make the paperwork easier” isn’t always the best reason to do things. Or so I’m told. Plus, things started happening at Week 35 that made it harder to ignore that I AM ABOUT TO GIVE BIRTH SOMETIME SOON. There was the mucus plug. There was the ultrasound showing that the baby was already head-down on my cervix. There were new and varied pains. Although these things, even taken together, could still mean there were weeks left on the clock, they could also mean the exact opposite. And I wasn’t feeling physically prepared to have a baby, to say nothing of my mindset.
I feel much better now. I felt much better — and looked and acted like it — within 24 hours of making the decision to STOP.
The dumbest part of all of this is that I have a generous employer and an excited and supportive boss, I live in a blessedly progressive state, and I have some resources at my disposal. My company offers paid pregnancy-related leave (pro-rated, as I’m still in my first year, but it’s something). California offers state disability coverage for pregnancy/birth, followed by Paid Family Leave to bond with a newborn (payments are based on a percentage of your existing income). I have savings to cover the difference for the length of time I want to stay home…well, the length of time I feel I can reasonably, responsibly stay home.
Reasonably and responsibly. I’ve been thinking about that a lot. An awful lot of people, with nothing but your best interest in mind, will tell you that you should be resting and taking it easy at this (or any) stage of pregnancy. If you’re lucky, they are wise enough to preface this with, “Of course, I know everyone’s circumstances are different, but…if you can…” If you are unlucky, it will be something as simple as, “Why are you still working?”
The answer is just as simple: Because mortgage, utilities, groceries, etc. Because we aren’t Canada, or Australia, or The Netherlands, or France. Because we do not, as a culture, put our money where our mouths are when it comes to Family Values. Because it is…uncommon, here in the wealthiest nation on the planet, for a family to be able to sustain an extended un- or under-paid absence from work. We make do, if we can find a way, and we cross our fingers and hope that nothing breaks or blows up or needs replacing until we’re pulling money in again.
But, FMLA! someone will cry. Yes, true, I can’t be fired for taking time off to care for my family (not that employers haven’t found ways around that). But whoever thought unpaid leave was an acceptable substitute for paid leave to care for a fetus and then a newborn (or to care for anyone else) has clearly never had to worry about a monthly budget.
/soapbox (for now)
So I’m staring down the barrel of my 4/16 due date (having fallen into the traditional first-timer trap of being convinced I would go early) and carefully selecting which completely unproven folk remedies I’m willing to try because right now? Labor is the most productive thing on my To Do list. I’ve been cooking and stockpiling and setting up automatic financial stuff so that my student loans aren’t a nagging thought in the back of my in-labor mind when the time comes.
We have a perfectly positioned baby with a strong heartbeat and a soft, slightly dilated exit route. We have a generous and amazing friend staying at our house to care for Rodney while we’re at the hospital. We have parents on alert, ready to drive over the Sierras and meet us at the hospital. The doula is on call; the carseat is installed.
We’re as ready as we’ll ever be.
(Next post: Baby pictures/birth story.)
(Eventual post: House pictures.)