This is the strangest of times. In a few weeks (maybe one, maybe three, maybe more…), you will arrive, and everything will change. So much of this in-between time is wonderful, and I’m doing my best to soak it in – sitting out on the balcony watching and feeling you move in my belly, marvelling at the magic of it. Imagining the person you’ll be.
But right now, we’re in this strange, transient limbo. Waiting excitedly, but also feeling the bittersweet tug of knowing that the way we’ve lived, just the two of us, for the past seven plus years is about to get turned completely upside down. We’re preparing: Printing birth preferences, washing babygros, packing labour bags. We’ve gotten a chest freezer (the “nuclear baby bunker”) and are cooking up a storm filing it with comforting, familiar foods that will hopefully make those first few sleepless weeks a bit easier. And yet we do this prep all while knowing nothing can really prepare us.
I love this section on the last days of pregnancy in The Positive Birth Book:
Sometimes we just need a name for something, and our language can’t provide it. What do we call those final days of pregnancy, that time when everything is ready for the baby and we are waiting, waiting, waiting? It’s a tipping point, especially if we are going to become mothers for the first time. We’re about to literally cross over from one state to another, and in some ways this metamorphosis has already begun: we are no longer the woman we used to be, and yet, we are not quite ‘mother’, not yet. Shouldn’t there be a name for this?!
Zwischen: this German word means ‘in between’, and American midwife Jana Studelska chose to give it to these last days of pregnancy in a now well-known article for Mothering.com. Giving it a name, argues Studelska, encourages us to celebrate it as something special, rather than focusing on the inevitable discomfort and anxiety. As she puts it, the time of Zwischen is, ‘an experience closer to wonder than endurance’.
It’s also a time to ‘dig deep’. Most of us have some time off work at this stage, and Studelska encourages us to use these days of waiting to listen to our inner voice and follow its lead: ‘I tell these beautiful, round, swollen, weepy women to go with it and be okay there. Feel it, think it, don’t push it away. Write it down, sing really loudly when no one else is home, go commune with nature, or crawl into your own mama’s lap so she can rub your head until you feel better… I try to give them permission to follow the instinctual gravitational pulls that are at work within them, just as real and necessary as labor’.
There are a few things we’re doing to say goodbye to this period and usher in the next one: I’m working on a little photo book documenting the last nine months, with pictures of our life here in Lisbon, everyone who visited, my growing bump. We’ve planned a lovely date night at a restaurant that’s been on our wishlist for ages. Our doula has also recommended planning a little ritual once I hit 40 weeks to tell the baby we’re ready; we’re thinking of maybe writing a letter or recording a video Q&A so our kid can know a bit of about what we were like before we were their mum and dad. My energy levels are a rollercoaster right now: I want to cram a million and one things in, but I also just want to sleep for hours in the middle of the day.
So yes, there are things we can do. And yet we also know there is nothing we can really do now but wait 🙂