On being pregnant and 40
November 15, 2009
When the Gods want to punish you, they answer your prayers. Or so says an old adage.
And here I am, with the teenager I raised off to the Navy and about to turn 20, my oldest son turning 10 next summer, and newly-five-year-old son.
And, apparently, if all goes well, a new baby in June.
Yes, I wanted another baby. Specifically, a girl.
But I had just gotten to the point where I was accepting, slowly, that it just wasn’t going to happen.
We’ve had two babies and two miscarriages. As Mark said, we’re two for two. Let’s appreciate what we have, that we have two beautiful boys, and that we’ve figured out how to keep them healthy and happy.
And, frankly, the first three years of Sander’s life nearly killed us. If we had another baby with autism, it would pretty much finish us off.
Plus, he said, I’m always sick and miserable and unable to function for the first four or five months of pregnancy, and he doesn’t know if he can pick up the slack.
And yet, here we are.
When I told Mark, he was quite literally stunned. You could see him doing the math in his head -- “I’ll be 47 when the baby is born, and I’ll be HOW OLD with a teenager???!”
Well, it’s too late now.
And I’m sick and miserable and unable to function. And Mark has to pick up the slack.
When I was young, at least 100 years ago, I was a true feminist. I believed that women are the same as men, can do anything that men can do, and that I would never need a man in my life.
Why would I? I remember having to answer questions about my future career in college. One guy in the class asked how I’d be an archeologist if I had kids -- what would I do with them?
I almost laughed, the question was so foreign. Kids? Me? Right. I don’t think so. And if I did have kids, I’d put them in a backpack and take them with me -- they’d get a great education on the dig site.
I guess I knew that I’d homeschool even then, at least.
Kids were portable, and easy, right? You just make them adapt to your lifestyle -- it’s not like they have any choice in the matter.
I’m working on baby number three. Pregnancy number five. And this will be the fourth kid I’m raising.
I am still a feminist. I still believe women deserve equal rights. I do not believe men and women are the same. I don’t believe they can do anything men can do, and I don’t believe men can do anything women can do. And frankly, if you’re going to have sex and get pregnant, you’re going to need a man in your life.
I think the choices now are: Skip men altogether, including sex, or accept that fact that if you get pregnant, you’re going to need help. Lots of it. Moral support, emotional support, physical support, monetary support. Pregnancy is not for sissies.
The first thing I learned, with the first pregnancy, is that we’re animals, whether we like it or not. Once the pregnancy hits, you’re part of a larger biological process than just you. Unless you step in with modern technology to halt the process, which is an option our grandmothers didn’t have, then you’re in for a ride. There’s no turning back, no other options.
If you get pregnant, you will have a baby, want one or not. Ready or not. In love with the father or not. Rich or not. Single or not.
You are no longer in control of your body at all. Your boobs start to hurt. You slobber all the time. You snore when you sleep. You’re grumpy and mean.
And, at least for me, there’s vomit involved. Lots of it.
Currently, it’s at 7 every evening. Whether I have dinner plans, or a movie to watch, or someone to impress. Off I go, out to the back porch, heaving away. And there’s nothing ladylike about it -- I’m barfing so hard that my eyeballs hurt and start to tear up, the retching noise is so loud that the kids and the dog run away from me, and, I’m sorry to say, the heaving is so strong that I pee my pants every time. Lovely image, isn’t it?
And it’s not just the barfing. There’s also the fact that I FEEL like I’m going to throw up every minute of every day, unless I’m horizontal.
And the exhaustion, which conveniently can be taken care of by lying down.
Currently, I’m sleeping 10 hours at night and still need a two-hour nap.
Sander informed me yesterday that I’m going to win a prize for world champion sleeper. Apparently, I’m NOT up for mother of the year this time.
And then, at the end of this whole miserable process, there’s a birth involved. And that’s when I first realized the usefulness of a man.
When I was pregnant with Sander, very far along and already wobbling, Mark and I took Matthew and Sawyer to the mountains of Virginia for a weekend. We stayed in a cute cabin and went for a walk in the woods. Matthew was 14 and wanted to do the “extreme trail” hike; since Sawyer was four and I was about as mobile as a beached Orca, we opted for the “stroller/wheelchair friendly” trail.
It was a beautiful fall day, and the place was empty.
We walked about a quarter of a mile, and then, right in front of us, a baby bear crossed the trail. It was gorgeous, and we all stood in awe, watching it.
And then saw the mother bear, on the other side of the trail, and realized we were in between the baby and the mother.
So. Matthew, smart boy that he is, walked backward about twenty feet, slowly, and took off running. The mother bear came a little closer, probably 15 feet away by this point.
Mark picked up Sawyer. And tried to put Sawyer on his head, as high up as possible.
And then I saw him look at me, waddling backwards, and saw him trying to decide whether to go and bring Sawyer to safety or stay with me.
Yeah. There was no way I could fight the bear, unless I could manage to sit on it. And I couldn’t outrun a sloth.
That was when I realized why men as partners are useful. Mark has an interest in protecting me, and Sawyer, and the baby. And he’s physically able to do it when I’m nine months pregnant. All I’m able to do is obsess about nursery colors and baby names.
Thankfully, after we backed up, the bear had enough room to cross the trail after her cub, and after glaring at us, she lumbered off and away from us.
With all my self-reliance ideas shattered, I was still unprepared for childbirth. Sawyer had been a C-section. No big deal -- just a minor surgery. You’re out of commission for an hour or two, tops, and you could still hobble away later if you had to, baby in tow.
Sander was a natural birth. And was nine and a half pounds. And was two weeks late. And the epidural didn’t work.
Nothing, but nothing, ever, in my life, prepared me for labor.
I thought it would hurt. I took a delightful class on hypnobirthing, that taught me to ride the waves. I was ready for anything, and figured if it was THAT big a deal, no one would ever have two kids.
Perhaps my problem is that I wasn’t abused enough as a child. I’ve never been hit. Never been in a fist fight. Never been beaten, or had a black eye. Never broke a bone. I’ve really never had to deal with physical pain.
Until the day Sander was born.
I had a fantasy of walking the halls, breathing deeply, riding the waves. I asked not to be hooked up to a monitor, so I could walk around and take a shower. No catheters or bed pans for me, thanks -- I was going to be fully mobile.
And the first labor pain hit. The doctor had come in and said we had to start things moving, so he broke my water and said to see if that did the trick.
Within about ten minutes, I was convinced I was dying. There had to be something wrong. No one, ever, could have ever felt this way.
And then, crawled up in bed in the best fetal position I could manage, I screamed, and moaned, and yelled, for eight hours. You know it hurts when you have a sliver under your fingernail? Yeah. That kind of pain.
The kind of cramps you had when you had the worst flu of your life, and you were shaky and sweaty on the toilet from the pain? Double that.
And then, imagine having the worst flu possible, vomiting and shitting all over the place, unable to speak because of the pain, and someone comes up to ask you to make important, potentially life-altering decisions.
Do you want ice chips? Do you want a monitor? Are you sure you don’t want a C-section? Do you want to try the epidural again? Can you hold completely still for five minutes?
And then, at the end, the baby wouldn’t come out.
And so, the flipping begins. The midwives turned me like a pancake. On my back. On my knees. On all fours. Over a giant rubber ball, ass end up, almost naked. All done with monitor wires and an oxygen mask and an IV and a fetal probe attached.
I have vague memories of the worst of it -- I was quite literally unable to think. I was panting and gasping and completely unaware of what was going on around me.
If I had been a cavewoman, unattended by my mate, or perhaps a peasant girl who’d been thrown out of the house because she was pregnant, I would have had no protection. None.
Lions, come get me. Bears, have at it. Bad guys, take what you can get. I’m not going anywhere.
But there is a beauty in the whole thing, knowing that your mother did this. And her mother, did, too. And her mother did, and without painkillers. And her mother, probably at home. And knowing that many of them lost children because they didn’t have the resources we do.
It’s a wild, savage beauty, though. It’s not pretty. Neither are babies.
I’ve never talked about poop and vomit and blood and snot more in my life than the first month after Sawyer was born.
In my twenties, picking up cat vomit made me sick.
Now I can wipe a nose, a bottom, clean up barf and a dog mess before breakfast without batting an eye.
And here I am, again.
Hoping this baby is healthy. I’m only eight weeks along. A lot could go wrong. I’m optimistic, though -- the two pregnancies I lost were both times of immense stress in my life, and both times I never felt sick. This time, I’m making up for those -- I’m sicker than I’ve ever been. Although Mark swears I say that every time, and I was just as sick and tired with Sander and Sawyer.
Which is why he was hesitant.
Oh, and the worst bit? I’m trying to avoid food issues with this kid. We’ve already got one with celiac disease and one recovered from autism, so I’m being careful and following suggestions from great doctors.
Unfortunately, those suggestions are:
No alcohol, obviously
No meat with hormones or antibiotics (so no eating out, unless it’s vegetarian.)
No produce with chemicals or pesticides (so all organic, at least at home.)
Doesn’t leave much that I like.
And it means that my newest craving, for a turkey and bacon foot-long sub from Subway with lots of hot peppers and Italian dressing, just isn’t going to happen.
So, wish me luck the next four weeks. I have an ultrasound on Nov. 23, and we’ll see then if everything looks good. If we see a heartbeat and baby’s the right size, I’ll be a lot happier.
If not, I’ve been doing a LOT of puking for nothing!