final pregnancy, hurdle door, lulworth cove, pregnancy travel, active pregnancy, pregnant, family travel

Pregnancy Reflections

In Expat Musings by Stacy

This is likely my final pregnancy. And by likely I mean almost definitely. Unless God decides he has other plans and foils our own.

36 weeks pregnant

36 weeks pregnant never looked so sexy.

I knew both during and immediately after my third pregnancy that I still wasn’t “done”—that my baby fever was no where near cured. And truth be told, I’m not convinced it ever will be. I’m a lot like my mom in that regard. There’s nothing quite like a newborn. I enjoy every exhausting sleepless second of those first days and months.

But, much to my husband’s relief, I think I’m finally ready to embrace the next stage of parenthood. Our oldest has enrolled in “real” school this year (we home-schooled in the loosest sense of the term for kindergarten) and starts first grade in a few weeks. Third trimester hormones plus the realization that my daughter is growing up has made me an emotional mess lately. I’m excited at her excitement. She is counting down the days until she is a big kid going to school each week day. She’s excited for the routine and responsibility. But all I see is my baby girl growing up way too fast right before my eyes.

She grew up on me.

She grew up on me.

It’s one of those bittersweet life moments. Part of me wants her to hate school and choose to learn at home for a few more years so we can continue having these long, leisurely days with her brothers to explore and do life at our own pace. I’ll be at home with her brothers and her brand new baby brother and I already dread how strange it will feel not having her around during the day. I’m not ready for it. But I want her to spread her wings and have these experiences that she is so eager to be part of. She’s grown up so much. She talks my ear off—constantly. I’m amazed at how much she knows, how much she absorbs, and how much more she wants to know.

And her little brothers are just as eager to be big like their sister. They are so independent, so fearless and energetic. This new baby will seriously set back our current travel rhythm. I have three tireless little hikers who are ready to do it all. I’m sure baby brother will catch on quick enough, but it continues to astound me what amazing little travelers and explorers my kids have become. And I’m excited about the new adventures we can undertake when there are no more diapers and fewer tired little legs needing to be carried. So many new things to see and do as they get older. Zip lining, serious mountain hikes, segway tours. And that’s only the beginning.

Croatia. I was feeling like superwoman up until the last six weeks of t his pregnancy...

Croatia. I was feeling like superwoman up until the last six weeks of this pregnancy…

That said, I’m treasuring every moment of this final pregnancy. Realizing it’s my last makes me suddenly desperate to try to remember each moment of it. The annoying, endless energy and awake time of this final baby boy. Will I always remember it so vividly? They reassure pregnant moms not to grow worried if baby “kicks” a little less in the final weeks of pregnancy because baby has grown so big, they just have less room to maneuver and make those big kicks/movements. None of my children ever got that memo. And I even had a ten-pounder growing in my belly at one point. My kids make room. I can tell you where this child’s butt, head, and elbows are at almost all times of the day. It’s impossible not to know. My kids have their own version of Whac-a-mole with my belly. They push on the very obviously protruding butt typically hovering about an inch to the right of the gaping hole that was once my belly-button. And their unborn brother instantly responds. That bony little butt shifts to the other side of my belly button. And then a knee or elbow proceeds to jab out at my side. My kids gently push on the elbow, and their youngest sibling again readjusts. The doctor swears they’ve conditioned the poor baby and getting a heartbeat now is quite a feat because he starts moving as soon as the doppler makes contact.

And then there’s the hiccups. I worked up until the day before my first was born. I remember standing in front of a class of 11th-grade girls and suddenly realizing all eyes were on my belly. The hiccups I’d been trying to ignore while I stood there and taught were causing my entire belly to lurch. My students were mesmerized. Hiccups have been a daily occurrence in the final trimester of all four of my pregnancies. This child is no different. Except I’m convinced he sits lower than the others ever did at this stage because it feels like he’s hiccuping on my bladder or lower. And it’s the most annoying, uncomfortable sensation in the world. He also gets these hiccups almost like clockwork every night within minutes of me laying down to bed. It’s impossible to sleep through. And then I realize after this little guy makes his entrance, I’ll never experience hiccups in my crotch again.

Bodiam Castle. Such a cute little belly at 4 months pregnant.

Bodiam Castle. Such a cute little belly at 4 months pregnant.

It’s an odd place to be in. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m getting older or my body is significantly different after three previous babies, but this kid is making the final month of the third trimester more difficult than ever before. I packed out of a house and moved to a foreign country in the final six weeks of pregnancy with my third child. I’m not sure I could have done that this pregnancy. The exhaustion. The cramping, the nausea, the lower back pain. The hours of daily “practice” contractions that are just noticeable enough to be more than uncomfortable but not unbearable. My house is a bigger wreck than normal because bending over makes everything hurt. And yet I want to somehow remember and cherish every bit of this final, miserable stage of pregnancy. I know I’ll miss the kicks and the alien-like movements and the excitement of knowing a life is growing inside me.

I’m 37+ weeks. All of my kids have come somewhere in the 39-41 week range. But the cramping and regular contractions have me wondering if this guy is destined to come a bit sooner. So the anticipation begins. Patience is NOT one of my virtues. The anticipation is killing me. I hate not knowing when he’s going to decide to make his appearance. But at the same time, that’s always half the excitement. When I got to the hospital with my first and the doctor verified yep, these contractions were the real thing and I had started to dilate. When I woke up at 2AM with my second and instantly knew that these contractions were the real thing. When I finally realized I wasn’t just peeing myself every twenty minutes and in fact my water was trickling out with my third. All those moments—there was no panic, there was sheer excitement. The moment was finally here. In less than 12 hours I’d have a baby in my arms. Each time I knew I was hours away from experiencing one of life’s greatest moments and incredible miracles. There’s no euphoria quite like that. I can’t wait for that moment with baby #4. But at the same time I dread knowing it will be the last time. How do you capture and remember those intense feelings and emotions? Will they eventually fade? Will there ever be life moments quite as miraculous and euphoric again?

I’m not-so-secretly hoping this birth will be my fastest and easiest to date. And considering he’s my 4th baby and his other siblings have “prepared” the way, it’s not unlikely. But at the same time, I don’t want it to be over too fast. I never seem to fully remember the pain and agony of childbirth once that baby is in my arms, but my husband tries his hardest to remind me how miserable I was. And I remember fleeting thoughts in my head about giving up and not being able to do it anymore, but I seem unable to recall the level of pain I actually experienced. However, I intimately remember the feeling of relief and accomplishment and overwhelming love as the intense, eye-balls-popping pushing leads to a doctor placing a slimy baby in my arms. I want to relive that moment over and over and over. That is the moment that my entire pregnancy is building towards. That moment when that new, miraculous life that’s been growing inside me for 9 long months finally makes his entrance into the world. It is nothing short of a miracle. And I’m sad to accept that this will be the last time I experience it. But somehow I know it is probably time.

I don’t have a pretty conclusion to end this blabbering. I’m so ready for this pregnancy to be over but at the same time, I never want it to end. Or, at least, I never want to forget the feelings and sensations. You can keep the varicose veins, swollen fingers, heartburn, and constant need to pee. But I’ll live with the back aches and incessant kicking a little while longer. I love you, little guy who still doesn’t have a name. And I can’t wait for your siblings to meet you and instantly fall in love too.