by Amity McElroy, Certified Doula and Childbirth Educator
It’s finally here: the last few weeks of pregnancy! You’ve spent months growing and preparing for baby. You’ve taken the classes, read all the books, and the nursery is set up. Now the countdown begins — the waiting, and the wondering when baby will arrive, and the inevitable excited calls and texts from family and friends asking, “Baby yet?” There is also the physical reality that baby is pushing the limits of the space in your body. This can cause the symptoms of pregnancy to become nearly unbearable, which can be compounded by the emotional toll the end of pregnancy brings. We often, as with most things, are in a hurry to move on to what’s next, as we hope the baby will arrive sooner than later.
For me, it always felt like the calm before the storm, and living in a place of in-between. After spending months getting ready, it felt like all that was left to do was wait…
With my first three pregnancies, I remember being so ready for the last days of pregnancy to end. It felt like it could be its very own trimester, but without a name. But by the time I was on my fourth pregnancy, knowing it was to be my last, I found myself feeling more curious about the purpose of this time in limbo between pregnancy and motherhood. Could it be a gift — sacred, or even spiritual? Maybe this could be a time for me to pause and reflect on the way my family and relationship looked right now, and to honor all the hard work and sacrifice my body had given over the past few months. Just a bit more time, to practice the art of slowing down and learning to be in the moment, in preparation for the different pace of life with a newborn.
In figuring out how to do that and what exactly it looks like, you might find some success in first shifting the perception of these last few weeks. This time is not wasted or useless… important work is still being accomplished, in baby and in you. Explore being curious whether there is something that has been left undone. I don’t mean washing all the baby clothes or installing the carseat; instead look deeper and be open to something that could only be realized during this unique time of pregnancy.
Try starting with some of these suggestions.
1. Rest, as much as possible. Since nighttime sleep can be elusive and uncomfortable during this time, instead shift your focus to rest. Give yourself some long afternoon naps curled up on the couch, binge watch shows, and spend some quiet time every day with your mindfulness practice. One of my favorite zen sayings is “All there is to do is sit and sweep the garden.” Balance these important times of quiet, reflection, and rest, as you also prioritize all that you need to get done before baby’s arrival.
2. Move, even though this may look different at this stage of pregnancy. Unroll that yoga mat to stretch, making more room for baby. Get outside and go for a walk, or swim to feel weightless for a little while, or turn up the music and dance! All of this may help your little one settle into position, ease discomfort, and decrease stress.
3. If there ever was a time for self care, this is it! Back pain, sleeplessness, heartburn, mood swings, and Braxton Hicks contractions may be just some of the symptoms you‘re experiencing. Now may be the time to finally use that business card you grabbed, and set up an appointment for acupuncture, prenatal yoga, massage, chiropractic care, or therapy.
4. Celebrate and love your pregnant shape by creating a beautiful belly cast, setting up a pregnancy photo shoot, painting a self portrait of your pregnant body, or applying a fun belly henna design to rock in labor. You might celebrate this baby by writing a love letter to them to read on their 18th birthday, or by singing or playing a special song to them every day, that you can sing to them when they are born (see midwife Susan’s newsletter on lullabies HERE).
5. Let the oxytocin flow! Hold hands, cuddle, and if you’re feeling it, get intimate. Plan a date or a staycation, or a nearby baby-moon. My favorite quote from Ina May Gaskin is, “The energy that gets the baby in is the same energy that gets the baby out.” (Check out the newsletter article from midwife Yelena HERE on sex during pregnancy.)
6. Have a Birth Blessing! In our culture we do a good job of preparing for and celebrating baby’s arrival, but we don’t often honor or celebrate the transition into parenthood enough. This focus could be as simple as sitting with some of your friends to share thoughts on motherhood and parenthood, or it could be more elaborate and include a foot bath or special ceremony. My favorite way to celebrate is planning to shower the pregnant person with blessings postpartum with a meal chain (laundry, dishes, massages and the gift of sleep are good too).
When you find yourself in that rare and special place of being in-between, while it is completely normal and understandable to be “over it” and hope baby comes soon, remember there may be just enough time left to do the undone. Allow yourself to explore what that means to you, and to give yourself the gift of being present, and intentional, as you do.
Amity McElroy is one of our Educators. mother to four children, and Dancing For Birth™ instructor. She has worked with families in the Albuquerque birth community for over 20 years. Her wish is that her work strengthens the connection within families and within the community during this important time of pregnancy and parenthood.