Thank you.

Dear Body,

Listening to a podcast the other day, I was told that I should write my body a thank you letter, thanking it for growing this child of mine. Just the thought of writing this made me cry a little because I'm super pregnant, but also because I completely agreed with the podcaster: pregnancy is such a gift and women's bodies are freaking phenomenal. So here it goes.

We may not have always been best of friends, dear body. Through the years I've struggled with body image as much as any woman has struggled. Sure, you've let me down at times and I've cursed you and allowed myself many negative thoughts about you. You are not perfect, but you're my only body I'll get in this one life I'm living. And I want to take a moment to say NICE JOB.

Fantastic job growing four human beings so well. I know I've always been pretty hard on you about my miscarriage, as I felt you failed me during that time. Both with Cecelia's pregnancy and with this pregnancy, you gave me quite the scare when you started bleeding at 6 weeks. But somehow those horrible episodes faded away and here we are today, just weeks away from birthing my fourth baby. Freaking amazing. Four times over.

Watching the changes this body has made in the last 38+ weeks has been every bit the trip as it was first time around. It's bigger, softer, curvier, and heavier than it was in October. Sometimes I don't recognize myself in the mirror and I revert back to scrutinizing my thicker thighs and rounder cheeks. And I know that the postpartum phase will be even stranger than the 'adorable pregnant belly' phase I'm living in right now.

But this body is sustaining a human life inside of me, and I marvel that you know how to do this, friend. I mean, you aren't done yet, body! You still have to birth this child into the world, but my brain is doing it's best to trust the process that awaits. We've got this! (fist pound).

As I get older and gain perspective, I've come to appreciate my body more than ever. I promise to respect the imperfections and absorb the privilege that comes with being a woman. We are powerful and beautiful and seriously amazing---not just for our bodies or our minds, but for the whole freaking package.

So I'm wrapping it up here to say 'goodbye' to pregnancy for the final time. It's been magical, and it's been so enjoyed in between the challenging parts. I don't know when it will end but I know that I've soaked in every possible second to the best of my ability. I know I'll have to share him soon, but I'll always cherish these kicks-from-the-inside. Always.

So thank you, body, for doing this pregnancy thing yet again. Let's rock the birth and newborn stage, too!

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38 weeks | Baby #4

Last possible comparison of all four pregnancies, since Truman was born right at 38w0d (because of induction with pre-eclampsia)!

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So, this photo comparison really stressed me out for awhile today.  I ended up tossing the original, and took the above current picture tonight instead of using the one I took this morning. It just seemed like my belly looked SO SMALL and I started feeling a little panicky, like, 'Maybe everyone is right, I'm really too small and this baby is having a growth restriction or something.' Which is ridiculous and not at all 'zen' like I'm intending to be, but still. It was a very real concern for me this morning. Now the above picture doesn't seem so starkly different this time compared to the others. I mean, I'm carrying differently all four times (I actually think this belly looks more like Cecelia's than anything!) but I certainly don't think this baby is 5 pounds while my others were 7-8, you know? Just goes to show that my belly is definitely bigger in the evenings, or he's settled down lower as the day goes on.

It also goes to show that I'm a head case, in case you weren't already keenly aware of this fact. Yes, the end of pregnancy 'crazies' have entered. Watch out.

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I've also been a little bit obsessed with birth stories this past week, listening to The Birth Hour podcast every day, and looking up 'positive' stories online. I also watched The Business Of Being Born again, on Netflix, knowing that it really knocks hospital births and also features a birth go 'wrong', with a breech baby coming at 34 weeks and needing a C-section. That baby had a growth restriction, which is probably why I was concerned with that issue today, I guess. I've come to realize that no matter how many 'positive' birth stories I read/hear, there are still going to be scary things that happen along the way. One of the stories on the podcast was great, but even just having her mention that she knew of two full-term babies dying in utero 'from being overdue' was enough to make me panicky. Yes, horrible things can happen at the end of pregnancy, during birth, and immediately after...and beyond. But I still get to choose my thoughts and have to let go of the fears. Deep breaths.

Despite all of that mumbo jumbo, my Hypnobabies tracks have been super helpful and I really like the Fear Clearing Session the best, plus the Visualizing Your Birth track is amazing. It's still incredibly challenging to stay awake during the tracks but it is possible;) Aside from some heavy worries creeping into my mind, I'm mostly feeling super excited for labor and delivery. The sense of dread that arrives, knowing what I'm up against, hasn't hit me yet. Perspective can be a beautiful thing when it comes to motherhood---subsequent children have reaped the benefits of me being more laid back, more 'this too shall pass,' and less 'OMG, is it going to be this hard FOREVER?' But aside from perspective on motherhood, I now have perspective on birth itself. I haven't had 'bad' births by any means, but they have all been fairly riddled with anxiety and worries over what could go wrong. When the first killer contraction hit with subsequent labors, I vividly remember being like, 'Nope, I hate this, I cannot do it again.' This time I want to hold onto the perspective that I can and I will have to do it again. The intensity of labor will be a microsecond in the big picture of my life. Temporary and worth it.

I can't control how or when it all goes down but I can absolutely control my thoughts. I will tell myself that it's going to be a beautiful, peaceful, quick birth. And that I deserve that! It really is one of the most magical moments imaginable, isn't it? As mothers, we get to bring another human being into this world, from inside our bodies. It's seriously indescribable and gets me all emotional just thinking about it....yes, even the fourth time around. What a privilege. Man, it's hard to wrap my head around giving birth SO FREAKING SOON.

Veins are out of control.
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Anyway. OB appointment on Friday went well. Baby measures on track (but again, I'm wondering if the uterus measurement is really that accurate), I'm up two more pounds, BP is good, and I'm still 1cm dilated but now 70% effaced. Looking back at other pregnancies, I was totally closed and not effaced with Truman's induction, was closed but 50% effaced two days before Cecelia was born, and was 1.5-2 cm and 50% effaced with Porter the week before he was finally born. I wasn't even going to have her check me on Friday but figured, 'what the heck?'. Internals don't really bother me and I don't think it means much either way, but it's nice to know SOMETHING is happening down there.

Side note: I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about how I should do an excel spreadsheet comparing my four pregnancies in various categories. #Loser

This is how my belly looks when I wake up in the morning. CRAZY compact and lumpy, and yes I've been sleeping in a sports bra and shorts lately. I'm a heater, can't help it.
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We had a good discussion about induction this time: I told my OB I really want to avoid Pitocin if at all possible. She didn't bat an eye and said, 'Of course, that's not a problem, as long as you aren't more than one week overdue.' She said if I hit my due date we will discuss a date for induction a week later, and honestly---as much as I hate Pitocin, I think going past 41 weeks with my fourth baby sounds just as horrible;) I feel like if I DO surpass my due date, I could probably convince my OB to just break my water instead of using pit to start an induction. I mean, both breaking my water and starting Pitocin are game-changers for me. Once my water breaks (happened naturally, pretty early on in labor for both Truman and CC, my OB broke it for Porter at around 4cm) the contractions get crazy intense. And of course, Pitocin with both boys meant that the contractions were right on top of each other, very intense, and sometimes would piggy back without a break. If I have any shot of remaining calm, peaceful, and in control it has to be without Pitocin, it just has to! So I'm visualizing a birth similar to Cecelia: no pitocin needed, no artificial breaking of my waters, really pretty quick overall (I went from a 2-10cm in 3 hours). BUT, I want less anxiety and want to remain mentally in control the entire time, without the pivotal freak-out moment.

And as far as the epidural goes, the more I contemplate, the more I think I can probably convince myself to just forgo the wretched 'waiting' period from the time when I decide I need it and the time I actually get it. Not to mention sitting still while the anesthesiologist places the gigantic needle is THE WORST, and the last two of three epidurals I've had really did not help that much. I just read back over my birth stories for Cecelia and Porter and noted that by the time I got both of those epidurals, I was already at an 8cm and really didn't think they helped with pain management all that much. SO AGAIN, perhaps I can just skip the agonizing wait, sitting still, and then being disappointed by the continued pain of labor with an epidural and go without? The key here is time: if I can progress quickly, I have confidence I can just plow through without the drugs. If things are happening slowly (please, God, no!) then I know it will be really rough to stay focused.

Lots of rambling in this post already, huh? It's like a stream of consciousness, 100% focused on birth. Yay? Yikes.

This week at work I noticed myself wrapping things up, to prepare for maternity leave. I still plan to work until my due date (at least?) but it's nice to know that as I walk out of the building, everything is pretty much in order in case I'm not back there until October. Having typical thoughts about my water breaking at work (the horror!), or as I'm driving home for the day. It's wild to think I will be there maybe ten more days, max!

Nesting is in FULL FORCE this week. I am super proud to say that the basement is now officially organized and everything for the baby has been sorted/washed/set out and ready to go. The attic is also completely bare, ready for one more haul to the dumpster or recycling. I found a Mamaroo swing on Craigslist and picked it up this week, which is something that's been on my list since....forever? Really wish I didn't sell ours but I'm glad I found another one online;) The baby's adorable coming home outfit arrived, my mom sent me a new mother's necklace with all four names on it (!!) and my hospital bag is basically ready to go.

Taking it to the next level, I scrubbed our shower tile while listening to a podcast this week. I cleaned toilets and our kitchen sink, which I tend to label as 'semi-deep cleaning' and something that I definitely don't do every week. I'm definitely feeling like this baby cannot come home to a filthy house and also, I have a feeling my standards for what 'clean' really is will change vastly after this child arrives. It will have to change or I might go crazy, so might as well get everything up to par now while I can!

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ALSO, we officially broke ground on the house construction this week. We are now have two giant holes in the backyard with the beginnings of 'footings' for cement and soon-to-be support poles. Also a digger and a Bobcat are hanging out in our backyard, which means the kids are in heaven (one nearly three-year-old in particular). It's been fun to watch the transformation happen and we are pumped that it's finally a real thing: we are doing a big addition on our house! It's going to be wild and we cannot wait.

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Overall, I'd say that I'm feeling 'too good' for being 38 weeks pregnant. But I have great energy until about 5pm when I just cash out. Then my patience for the children's shenanigans is at an all time low. We are also just adjusting to their summer schedules and different dynamics now that all three are home, and it's been fine but a little bit brutal. The whining and the arguing and the lack of listening (all past 5pm, mind you) has me near my breaking point many evenings. Nate was gone for bedtime a few times this past week and so Saturday I declared I needed some mommy alone time. I got a manicure and pedicure all alone and it was glorious! I plan to do a pre-natal massage next weekend and really really want to chop off my hair, but I know my stylist will try to talk me out of it right now.

I've been eating ice cream almost every night and fully enjoying it, but otherwise food is pretty meh. Baby loves ice cream, though, and who am I to say 'no'? He's super active after I eat and mostly in the evenings, but I'm also having a lot more BH contractions throughout the day. Nothing painful but definitely noticeable several times every day. I'm thinking one of these evenings the BH will turn into the real deal and we will have a baby with us by morning, but I know it could theoretically happen during the day, too.

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My gut tells me I have a few more weeks of being pregnant and could very well be overdue again. I'm not sure why I think that, Nate is totally adamant that I won't go past my due date but we will see. I'm feeling all of the feels though, you guys. Truman is just ecstatic and keeps kissing my belly, saying he cannot wait to meet his baby brother, and is predicting that I will have him early just because he's so impatient to meet this kid. Cecelia is extra sensitive lately, too, saying she loves me and loves the baby, and can't wait to hold him. Porter has been sweet in his own way, speaking to my belly and asking if today is the day he's going to come out.

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We are soaking in as much family time as we can! It's such a special time in our lives and I know it's the calm before the storm in a way. I don't feel like I've hit the wall with this pregnancy and can't really let myself think about it being the LAST last time I'll feel a baby kicking inside of me. It's all so surreal and bittersweet, but mostly sweet;)

End of rambling! Longest weekly post ever.

37 weeks | Baby #4

Full term! WOAH!

Dressed up for our date night this past weekend, otherwise you know my hair would not be down/makeup on/black dress worn on a weekend. No way.
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I'm going to make this pretty short and sweet, and will likely forget a lot of extremely important information in the process. ;)

OB appointment went well, and I'm dilated 1cm and 50% effaced. So literally exactly where I was with Porter's pregnancy at this time and he was overdue and induced (means nothing). My OB still said, 'You can have this baby tomorrow now, you're full term!' She also noted my varicose veins in my groin and legs and assured me they should go away after the 'tumor' comes out. ;) Baby is head down, HR was 150, he's moving like a mad man and my bladder is barely hanging on these days. The pressure down there is insane and I've had several zingers to the cervix/groin that make my legs feel like they might collapse. Still with Braxton Hicks and I even downloaded a contraction timer app this week, when they were coming every 5 minutes for a solid hour. I stopped timing them because they were not painful and I feel like I'm not actually going to go early this time, and sure enough---they must have stopped because I'm still pregnant.

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I'm up 30 pounds but food is not my favorite anymore. I get full so freaking fast, but am craving all fruits and popsicles. I've been drinking a lot of water, La Croix, and even root beer this week to beat the heat and stay hydrated. Plus, I've been taking a daily nap whenever possible and I'm not mad about it. Reading back through old 37 week posts with the other kids makes me chuckle--I was all bent out of shape about NEEDING to nap 'three times per week' and still feeling tired. This time? Give me all of the naps, I do not care about losing productive time. It's the only option many days, even if it's just a 30 minute power nap!

Getting off the couch is becoming rather comical and if I drop something on the floor I prefer to pick it up with my monkey toes if at all possible. I'm not sleeping the best because I just can't seem to get comfortable, definitely have to pee at least once in the middle of the night, and because Porter still likes to wake up and screams for me for fun. I don't know anymore, I just cannot with him.

Non-materity tankini is probably going to be forever ruined but I don't have a lot of options for pool wear. I did wear a regular bikini once but the amount of veins on my very-white belly seemed offensive.
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Biggest accomplishment of the week is that we finally moved all of the bins and storage items from the attic to the basement, to get ready for the house renovation! This thrills me like nothing else because it's something I've wanted to do for about four months now but I just cannot carry all of the heavy items myself. Don't get me wrong, I've been putting in plenty of hours in the attic, organizing and purging and taking things to Goodwill. I even carried down four giant hanging wardrobes from the attic to the basement before proclaiming, 'THAT'S IT, NO MORE HEAVY LIFTING!' Nate and his dad made approximately 20304 trips up and down alllllllll of the flights of stairs in our house to help with this project, and now I just have a little more organizing to do in our storage area of the basement. YES.

Ugly pictures but must commemorate:
The attic now, basically empty compared to before!
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And the unfinished side of the basement now, busting at the seams but still organized. These are all kids' clothing bins. Absurd.
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Also, my mom and Memaw bought the baby quite a few new items on Amazon--diapers, sleepers, swaddles, a pacifier. He is SET and it's so much fun to wash and hang all of his stuff in Porter's closet! I even pulled out a bag and started throwing a few things into it as a 'hospital bag', creating a real list for items that need to be in there this week. I faxed the order for a new breast pump to a company and we have the co-sleeper folded up, but ready to go in our bedroom. All of this means one thing: we are having a baby SOON and we are almost ready for him to arrive. GAH!!!!

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Supposedly we are breaking ground on the house tomorrow, which is why we did the whole attic to basement purge this weekend. But also, we have a matter of weeks before this child comes no matter what and it's time to really focus on the to-do list, right? I've also decided that when we have a nursery to decorate in about six-ish months, I want to do a black and white and geometric print theme for our cool dude. My mom is requesting a theme so she can make him a quilt, like she's done for the other kids, and it's all going to come together so nicely....when we can actually decorate the new bedroom! I'm nesting in a big way over here and loving every second of it.

Also, we've just been having an awesome summer thus far. Splash pads...
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Ice cream dates...
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Water balloons...
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Sweetness between siblings...
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These two dudes went to the US Open and had a freaking ball;)
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The pool! .... we love it all!
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I kind of cannot believe I have a few weeks left at work. The more I think about it, the more I'm thinking I might just be done after my due date even if I haven't had the baby yet. My due date is a Saturday and I don't know that I'll really want to be at work that Monday morning if he's still cooking away. I'm doing great at work right now and am very thankful for the air conditioning, real bathroom, and comfy desk chair compared to treating patients out in the field. I'm feeling like I'm really hitting my groove with my new job, which is unfortunate since I'll be gone for 12 weeks. We will see if I can jump right back into it when I return, or what! My mom just bought plane tickets to arrive on my due date and leave on Porter's birthday, hoping to catch the birth and meet this little man as soon as he comes out...but of course we know that might not happen. I'm so excited for her to come though and hope the timing works out.

My focus this week has been on visualizing the birth, positive affirmations, and listening to my Hypnobabies tracks without falling asleep. It's so hard to stay awake but I managed to do it a few times. I'm really excited about this birth although it feels very abstract, like it's not actually going to happen in a few more weeks. But it is. I know it will. But it seems impossible.

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Favorite comment: "What is this, baby number one? Two? Three?" (Me: 'Keep going'). "OH WOW, number four? You look great for having four kids." What a back handed compliment, right? Like, 'I expected you to look very haggard and tired but you don't look too horrible, I guess.' I mean, I haven't birthed the fourth yet, so my haggard-ness is bound to come. I've had a few people say that I'm finally getting 'big' but most still say 'you are SO SMALL'. I'm really glad my uterus measures right on track at each appointment so that I can be assured other people's opinions on my belly don't mean a whole lot.

Nate and I celebrated our tenth anniversary a few weeks late this year. Tony and Lois took the kids for a sleepover while we went out to dinner, walked around downtown, and woke to a quiet house the next morning. We ate breakfast here, did some organizing, and then went out for coffee. An excellent way to spent our tenth anniversary, even if it wasn't fancy or wild. Plus, Fathers Day weekend with Nate and Tony, and texting my dad was also successful.

TEN YEARS, baby!! My how things have changed and truly, how much happier we are right now compared to our wedding day.
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So I'm full term, feeling quite pregnant but happy and content to keep him cooking awhile longer, and I'm in disbelief that I will have this baby in my arms really freaking soon. I'm going to miss pregnancy when it's over, guys. It's just so special to have him all to myself, to marvel at how my body knows how to grow this child, to feel (and watch!) him kicking from the inside, imaging who this little character will be on the outside. The anticipation is still quite magical at this point, and watching all three kids get so excited to meet their brother is something I'll never forget. I know I'm incredibly lucky to feel good at 37 weeks pregnant and I certainly hope that continues until the end!

And with that, I'll head into the week with a clear mind and gratefulness for all that we have in this life. Yes, end of pregnancy emotions are all over the place, it's true.
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