Monday, August 4, 2014

Thoughts on being pregnant with a third child

I'm 29 weeks along with #3, and it's made me think about how this pregnancy and the expectation of this child have differed from my pregnancies with Mikko and Alrik. Each pregnancy has been special and golden in its own way — here are some highlights of how this one has gone so far.

Everything's less a mystery

But that feels like a good thing. I sometimes have to refresh my memory on whether such-and-such is really a pregnancy symptom or not, but this one has been running similarly to my others, which makes it easier to handle. I remember when Alrik was born, too, having that reassuring sense of been-there-done-that mixed with flashes of "Oh, right, I forgot about that" when it came to newborn care and breastfeeding but then being able to figure it out. It's nice to feel confident.

Looking forward

Speaking of newbornhood, I find this time around, I'm more keenly aware of those little kicking feet in my belly and wanting to meet this sweet little baby. For Mikko, I did want to get to know who he was, but it was all so surreal — it was hard to connect a growing bump with a real, live human with a personality and features, until after he was born. With Alrik, I can't remember feeling all that eager to get him out — maybe because we'd had such difficult newborn days with Mikko, maybe because we had so many renovations to finish before I felt comfortable giving birth. Either way, I just get giddy this time around considering who this little one is going to be and wanting to hold that little squish in my arms!

The more the merrier

I read a quote from a mama in a pregnancy newsletter the other day that said, "Be sure to enjoy this last one-on-one time with your husband now!" I started guffawing. Clearly this was a first-time mother, because … having a third is just not going to change my life that much. With homeschooling the seven-year-old and having a little one and working in our home businesses, Sam and I are already surrounded by kids all day. It shouldn't much matter if there are three mouths yapping at us rather than two. I feel like we've already gone through those growing pains in our marriage, and now it's just onward.

Similarly, when I was expecting our second child, I worried how it would affect my relationship with my firstborn. And there were stark moments after Alrik's birth where I'd look at Mikko's face and think, "Oh, my gosh, I've ruined his life." It passed, and we've all adapted to sharing attention and energy. The good news is, I don't have those same concerns about adding a third. Both boys already know what it is to have a sibling, so as long as I keep loving on the big kids, we can (I hope) add a new one smoothly.

Keeping those plates spinning

That said, Sam and I do worry about juggling three needy kids — keeping them fed, groomed, and entertained while we also get our work done. I think this is one of those things we'll just have to figure out when we're thrown into the deep end. One thing we do a lot now is have one parent take both kids, often out, so the other has time alone to work, but we'll have to adjust how that works for us with three. During newbornhood, I imagine I'll be with the baby pretty much full time (nursing and all), and even after, I'm not sure how confident I'll immediately feel about handling three busy kidlets out in public. All those car seats to buckle, for one! (Well, Mikko handles his own now — thank goodness for wide birth spacing, ha ha!) Anyway, the divide-and-conquer model is much less clear with three, but we'll figure that out. I anticipate having a lot less time to myself for awhile, at any rate.

Advanced maternal age

This has been my first pregnancy where I started off officially over the old-lady cutoff of 35. (I turned 35 in the final month of my last pregnancy.) Being older hasn't really made a huge difference in how my body has handled this pregnancy, as far as I can tell. I definitely had my hips and pelvis start aching earlier, but that's happened earlier for each successive pregnancy, so it's hard to tease apart what's age-related and what's related to damage incurred from previous pregnancies. My back also has been falling to pieces more often. All in all, this has meant that I feel not super bad but totally justified in asking people to do things for me. I'm at the stage of pregnancy where I mostly refuse to pick things off the floor, for instance. I just point and ask one of my minions to fetch whatever it is, and I have three servants family members around, so that's helpful.

Medical interventions

Two related items have made me more cautious medically with this pregnancy. One is the advanced maternal age — for the first time, I felt sort of antsy about knowing whether to expect Down syndrome or another chromosomal disorder, so I debated and finally had a simple, noninvasive blood test to confirm one way or the other (MaterniT21, for those who know it or are curious, and the baby showed no markers). We also had never found out the sex in advance before (also available through the MaterniT21 test), but Alrik seemed to be having so much trouble comprehending the idea of a baby inside that we thought finding out whether it was a brother or sister and being able to call the baby by name would be really helpful in making it clear to him. (And wouldn't you like to know? Soon, I'll announce. Unless I've slipped up in this post with a pronoun….)

The other item that made me anxious was a release of out-of-hospital birth statistics from the Midwives Alliance of North America, showing a higher risk (depending on whose opinion you trust, a potentially much higher risk) of fetal deaths during labor for births at home or a birth center. I have very mixed (yet strong) emotions about the stats and the various interpretations of them I've seen online, and I do want to write about it sometime, but it's a hard topic for me personally. I still want my home water birth with a midwife, but I want to be reasonably safe, for my baby's sake. Anyway, what this has meant for me this pregnancy has been submitting to medical testing I'd previously refused or had considered refusing — so, for instance, I've been cleared again for gestational diabetes, and I had my very first ultrasound to rule out any obvious heart defects or other urgent medical problems that would indicate need for a hospital birth. (I have to say, it was epic to see my baby — what a cutie!) Fortunately, nothing troubling has come up so far, so my homebirth is on track.

Birth as normal

Speaking of which, I'm not too concerned about the birth, because I feel again like I know what to expect. I know it will not be pleasant, and that it will be hard work, and that I will not like it in the midst of it (particularly during transition, when I will question whether I'll survive and what I was thinking to put myself in such a position), but I know I can be calm and focused and do what I need to to get my baby out in a peaceful way. I know my body's strong enough and was made to do this. And even if something is off and we end up having to transfer to a hospital again, as with my first birth, I'll have more confidence to stand up for myself and my baby there. (Or so I hope — might as well have a positive attitude, right?)

Even just with details, I know what size birth tub fits in our space, and what brand I like best (Birth Pool in a Box, ftw!), how our water heater functions to fill it adequately, how to cover our bed and carpets, and so on. There's not much figuring out — more just doing it all again.

We've got it covered

Once again as with Alrik, I feel no need for a traditional baby shower, because we have so much in the way of clothing, cloth diapers, baby carriers, and other baby gear stashed away — we really just need a car seat again!

My dear friends here actually are throwing me a mama blessing, which I've never had before. I'm looking forward to that. There'll be a virtual element for distant friends to send good wishes for the birth, so I can let you know if you want to participate as well.

The last pregnancy

We aren't planning on having any more babies after this. Heck, for a long time, we weren't planning on having this one! There's definitely that wistful part of me that wants to just keep going and have ALL THE BABIES, but there's a rational side of me that talks me down. I ain't getting any younger, three is plenty of blessing, we live in a two-bedroom condo and drive a five-passenger car, we're looking forward to traveling and going to the theater and such again as our kids get older, and so on. Plus, even if you're a Duggar, it has to stop sometime.

So, mostly, I've just been trying to soak it in and enjoy it. This intense joy of carrying a young one inside me, the wonder of watching my body change, the pleasure of positive attention focused on my growing belly by loved ones and strangers alike, and the many, many hugs the boys give to their in-utero sibling. I really do love being pregnant, and I feel this attitude will carry me through even the hard newborn times, knowing it's our last chance to have that experience.

Contemplating whether we were done or not, I wrote this poem before my pregnancy with Alrik:

The Last Child
Do I fold them away in an Office Depot box
to stuff into a corner of the closet,
or pack them in a plastic bag
and truck them to Goodwill?
Not ready yet to give them up,
these pieces of you,
these hopes of another,
these possibilities of
dimpled arms filling sleeves
newly dirtied diapers
small enough head to fit
the monkey hat you outgrew.

But, another or no,
you don't stay small.
You never stay at all.
One day, there will be
a last child.
And what to do with the boxes,
what to do with the hopes —
tuck them away or pass them on?

(This poem excerpted from my book, Poetry of a Hobo Mama, available on my site and through my affiliate link on Amazon.)

And that was why we decided to go ahead and have this baby. But, despite twinges of "what if?" I feel complete now, our family whole. I'm excited to meet this little one and go on into our future together.

How has pregnancy been for you? If you've had more than one child, how has each pregnancy been different?


Kendall said...

This was great to read, so uplifting and relaxed feeling. I'm especially glad to have read it as I contemplate the meaning and "readiness" I am (let alone we as a family are) with adding a second child to the mix. Baby Boy's only 15 months, but it seems my cycle is beginning to return so although I'd originally figured we'd think about trying when Baby Boy was around 18 months, I'm now anxious as I need to 'track' my body. I'm also not sure how we'd manage it all, though I know at the end of the day we will and things will work out. Mostly though, I've anxiety about being pregnant again and what that means for my body and my health. Although our first pregnancy went well, I don't take to the first trimester well and am worried that I could have a worse first trimester.

I'm glad to hear that pregnancy has gotten 'easier' over time, mostly because of the confidence! So, thanks! :)

Annette said...

I related very much to your story as I am in almost the very same position as you in this post, so It was uplifting to read it.
I am due with my third child this winter and turning 35 in a few months.
I was confused by your comment regarding homebirth safety, since everything I have read from those studies showed that homebirth is an equally safe option, if not MORE safe because interventions often cause complications that are avoided with a midwife.
I am hoping for a waterbirth myself this time around as well,
I wish you all the luck and light on your journey!

Karen du Toit said...

Stunning post! You look good: happy and healthy!

Lauren Wayne said...

@Annette: I really wanted to believe that it was safer, but the MANA stats suggest that more babies die during labor than in a hospital (even though it's still a small amount, it's a significant difference). There are fewer interventions, for sure, and that's something I hope for as well, but the trade-off seems to be a higher risk for the baby. In the hospital, for instance, if there's a potential complication, off the mother goes for a C-section — many of those might end up being unnecessary, but the CYA hospital mentality does seem to save lives.

Depending on your priorities for birth (I mean that sincerely, because some people emphasize fetal life over lack of interventions, some do the reverse, and some are somewhere in the middle), it is still very meaningful to know the facts about homebirth safety. It was quite discouraging for me to read the MANA stats for that reason, because I was hoping for better outcomes, something more akin to midwifery/homebirth stats in other countries where midwifery is more regulated and respected.

I do wonder what the stats are if they were targeted to low-risk patients only, giving birth with certified midwives in states with high standards for midwifery certification & education, along with reasonably good relationships with OBs/hospitals. I think my state (Washington) is one such state, but the MANA stats lump all the out-of-hospital births together, making it hard to tease out distinctions like that.

Anyway, my middle path is to be as safe as possible for my baby's sake but still birth at home, and it looks like I'll be able to. I'm hoping you can have the peaceful birth you want as well!

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