It was thrilling to wake up last Saturday morning to learn that April’s baby was coming. In case you don’t know her, April is the giraffe who brought the internet world to its knees to monitor the progress of her pregnancy.
We paused with much of the electronically-connected world – just as we had in recent years with the births of Prince George and Princess Charlotte – to welcome the little sweetheart into the world. At an estimated 150 pounds, “little” is hardly the correct adjective to use. Nonetheless, he is a bundle of joy and beauty.
As for the giraffe momma, April, we’ll never know what thoughts were going through her mind during the 16-month gestation period. It’s highly likely that on more than one occasion, she said to her husband Oliver, “Enough already. Pregnancy is for the birds.” In addition to walking around the last few weeks with what would be equivalent to 30 five-pound bags of sugar in her belly, April had the pressure of millions of eyes upon her, cheering for her to deliver a healthy baby to help save her species. According to the World Giraffe Foundation, giraffes are a silent extinction.
When my husband and I were in childbirth classes 19 years ago, the instructor warned us that on our due date, well-intentioned loved ones would be calling us at home to see if we had delivered. She braced us for the “let-down” of our due date arriving, and then departing, without a baby in hand. The due date, though, is just an estimation of when the baby is expected, not an exact science. The American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that most babies are not born on their due date, but rather 3 weeks before or two weeks after.
She also warned us that every person seems to want to take ownership of a swelling belly. Complete strangers seem to think they have a right to touch it. A swelling belly also triggers the impulse for women to share their personal labor and birthing stories. “I don’t mean to scare you, but when my baby was born …” and the tales of delivery room drama continue with a performance that is worthy of a Tony Award.
Perhaps because I was an older expectant mother for whom pregnancy didn’t come easily, I was a jubilant mother-to-be. I was acutely aware of all of the little miracles that had to take place to create a healthy pregnancy and never wished away a single second of it.
Even the morning sickness, nausea, fatigue, charley horses and stretching skin were manageable, because I got to say the words that I didn’t know I’d ever have the chance to verbalize, “I’m pregnant.” I quickly learned not to schedule 3 p.m. meetings at work, because like clockwork, I had a date with the toilet for my second round of morning sickness. And, I practiced abstinence from one of my favorite foods (sauerkraut) due to it triggering horrific headaches. I took the swollen ankles with a grain of salt and wore slippers to work in my final weeks.
My girls weren’t eager to venture into the world. One was born at 42 weeks, and the other at 41 weeks. I joke that if the doctor hadn’t taken them, they’d still be in there. They were both born by Cesarean section surgery, because even the most potent labor-inducing medicines couldn’t get them to budge. Hence, the doctors said that “With all that stubbornness, the baby has to be a boy.” Why would my babies ever want to leave the comfort and warmth of their momma’s belly, where they have to do nothing but eat, sleep, hiccup and kick?
The extra long pregnancy was well worth the look on the face of a man – a complete stranger — who approached me in a restaurant to ask when I was due. When I replied, “10 days ago,” he looked scared, like my water was going to break right there in front of him.
Every expectant mother and father has their own emotions about pregnancy, and they may not always be stories of jubilance. It’s not uncommon to feel worn down from the sleepless nights, sore muscles and weight gain. It’s a whole new phenomena to have different preferences in food when your taste buds go whacko or to feel like staying home to nap when you used to be so energetic.
These changes can make any expectant parent wish away the pregnancy to get to the good part with the baby. And, atop all of the negative emotions about pregnancy is the guilt for not enjoying pregnancy as they feel they should. It’s OK to be looking forward to not being pregnant, because the end result is getting a beautiful baby. If you feel like you just can’t shake the prenatal blues, though, be sure to talk to your physician. It can help you feel better and give you reassurance.
Meanwhile, in those last busy weeks before the baby arrives, keep your mind occupied on preparing for baby rather than your due date:
• Shop for meals to stock up your freezer.
• Go out to dinner, see a show or walk on the beach with your partner. It won't be as easy to do after your baby arrives.
• If you have other children, schedule special one-on-one time with them.
• Rest and take naps during the day.
• Organize a folder with all of the information you need for hospital admittance, medical insurance and maternity leave.
• Create a list of street addresses/email addresses for baby announcements. Consider a calling tree so that a loved one can make those calls for you.
• Wash and put away all of baby’s items.
• Pack your suitcase for the hospital. Make a list of essentials to take with you.
• Save a newspaper from the day of your child’s birth and put it in a box with other memorabilia from the day your child was born (e.g. a note to your new baby, a baseball card, dollar bill, photo of you and the baby’s father). This time capsule is a thoughtful gift for an 18th birthday.
No matter how much that kicking baby keeps you going to the restroom at night, you can county your lucky stars that it’s not a 150-pound baby like April’s.
Pamela Henderson is the director of development and communications at Dunebrook. To learn more about parenting and support programs at Dunebrook, call (800) 897-0007. Email Pam with parenting questions and comments at email@example.com.