Well, I’m 36 weeks pregnant and still counting. A little over three weeks ago, all the medical professionals and most of our friends and family were convinced that we’d have a baby out in the world by now. But nooooo. If my preterm labor has taught me anything–other than I have a shocking lack of modesty and an uncanny ability to remain snarky in the hospital–it’s that the Rage Monkey is a little too much like their mother already. This little monkey will do things on THEIR time and ONLY their time when they’re damn well ready! No sooner and no later. After all, as my mother’s first child, I was 16 days early and then kept her in labor for hours… so, like mother, like monkey.
So what have we been up to for the last three weeks (other than waiting on pins and needles and over-evaluating every little feeling I have in my abdomen)? Well, John just met his October 16 deadline for work, which means last week was especially hectic for him, but this week is calmer and quieter. For me, this means that I got to freak out about ALL THE THINGS NOT YET FINISHED, including, but not limited to, buying the last necessities for the baby like baby wipes (we had diapers but no wipes because of course), getting as many job applications done and submitted as possible before I went back into labor, worrying about that overdue and unfinished essay revision, etc. Last week, I also felt like I was starting to get sick and then had a weepy anxiety-ridden day halfway through the week, which means I accomplished nothing, except remaining mostly sane, feeding myself, staying hydrated, and sleeping.
This week has been a little bit better, but not much. I’ve at least managed to submit a reference for a former student while even sudoku is often too much for me to concentrate on. My next goal: write a letter of recommendation for another student and finally get some of the Spanish voiceover work done for online course materials that I translated for my friend’s communications firm. Oh, and then return to those job applications to review drafts of my cover letters and other materials for submission before sending them out later this month. With a November 16 due date and the very real possibility that I could go into labor at any time, the more I have done before the November and December deadlines, the better. Luckily (depending on your point of view), this is my fourth year on the job market, so my materials are pretty well-honed by now. I’ve got this shit down, and I’ve also run well into the negative fucks to give. I’ve reached that necessary point in my life where I’ve found the line. If you’re not in academia, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about, but if you are, I’m sure you’re aware. This line is the one I won’t cross in order to get a job–I have many skills that are marketable, and I’m perfectly willing to walk away from the career that I have been working towards for the last 10 years if I don’t have a job in a year or two (I’ve given myself this year and next year on the job market and then I’m OUT). Working contractually for my friend has reminded me what it’s like to actually be paid and appreciated for the labor I do since all of the academic work I’m doing right now is UNPAID, but I’m expected to keep doing it IN ORDER TO GET A JOB. How fucked up is that?
Anyway, end career rant on my pregnancy blog–as you can see, this is just one thing feeding into my anxiety, and if having a baby does anything, it certainly helps narrow things down and force perspective on a person. I love medieval literature. I love teaching college. I love talking to scholars about their medieval interests, learning from them, and passing on what I’ve learned to my students and those who read what I write and publish. However, love for such a thing can only take me so far. I think that the Rage Monkey’s first birthday will be an excellent time to re-evaluate my career goals next year if I don’t land a job this year.
Apparently, this post is going to be about my anxieties because the only new things that I have to report are 1) we’ve decided we have get a new (or new used–that has yet to be determined) car to replace my 2002 Toyota 4Runner and 2) because birth is now imminent, all sorts of fears are coming out of the woodwork deep inside my brain.
But first the new car thing. This is a relatively new revelation, as of a few days ago when John told me he’d been thinking about it for a while. We’d been planning to put off replacing my SUV with a new(er) one until we’d paid off his car, which will be paid off in July next summer. Plus, we have to pay my obstetrician for the birth and hospital bills (both for my earlier hospitalization and the impending birth) and credit card bills and student loans and I’d really like to have a little in savings for emergencies. This means, naturally, I went through all our expenses over the last month, laid out a budget for the next year (discretionary spending per week, amount paid to the credit cards each month, amount put in savings each month, etc), and then we could seriously talk about adding another car payment to our monthly expenses. But because we hadn’t made a specific plan, like which SUVs we were seriously considering or even our timeline for getting the new vehicle, my hormones got the better of me yesterday and it became a weepy day. I sat and wept on John in the afternoon, and it took some contemplating in a warm bath before an appointment with one of the hospitals (pre-registration, birth plan, tour, etc) last night before I figured out why all the tears.
I was weepy because I was anxious (on top of all the usual pregnancy and professional stress) because we didn’t have A PLAN for replacing the SUV. Now that I knew that 1) it was feasible financially and 2) we needed it before the New Year (we’re driving up to the northeast for three weeks for an academic conference [hopefully, with job interviews] for me and so that John can do some work prep before tax season hits in February), I had to have it mapped out or my brain felt like it was going to implode. With all the uncertainty about when the Rage Monkey is going to make their debut (sure, all pregnancy has uncertainty, but it’s so much more magnified after you’ve already gone into preterm labor), this is one thing that I can plan and fulfill. Hopefully. So, John and I are going to look at three specific SUVs tomorrow afternoon and Saturday, and then we’re going to have a date night Saturday night (our first one since September 16!), during which time we’ll figure out what we’re doing (I hope).
Now for the second more complex thing: the fears of giving birth. I basically breathe my way through the day when a specific “What if?” thought or new idea pops into my head and causes more anxiety. I’ve also been having such fun dreams lately: when they’re not sex dreams (hello, pelvic rest is awful), they’re super vivid birth dreams. The most recent one combined two of my fears into one: the fear of not realizing that I’m having serious contractions and the fear of not getting to the hospital in time. The dream was short and pretty to the point. Like most menstruating women are familiar with, I stirred from sleep in my dream because of feeling something damp between my legs. Then, upon waking up further, I turned on the lamp next to me, pulled down the covers, and found my bed soaked with all sorts of fluids, including some blood. I felt what I can only describe as more intense pelvic pressure than I’ve been having–a little uncomfortable but also like I really need to pee and a little ticklish–so I reached my hand down to feel my vagina. But what did I feel instead of an opening? The top of my baby’s head. Of course, that is when I thought I should wake John up, who’d been sleeping soundly until then. To the credit of our dream selves, we handled the situation very well and didn’t even panic. LOL Before I knew what we did after he woke up and was alerted to the situation, I woke up. I’d like to think he called 911 and then delivered the Rage Monkey based on their guidance… Then instead of waiting on an ambulance to take us to an unfamiliar hospital, John whisked us away in our NEW SUV to the one we’ve chosen with the best NICU.
But I’m not just worrying about the birth starting at home or my inability to read my body (seriously, I have to ask John to feel my abdomen to assure me I’m having a contraction because my contractions do not hurt yet except when the overall tightening then morphs into a quick muscle twinge in my lower abdomen for a second or two). I’m also wondering about whether or not my perineum will tear (yes, we’ve just started the perineal massages to help prevent that), what kind of other trauma my vagina will go through, how long it’ll take for my organs to rearrange themselves (and therefore how long the post-birth pain will last), whether or not I’ll experience postpartum depression (I’m already susceptible to depression because of seasonal depression, depression from my miscarriage, and my family history), how long I’ll be bleeding, whether or not the Rage Monkey latch onto my breast well (I’m not against formula; it’s just not plan A); what my breasts will look and feel like after breastfeeding; when I will want to have sex again even after being cleared and how that might affect John’s and my relationship; and most importantly WHAT ABOUT THE BABY? I’m not even going to list my anxieties about the baby being okay, especially if born this month, because that will just make me cry.
I’m a fairly optimistic person when I’m not a
pessimist realist. But I’m also a pretty hardcore Capricorn. I’m practical and I like being able to anticipate and control things to an extent–I’m adaptable, but that just means that instead of having a Plan A and Plan B, I’ll have Plans A through Z for every possible thing that could go wrong or differently. I look at a situation from ALL the angles, including the ones we can’t even see without metaphysical goggles, because the unknown is the worst. I accept that I can’t know everything, but I can be as prepared as possible for that thing that I don’t know will happen by being aware of as many things as possible that could happen. This is actually the reason I don’t want an epidural. Pain, I can deal with (so I say now). What I can’t deal with in an already uncertain experience is the possibility of not feeling my legs or not being able to feel my body when it tells me to push. In all these months of having no control over what is happening in and to my body, this one thing I can control.
Because the gods know that there’s no controlling an infant so I might as well cling to what little control I have now while I still can…