During this final month, the difficult-to-forget outward swell of your belly and the presence of the new one you are constantly carrying with you wherever you go creates an ideal preview of the patience involved in parenthood. Among other things, you may experience discomfort in your joints when walking, as cartilage softens. And you may need to urinate so often that trips to the bathroom become your major form of exercise. From here on, the stretching of your capabilities becomes the real center of your life.
This Month For Your Baby
While some "fine-tuning" of his or her breathing apparatus comes this month, your baby is now simply gaining the final increment of weight and insulation to aid the transition to the new world outside you. With the even tighter quarters, the baby's movements really slow down, and at 37 weeks she or he is ready to be born. As the latest evidence indicates, this final transition, the onset of contractions that will begin the birth process, is triggered by a hormonal secretion from the baby's own body. So it's time now to relax, rest up, and anticipate that signal.
Thoughts About Breastfeeding
As your baby's due-date gets nearer, keep in mind that breastfeeding is so good for your baby, and contributes so much to closeness between the two of you, that it seems a central part of a good life for your baby and you. Besides being the perfect nutrition for your baby, your milk passes on immunities to help him or her in the first few months of life. And not only is it very unlikely to produce any kind of allergic reaction (as all other substitutes may to a significant degree), but it also may help your baby avoid many allergies later in life.
As for closeness, it's hard to imagine a fuller sense of well-being than that which breastfeeding will create both for your baby and you. And while it may take you a few days to get fully comfortable with it, it's far easier than heating up formula, sterilizing bottles and everything else that goes with bottle-feeding an infant.
If you have questions about the particulars of breastfeeding, a birth teacher or midwife can probably answer them. And if you have lingering doubts or just want support, having a talk with a nearby nursing mother or attending a local meeting of La Leche League will probably help a lot. Both are also good ways of making new friends whose concerns will be much like yours.
Breastfeeding probably will feel so right and satisfying to you that it will become the natural continuation of a satisfying childbirth experience.
"Just keep remembering during all the trying times during the last trimester and the rough times of labor you will be rewarded . The rewards are so great that all the discomforts and waiting seem so dim and trivial! ! ! You are in for quite a treat!"
"It Feels Like I'll Always Be Pregnant"
On Waiting To Name A Baby
Some people are feeling less hurried about naming their babies. Not only are they foregoing having girl and boy names ready beforehand, but some are taking a few days to a few months after birth to get to know their baby before choosing a name. And while we don't know everyone's reasons, we know that we wound up taking almost a month to name two of our babies, simply out of the wonder following beautiful birth experiences.
Obviously, most people still don't wait beyond the day of birth. But pausing even for just a few moments, and even if the name you've held in mind for five years still feels right may be a way to make sure that an unexamined custom doesn't get in the way of seeing children as they really are. As we all move out of the era when people saw children as possessions, or as empty vessels to be filled, we are still affected by habits rooted in that era. Anything we can do to remind ourselves to respect really see our children is liberating to us as well as to them.
"You are taking part in a miracle. Realize that and enjoy it. Take care of yourself during that time, and don't be afraid to ask for help. Rest as much as you can especially that last month before the due date. With my first child who is six today, I am reliving in my mind his delivery. I was 2 weeks overdue and felt he would never be born. So I behaved as if I weren't pregnant. I didn't rest, did whatever I wanted and ended up going into labor after being gone that day for over 12 hours. I was definitely not rested for the event. Consequently I was exhausted and wasn't able to enjoy the process. After Tony was born he was wide awake and content. All I wanted to do was sleep so I missed that precious time."
"My advice is to sleep as much as you can before the baby arrives and sleep with them after. I loved waking up with him between us and no, I never rolled over on him."
Sharing The Now With Your Baby
Now your baby is near full development and as "with you" as she or he is going to be before coming into the world. Things are pretty crowded, to say the least, for both of you. The weight you're carrying limits your movements, and for the last month or two the cramped conditions for your baby prevent him or her from doing the floating flips of the middle months. So as you both approach the big day together, why not celebrate this time together? Maybe put on some music that you feel the baby would like, or do something that's particularly relaxing for you, with the understanding that your good feeling is good for the baby too. It's nice and real to feel you're sharing things together even before the birth.
"A friend shared her attitude about her upcoming delivery with me and I found it helped me put labor into perspective a little. Looking at it from the benefit of having gone through it once already, she said that she told herself that when the day came, the labor and delivery were just what she would have to do that day, much like you think about other large tasks. I liked that way of looking at it because you could pretty well assume that it would all be over in 24 hours and you'd finally have that baby in your arms."
A Word About Planning For Afterwards
A very big favor you can do yourself and your baby is to plan, if at all possible, to have help around the house for a good two weeks after you give birth. With all the other things on your mind now, don't let this one slip. Many women who find themselves having to get back into action a few days after birth wind up experiencing many, many months of fatigue and generally feeling not quite up to things. And beyond that, they also miss out as does their baby on what can be a very beautiful period of peace and deep connection. Plan for a honeymoon" at home together."Enjoy being pregnant. Now that I'm not, there are times I actually miss it!"
Remember, Trust Yourself
As the day of birth approaches, and you feel a combination of the "hooray, it's really coming" feeling and the "uh-oh, can I really handle this?" sensation, remember you can trust yourself and your being's true capabilities. As your body knows how to handle hundreds of daily functions that keep you alive, and has allowed your baby to develop within you, it knows how to give birth. While you need the support and assistance of others, you're up to the big challenge ahead.
By now you've probably had a lot of input of the "how-to-do-it" variety. You don't have to try to remember it; just do your best to ride the waves of labor and your being will remember what's worth remembering. The strong sense your body has that "this can't go much further, this baby has to come out" will go a long way toward helping your real self take over.
When the birth process is really underway, you'll know that there's no way to adequately describe or totally prepare for what you're experiencing. But you'll also find that the way it calls on you to extend yourself and the chance it gives you to experience your real reserves and capacities is probably the second biggest reward you will get out of pregnancy.
"Savor the feelings of pregnancy: memorize them because you may soon forget. Such feelings as baby moving, developing, and even the size of your stomach. Giving birth is truly exhausting but exhilarating. Read, talk to other parents... They are very reassuring and will help you be prepared."
"If it's your first birth, don't be surprised if it takes a long time. I found that when people were hanging around waiting for something to happen, my 'progress' slowed down a lot. So send eveybody out and don't worry about taking too long."
"[When it's time to give birth] express your feelings and your thoughts rather than censoring yourself. Ask for all the help you need and ask for exactly what you want. Remember that every birth experience is unique there is no one right way."
"Those last couple months seem like forever. They will end.. Suddenly the big day comes labor begins. It may be the hardest work you ever do in your life and it is the start of the most worthwhile job that anyone can do - raising your children well."
The Day of Birth
As you will know when you experience contractions that you can tell are the real thing, there's no way for words to cover or fully prepare you for the experience you will be going through. What we'd like to say here isn't meant to be some kind of direct reference for you on the day of birth, but something to read beforehand and have (like the many months of your pregnancy) as background for your experience.
What you'll be going through the very real stress and tremendous sensation involved in bringing a new life out of your body and into the world is one of the very rare chances most of us get to put our whole selves into something we know to be really momentous, to be challenged in the interests of something really above and beyond.
Most of us have to sit on the sidelines most of the time, watching other people extend themselves, in the ball game or the big show or whatever. Seldom or never getting a chance to call out the hidden reserves in us, we don't have any way to know how deep those reserves really are how much we can do when necessity calls for it.
Birth gives us the chance to find out to discover how special our ordinary abilities are.
During the first segment of labor, which may last for a long time, you can pretty much put the physical sensations somewhere in the back of your mind, like any physical discomfort that occurs while you have something major to do. As things progress, as the contractions that stretch and open your cervix get stronger and closer together, you'll probably find yourself more and more absorbed in what's happening to you. The sensations during this time are far more powerful, but you probably can still find a "place" for them especially by feeling free to sound off to your partner or birth attendants.
Then comes a time when there's no putting anything aside. As your cervix is opening to its maximum and when, shortly thereafter, you start to push your baby out, there's no choice but to be in it. At this time, you're called on to give up the everyday self that's trying to hold everything together. This very powerful call is to rust in the process of birth, allow yourself to let go of everything you've known, and let a new you a you that's very competent and able to do what your birth attendants suggest, but also amazingly unresistant to the flow of events be used on behalf of your baby's entrance in the world.
Every woman has her own way of "letting go" for the birth of her child and expressing the feelings involved in the birth experience. And women have, from time immemorial, allowed their willingness to do the "right" thing to take over. That's why it's vitally important, we feel, to have caring, feeling, supportive people not technicians or dictators around you when the moment comes to open completely for a new life to come through. Your open good spirit at this time should be nurtured on behalf of the best birth experience for your baby and for you, not taken advantage of for someone's convenience or the dictates of medical routine. The feelings of this time are so far beyond any "logical" expectation that you need to be free to find your way, to handle your feelings as your intuition dictates.
It's worth doing whatever you can before the day of birth to arrange for the people with whom you spend this day to be people who will give you the room you need to find your own way. You want people who can be guides at key moments, not directors.
We've said before that just as your body knows how to be pregnant, it knows how to give birth. This "ordinary" knowledge deep within us is what will carry you through; what will help you open as you've never had to open before. You don't have to be fine-tuned like an Olympic athlete to do well, and you don't have to live up to anyone's expectations. All you really need is the freedom to contact and be surprised by your own real capacities. Have confidence in those capacities.
In the event that you haven't been able to attend a birth class, and haven't read a book describing the birth process, we want to provide a short summary here:
The greater part of your day of birth will be given to the "contractions" that stretch open your cervix (the opening from your uterus to your vaginal birth canal) from its normal closed position to its full "dilation" (enlargement). This stretching not only involves the cervix itself, but the muscles of your uterus, which are pulling on the cervix as if peeling it back. This first stage of labor can range from a short couple of hours to more than a day. It may be preceded by spontaneous breaking of your "bag of waters" within the uterus in which the baby floats (amniotic sac). But that also may not happen until just before birth, despite the thinness of the membrane that breaks. (Informed opinion is now tending toward the feeling that the doctor or birth attendant should generally not take over and break the membrane to try to hasten birth process.)
The next phase when your cervix goes from the first five or six centimeters of dilation to the final full ten centimeters in a time that's usually far shorter than the initial phase is when the sensations are so great. And because the baby pushing down on the opening cervix is so very much there, many women feel what they think may be an urge to push the baby out at this time. But pushing has to wait until full dilation has happened.
When full dilation has happened, then come the big expulsive contractions of your entire uterus, with which it and you propel your baby down through the birth canal into your sight. Now you can push as your body wants to. But there may be times, generally when your baby's head and then shoulders come into view, when your attendants may ask you to moderate your pushing to avoid tearing your perineum. (They, or your partner, may massage the tightly pulled skin of your perineum at these times to help it stretch.)
For all the tremendous effort you're called on to give, this time has a special glow to it. The more "present" your birth attendants are "the baby's really coming now, there's the baby's head!" "You're doing great!" the bigger the glow. And at the very moment when you are pulled to the absolute maximum, you may find yourself more "there" than ever before. At the very peak of this tremendous moment of stress, engagement, effort, and sense of turning inside-out, comes the moment when your baby's head and then shoulders are somehow out, and in one relieving, slithering spurt the rest of the baby glides out. There he or she is! With us. Real. Born.
After this incredible moment, with your new baby out and at your breast, it remains for the placenta the magnificent temporary organ through which you have nurtured a new life to the moment of birth to be expelled. This "after-birth," which can be helped to happen by your baby's nursing (which stimulates your uterus to contract) usually happens within ten to forty minutes after your baby's birth. And it usually requires one last relatively small effort on your part to push the placenta out.
The contractions of your muscles during the birth process, from the early mild ones to the final almost explosive ones, are likened to waves by a lot of people. (And strictly speaking, that's what they are with a beginning, a peak, and a falling off.) What may be valuable about the wave image is to know that when you don't catch the wave to ride it, and it catches you instead, it's all right. If you just let that go, you can get back on top of the next one anytime, even after several "wipe-outs" in a row. That's what learning is all about.
We've emphasized the stress involved in birth because we feel that our being strong on that subject, rather than trying to gloss it over, is what will help you most. But now we'd like to say that through the final period of labor and actual birth, no matter how hard or easy, the quality of revelation that takes over is very powerful and often of great help. This effort that you will be going through has as its very real outcome not only the indescribable miracle of seeing your new baby, but a sense of accomplishment second to none in life. And the awe and wonder that accompany your baby's arrival are incredible!
What can cap that accomplishment your baby's as well as yours is the chance for your baby to emerge into a quiet, warm, peaceful environment in which you and your partner (and any previous children who may be there) are able to enjoy each other and absorb and reflect on the miracle you've all been a part of. Then the day of birth will be an unparalleled day in your life.
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