Traditionally, pregnancy is divided into three semi-awkward but calendar-appropriate trimesters. Your first trimester covers the first 13 weeks of development, including those two phantom weeks before you even ovulate. Your middle trimester often feels like the trimester of the most changes – feeling movement, learning the sex if you choose to, crossing the viability threshold. And then the last 13 weeks are the waiting period. Waiting for the fetus to put on weight, for the lungs to develop, waiting for him or her to just come out already.
Honestly, the trimester system never worked well for me mentally (nor for many pregnant women, I assume, based on how popular internet searches for “when does my second/third trimester begin?”). I moved myself into a quarter system, giving myself ten weeks in each quarter for significant milestones.
For me, the first quarter was the most difficult, since that was when I miscarried the last time. Once I hit ten weeks and heard the heart beat, I began to think maybe there would be a baby at the end of my journey.
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The second quarter ended at 20 weeks, with an ultrasound (and the news that we were having a boy) and finally a totally clean bill of health for the fetus.
Then comes the third quarter. Viability is a wonderful point to reach for any expecting mother who has experienced loss, but it’s still not totally reassuring. For me, I was waiting to get to 30 weeks, a point in which survival is around 96 percent, and the risk for physical or developmental issues to occur from an early birth go decline dramatically.
Now that I’m comfortably into my fourth quarter, something somewhat shocking happened to me. I finally admitted I’m having a baby.
It began to happen at my last doctor’s appointment, almost two weeks ago. The nurse informed me that my c-section date has been set and entered, but that the surgery process wasn’t totally completed yet. “Haven’t you registered for the hospital yet?” she asked me. “You were supposed to do that six weeks ago.”
No, I hadn’t preregistered. I didn’t want to set anything in motion that I might have to undo later if something happened to the fetus.
That conversation started what eventually became the impetus of my “pregnancy denial” unraveling. I had spent so long being afraid of losing this pregnancy that I had been completely oblivious to all of the things that I actually needed to accomplish before the baby came. Hospital registration, pre-op physicals, even simple things like a place for the baby to sleep when we get out of the hospital, or a diaper to wear. It was as if I was afraid that making any sort of real, physical preparation for a new baby in the house would mean that I would in the end lose the child we wanted so badly.
It finally all culminated last week. After learning that a necessary piece of construction that needed to be accomplished in our house before the baby arrived would not get finished, and that we would not be able to convert our attic into a bedroom like we had planned, I lost it. I realized I had at best eight weeks to get ready, less if he happened to come early, and I had done nothing. No crib, no clean clothes, no diapers, no blankets, no bottles, no pump, no glider, and on and on and on. Many of the things I was lacking were scattered about the city, loaned to friends who had given birth once, in some cases twice, since we had last needed these items.
Some days, I can barely remember to put the milk away after I pour a glass. How was I supposed to track this all down and organize?
I had a breakdown, online, in public. Or as much of a breakdown as facebook would allow, before cutting me off because my litany of unpreparedness was too long for it to process. And suddenly, I found an outpouring of help. Those who had borrowed items were setting up times to bring them back. I was inundated with bassinets, cribs, diapers, even people who offered to pick up my laundry, wash it, and bring it back, or help do the final repairs on the attic so I really could finish the second bedroom.
Some of them were family. Some of them were collegues. Some I’ve never met in person at all. And I realize that all of them are friends.
Now, I feel more prepared. I have seven weeks left, hopefully, to gather, sort and ready everything for his arrival. I have rearranged both bedrooms so we can all live on one floor indefinitely. I have clean newborn clothes arranged in a dresser, three bottles cleaned in case we have an issue and need to move to formula like we did with Violet, and a wrap to ensure that he doesn’t freeze on the ride home in his pretty pink flowered car seat we just may not bother to replace.
Because after that moment of panic, and then a few days of assistance and support, I realized something I’d pretty much forgotten. Babies really don’t “need” that much stuff. They don’t need their own rooms, a lot of clothes, “gender-appropriate” travel systems, usually even bottles or pumps or blankets or bibs. They definitely don’t need the 30-lb glider I thought I had lost that was sometimes the only way I could get Violet to sleep during the day.
Babies need loving families, a safe and warm place to live, a place to sleep, and hopefully a plentiful breast (or those three bottles I picked up). And I believe I do have all of those almost ready to go.
Oh, and some diapers. I still need to get on those diapers.
I spent so long afraid of this pregnancy, tiptoeing around it like it was a bomb waiting to go off, fearful that if I ever really embraced it, it would be taken away. Now I’m realizing how much of the joy of being pregnant I missed out on, and how little time I really have left to enjoy it. So I am going to squeeze every bit of relaxation and happiness there is out of these last few weeks of planning for the birth of our second child, and put the fear and the panic on the backburner, where they should have been this whole time.