still 39 weeks pregnant: home birth prep and the loss of all remaining patience

I think I can best illustrate the level of my desire to not be pregnant anymore with an anecdote.  Imagine it’s been a bad day.  It’s been hurting your hips to walk for months now, but today the pain has brought you to a new level of hobbling.  You consider never leaving the house again, but make plans to go out to dinner with friends instead because once the baby comes who knows how soon you’ll find the time/energy again.  But!  One of your friends really wants to cook something!  So you skip the restaurant and go to his house and eat some snacks and chat.  But!  The chicken for the soup isn’t cooperating and needs a lot longer to cook than anyone thought it would!  Your blood sugar drops and you feel like death and are getting pretty tired on top of it since you know, it’s already 10 pm (gasp!) and it’s kind of a miracle that you’re even still upright at this hour.  So you say goodbye you need to go home right now, hobble to the very cold bus stop, and manage to keep it together—despite the raging hormones that want you to cry at every opportunity and the fact that hunger has always made you feel surly and hysterical—until you make it home, sit down on your bed, and try to take off your pants.  It is with them around your knees that you realize that you can’t get them off by yourself.  Commence weeping and blubbering.

I’ve been praying for rain ever since.  (And by praying I mean shaking my fist threateningly at the sky.  And by rain I mean contractions.)  But no luck.  We made it to our last birth prep class.  My due date is two days off, and the reality is that she has to come soon because that’s how this works.  But I can’t believe it—I’ve even managed to convince myself that it is my very desire to get her out that is keeping her in.  This doesn’t make sense, I realize.  But pessimism comes easily to me.

I know, I know.  Wah wah wah.  Complain complain complain.  A hell of a lot of people have had a hell of a lot more reason to be pissed at being pregnant at the end of their terms.  But the thought doesn’t really improve the situation for any of us.  And I’ve never been one to try to coat everything with a layer of rosy frosting.

THE GOOD NEWS IS: We are so ready.  So ready!  And not just mentally (though I think the Beard is already pumping with the good adrenaline—I call him to tell him something banal and he comes running with this giddy look on his face, thinking labor might be starting and he keeps dropping things).  We’ve got a couple of bags of stuff—candles, extra sheets, snacks, et al—waiting in the corner of the Wagen for their moment in the sun and below you can witness my “it’s almost over!” / “bring on the contractions” hoppity dance.  (I hope that the fact that I am doing said dance in front of our altar of whiskey counts for something with some god or goddess with influence over my uterus out there somewhere.  Bacchus?  Aphrodite?  Anybody?)   Even though I’m mostly feeling complainy, I promise that I actually spend most of my time attempting to make light of what has become a rather annoying state of affairs.

for those of you who are interested in the nitty gritty details of this sort of thing…

If you ask my midwife, which we did, all you really need for a birth in a pinch is a pair of scissors and a clamp so that she can deal with the umbilical chord after the birth.  She’d managed with nothing more than safety scissors and a chip clip, she told us, when she once upon a time went to do a prenatal check on a woman who had been planning a hospital birth and arrived to find that the baby had already dropped in.

If you have a little more time, I’d say the bare necessities (for a low-risk home birth with no medical complications along the way) probably also include a comfortable nest, a supportive birth partner, and an experienced midwife.  Funny how a lot of people are always trying to tell you about things you should buy to prepare for this sort of thing (because even birth has to be about consumption these days).  But we did buy a few things.  We just didn’t have that many pairs of dark colored sheets.

my midwife’s home birth check list as applied to a Wagen birth

This is the prep list my midwife gave us last week, translated for your convenience.  (The bolding is hers.)

1. Build a nest!  Accessible bed with pillows and light blanket. (Check and check.  Our bed is the coziest nest EVER, and I can’t wait to give birth in it.  All of our pillows and blankets and duvet covers came from the trash across the street.  Thank you, wasteful students, for providing us with an amazing nest.)

2. Enough space in front of the “nest” for a birth on a birthing stool.  (My midwife may or may not be bringing this along.  When we tried it in class I asked her about it, and she said maybe, though she had doubts about us having enough space.  I told her that if we had room for a birth ball, which we do, we have room for a birthing stool.  She said she’d see if it fit in the car that day.)

3. Source of warmth—a radiator, heat lamp, or hot fan.  (This is where the wood stove comes in.)

4. A lamp or flashlight. (Check.  Now that I think about it, both of our lamps are also from the dumpster across the street.)

5. An exact clock. (Not so much check.  Our cell phones are our clocks.  Need to find something with a second hand to borrow.)

6. Water-tight tarp or sheet. (The Beard bought a thin painter’s tarp at the building supply store while I was laying in bed.  So I have no idea how much it cost.)

7. One to two bed sheets.  (We’ve got four, but that’s because our “king size mattress” is actually two mattresses jimmied together.  Two we had, and then we bought one black, one red for 4,99 each.  I wanted dark colors to avoid staining, though I have heard that all the home birth juices wash right out.)

8. A large trash can or trash bag. (Check.  Had this already.)

9. Bowl or bag for the placenta. (Planning on freezing it and burying it beneath a newly planted tree or bush in the spring.  Have a large metal bowl at the ready for initial catch.)

10. Four to five mid-sized towels. (Thank you flea market and dumpster across the street.)

11. Possibly a hot water bottle. (Check.)

12. Ice packs. (Thank you one euro store.)

13. Thermos full of strong, hot coffee.

14. Post partum pads. (Donated by a friend who didn’t use all of hers.)

15. Mutterpaß.  (The little book you get in Germany for doctor’s to record all your pregnancy health info.)

16. Clothing for the baby.  (If you saw the pictures of the fold down changing table/baby-stuff storage shelves that I built, you already know we have a shit ton of baby clothes.  All gifted or flea marketed.)

17. A bag packed for at least a one day’s stay in the hospital in case of emergency.  (We have the stuff the midwife wanted us to pack and the stuff for the baby packed into the car seat, but I haven’t packed anything for myself yet, and I have my fingers crossed we won’t need our back-up bag anyway.  Cross your fingers for us to if you think of it.)

18.  Food and drinks for the birth team.  (Orange juice and red berry juice with extra iron have already been squirreled away under the bed.  For snacks we have a bag full of fruit energy bars and yogurt.  Want to make some hard boiled eggs to have on hand as well.)

We also have a birth ball (which I am still struggling to figure out how to blow up), massage oil, a massage ball, various heating pads (ie the kind filled with beans or cherry pits that you can heat up in the microwave or oven), candles, and about six different playlists for all the different moods I anticipate being in.  There’s the relaxing playlist (a no brainer), the good mood playlist (for pushing and/or general desperation), the sing along playlist (all songs that I love to sing along to, in case singing through contractions turns out to be my thing), the shake your hips playlist (in case I need to do some gyrating to get the baby moving down), the ocean sounds playlist (I have a feeling that visualizing the contractions as ocean waves might be a huge meditative help), and the Wolves in the Throne Room playlist (slow, intense doomy forest metal strikes me as being something that could be the perfect birth soundtrack).  Then again I might just go into a trance and be annoyed by any noise and skip the music all together.

My “birth team” consists of my midwife, the Beard (main birth partner), Frau Doktor (relief birth partner and general runner-arounder, retriever of all things needed, taker of photos, and tender of the wood stove), and me.  Not to mention the hoard of Platz-mates who may be outside pacing and chain smoking in anticipation of that first cry and could also be called on to help us out in a pinch.

I hope that the next time I write you it’s to tell you that Peanut is finally here.  My fingers and eyes are firmly crossed.

18 Comments on “still 39 weeks pregnant: home birth prep and the loss of all remaining patience

  1. You know, when I was having the contractions that mean business I simply let my mind wander, and for some reason (one still obscure to me) the images that flashed through my mind were of fruit. Slices of orange, to be precise. Why would that be? I felt my body getting ready and opening itself, and tried to picture a gate opening but had the fruit instead.

    I don’t remember the pains of birthgiving, but I do remember two thoughts that crossed my mind back then: one, that it was impossible from a topological point of view, that a baby came out there. It simply felt like it couldn’t be, but husband made me look him in the eye (very much like a boxer’s coach), concentrate and keep pushing. My other thought was something like, shit, this is a pretty good reason to request a C-section. Not that I’m asking for one (surgery scares me more than birthgiving pains), but my goodness, this hurts!

    The first two weeks of life after a baby is born are incredibly difficult – tired after the birth and with organs, muscles and joints shifting back to their original places, confused by all the information we’re bombarded with, learning the ropes and sleep deprived. Breathing deeply was the best advice the pediatrician gave us. I swear by it!

  2. Aaaaaagh the excitement! I was looking at the pictures and having trouble comprehending that when next I’m there, there will be a BABY.

    The anticipation sounds rather like the panicky feelings of being late with a period and wondering if you are pregnant, except multiplied by all the physical aggravation of actually being pregnant. The waiting. The wondering. The maddening thought that your anxiety is somehow, inexplicably, making the wait longer. There is a lot of anxiety involved in being a woman, isn’t there?

  3. Julia: Orange slices?! I love it! I wonder what stuff I’ll end up thinking about. I bet it’ll be something totally weird and random too.

    Lindsey: Thanks! The Beard is convinced it’s going to go down this weekend. Fingers crossed…

    Fishie: I actually don’t feel any anxiety. Just impatience, which for me is totally different (are they similar for you and that’s why you interpreted me as describing anxiety here??). Impatience, fed up ness, like when you’re waiting a really long line and are tired of standing and you have to pee but you just have to keep standing in line because you HAVE to get to the desk at the front eventually.

    I’m convinced it’s my wish to get her out that is keeping her in, not any anxiety. Just the usual pessimist’s view. Ie I want X so of course I’m never ever going to get X. But of course at the same time I’m not convinced of that, just feeling pessimistic and expecting the worst like I always do.

  4. I can’t believe it’s so soon, so soon!! Try to convince yourself the due date is next weekend, maybe it will make the waiting easier.

    Before I got to the end of your list I was going to yell MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A CAMERA and TAKE SOME VIDEO!!! But then I saw Frau Doktor listed as taker of photos… make sure she doesn’t forget though, you’ll want to see it later through your non-laboring eyes.

  5. Can’t wait to check in again and see if there’s a baby! Woo hoo! Very excited for you. Sending you lots of love and best wishes for a beautiful birth xx P.S. Check your phone as it might have a stop watch feature for timing your contractions.

  6. I’m very impatient by nature and oftentimes it shows as a desperation of sorts, at least to other people – even me sometimes 😀

    Artemis or Diana was – amongst her other duties – a goddess of childbirth(plus there were others less well-known). I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you!

  7. Frugal Vegan Mom: Good call. I should have started with the reverse psychology stuff ages ago. My camera is kind of shitty, but I hope we get a few good pictures out of it that day anyway…

    fiona: Hell’s yeah! Thanks for all the lovin’! My phone doesn’t seem to have one. But it is also from the dark ages of mobile technology, so, yeah. Found an online clock with a second hand though, so that should work.

    Jill: I second that thought. 🙂

    Sara: Ah yes, there’s the goddess I need. Thanks for the crossed fingers!!!!!

  8. Oh dear gods Nikki poor you, that sounds hideous, I can’t blame you for wanting to get young Peanut OUT. Come on Peanut!! I’m thinking of you from over here and wishing you a smooth and truly wonderful birthing – I keep wondering if it’s going on, but I’m pretty sure I’d be able to hear it from across the river, right?

  9. Sounds crazy, but I’d add drinking straws to the list – it’s so much easier to shout “drink!” between contractions and have your partner hold up a glass/bottle while you sip through a straw. I know it sounds silly, but it’s one of those things that makes perfect sense when you’re so focused on your labour that you don’t want to be messing around with picking up/putting down your drink. Hope it all goes well, you sound like you’re in a good frame of mind and ready for it!

  10. I just started reading your blog. I feel for and know how difficult those last days can be. You’ll do great!

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