I’m 32 weeks pregnant —

and my toes are disappearing under my belly

This is my first full-term pregnancy. I’ve been pregnant two other times but they resulted in miscarriages. During the course of my pregnancy, I’ve relished every pain and spell of nausea, grateful for its normalness. I’ve also grown to love my baby bump and other ways my appearance has changed: my complexion is brighter; my hair is prettier left undone; my fingernails grow faster; happiness is evident with my smile.

As I embark upon my 32nd week, thoughts have come to mind that I’ve wanted to share. It’s to be pointed out that every woman is different in the way she experiences pregnancy, so take my comments with a grain of salt.

image from motherly e-newsletter

After having 2 miscarriages within 6 months, I was shocked to find myself pregnant again, and even more surprised with each appointment ending with good news. As my pregnancy progressed and symptoms came and went, my doctor applauded and prepared me for what to expect next.

My first trimester was standard — sore breasts as they enlarged, preparing to nurse (yes, it happens that early), the nausea and morning sickness, a ravaging appetite, yet often only able to choke down some toast or crackers, and crippling anxiety for fear history would repeat itself. At the time, we were living in a hotel in Laurel Heights. A couple months prior, our Russian Hill apartment was victim to a hot water leak. Closets, the living room, and the hallway were destroyed and had to be stripped to their studs for repair. During this process, lead was discovered, adding another layer of work and extending the time of displacement. With our stuff in a storage unit, we were left to make a home out of furniture that wasn’t ours, a stuffy room with fluffy white towels and scratchy bedsheets, a defunct oven in the kitchenette, and an extra 20 minutes added to the commute.

As the first weeks of my pregnancy progressed, I was forced to fight for a seat on the bus. Motion sickness is something I’ve battled since being a youngster and I hadn’t yet outgrown it. Even on my normal 24-minute bus commute through town, reading a book was a no-no and I could only read a few emails on my phone before finding myself nauseated. On two separate occasions on my extended bus ride to our home-tel, I had to exit early because of nausea. One of those times I barely made it off the bus before hurling my afternoon snack into a raised mulch patch around the corner of the bus stop. It was mortifying, and I was terrified someone would see me. On another occasion, during a morning ride, I felt myself getting overheated, sweaty, and my tongue drying out, symptoms I was familiar with that would result in me fainting unless I could exit the bus. Luckily, a kind gentleman made room beside him for me to change seats. He prompted me to put my head between my knees, breathe slowly, and advised that going forward I find a seat facing forward on the bus, rather than a side seat, to keep motion sickness at bay.

On top of that, I experienced serious fatigue and exhaustion. I’ve always been proud of physically pushing myself — an extra mile, five more pushups, ten more lunges — and here I was hardly able to climb the three flights of stairs to the hotel room. It was humiliating and I couldn’t believe something so tiny could affect me in such huge ways.

Morning sickness didn’t only come in the morning. There were many nights when I went to bed with a stockpot beside me instead of my husband. Part of my bedtime routine was clearing a path to the bathroom just in case I was sick in the night.

Finally, the morning of my second trimester, I awoke feeling completely new, as if I’d stepped into a new realm of pregnancy, and I panicked. How could I feel this good overnight, literally? I talked with friends and learned they shared the experience. At my doctor appointment, I mentioned this new and unreal state of health and my doctor assured me it was completely normal — this is what women referred to as the honeymoon stage of pregnancy. The pregnancy glow manifests itself; the bump reveals itself; energy is regained.

At this stage I began to fall in love with my pregnant body. I had my share of loose maternity wear but I preferred wearing body-conscious items to show off my bump and the curves that accompanied it. I started attending The Bar Method again and was pleased I could see results so quickly. It was hard, and sometimes my ego burned more than my muscles, but I was always grateful when I had the energy and motivation to attend, and always came away stronger. I wanted a healthy pregnancy and The Bar Method offered what I needed — a continuation of muscle lengthening poses, shaking myself stronger.

It was also during this time that I started telling people and I grew more excited by their joyful responses. Some cried. Others screeched, “you’re going to be an amazing mom!” News such as this is important to share with friends and people that love you, and while their reactions catapulted me over the moon into mama-land, the excitement my husband showed made my heart swell with true happiness, the kind of happiness forever is built upon.

The only downside I’ve experienced in the second trimester is lower back pain. It comes and goes at all hours of the day and can be quite excruciating, too strong for Tylenol to handle.

When the calendar turned over into the third trimester, the exhaustion I’d experienced in my first trimester came roaring back. It wasn’t quite as intense before; the main struggle is that baby has pushed up against my lungs making it hard for me to keep my breath. Walking up a flight of stairs required great effort, and I’d pause at the top, still upset that a flight of stairs, a distance I was previously able to run repeatedly, would have me breathing with such effort. But it was the truth, and I eventually learned to accept it.

As I go about my life in these final weeks, some things have become evident:

— It seems I am unaware of how far my belly sticks out because I constantly bump into things, or have a hard time clearing passes that my thinner self could easily squeeze through

— Shoes with laces are now getting tossed aside for booties that slip on or have an easy zipper, or flat loafers

— The dreaded swelling has caught up to me, but remains minimal

— Pregnancy brain is real. For me, it’s stunted my vocabulary, when I’m trying to think of a word, rather than being forgetful

— It’s only a matter of days before my toes disappear beneath my belly altogether

— Shaving my legs has become nearly impossible as bending over comfortably is a joke (see my shoe comment above)

— My belly is getting attention from strangers by way of free advice and stares

— As my tummy protrudes forward, my walk resembles a waddle

— I swore I’d never be the pregnant woman that rests her arms on top of her belly, or rubs, or positions her hands on her belly; but now I know why women do that and I’m totally doing it too

Several people have asked me if I’m ready for baby. That’s an impossible question to answer. I don’t think anyone can really be ready — there are too many things completely out of your control. I’m approaching it like this:

— Birthing a baby is what my body is built to do.

— I have a great husband and a huge support network to help me through.

— I’m reading only materials my doctor has shared with me.

But am I scared? No. Am I anxious? Only a little. I have full confidence in my body and my doctor has prepared me well. The best way to keep anxiety at bay is letting go of trying to control everything. Do I have a birth plan? Yes, but chances are there are bits in there that will be changed during the birth because of circumstances I can’t possibly anticipate, no matter how many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy I watch.

I have loved being pregnant and the excitement that comes with being on the precipice of a new chapter in my life — full steam ahead, baby.

I also write on my blog, MILKTOAST— the content tends to be lighter.

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