[Part one is here & part two is over here.]
The Third Trimester
By the third trimester, my “bump” was impossibly big and heavy. Gravity was my foe, making everything difficult. There were no easy ways to maneuver myself around. It all required planning.
I was working from home some days, but on others I went into the office. This meant making my way from Jersey City to Brooklyn, lugging my laptop all the while.
The PATH had planned maintenance that summer. Lovely timing. It was off schedule and often crowded. There were so many bodies packed into the train car that it was hard for anyone to see me. I was lucky if someone recognized that I was pregnant and I got an offer to sit down.
I began to think of my commute into the office as a series of discrete units of travel that I had to navigate. Most daunting were the stairs:
Reverse it all to get home again.
I will note, before you're tempted to point it out to me, that there are elevators available. I did use some of them, though it took me a very long time to get to that point. I will admit that part of that was pride. Somehow, using elevators felt like caving. To who or what, I can’t tell you. I had a need to prove to others that even though I was gigantically pregnant, I wasn't lazy. Then there was logistics. Stations are big and many elevators aren't conveniently located within them. Using the elevator could mean going out of my way, when every step counted.
One day, a kind man in a station elevator with me noticed my situation.
"You have two heavy loads, one in the back [my backpack] and one in the front [my pregnant belly]! Doesn't that hurt?"
"Hm? Oh, no. It's just uncomfortable."
This was a lie. I was in pain, and the weight of my laptop in my backpack did make it worse. I don't know why I lied. To lessen this random stranger’s emotional burden of worry? It feels like so much of being a woman—specifically, maybe, a woman from the Midwest—is downplaying pain.
Near the final leg of my journey into the office, I looked up at the escalator at the subway station and cried. I'm not a crier. I haven't been for a long time. But I cried, which turned into sobbing, loudly.
The sobbing kept going all the way up the escalator and up the stairs. It kept going while I was walking towards the office and while I sat down on a bench to call my husband. I composed myself enough to go inside the building, but then had to sit down again at a desk near the door to cry a little more. It had been such a long trip. I was in pain and I couldn't stop it. The entire situation felt unfair. It felt like nobody was seeing me.
The next day, it hit me. The typical “pregnant waddle” isn’t supposed to include consistent shooting pain on one side. The whole time that I thought I’d been waddling I had been limping.
At my next appointment at the OB, I told her about my pain, which she confirmed was sciatic pain. She wrote a note recommending I be on modified bed rest for the rest of my pregnancy. I continued to work from home, usually while laying on my side in bed. I got prenatal massages, but those didn't help. I got acupuncture, which helped a little. Eventually, it went away, probably because the baby shifted and relieved pressure.
There were so many small things going on with my body, too, but I’ve waited so long to write this (six months?! how has it been six months already?!) that I've forgotten some of them.
There was the heat. It was summer in the city, and I had a whole other person inside of me, which made me hot all. of. the. time. There was the annoyance of having to pee frequently, especially at the office. Attempting to sleep was awkward and uncomfortable. No configuration of pillows would let me get true rest. Pregnant ladies are susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome, so I had to fold my hands under my head before I went to sleep, which felt silly. On and on.
One small thing turned out to be big. At night, sometimes, I felt itchy all over. It was never intense, but it was enough to make it hard to concentrate on falling asleep some nights. I googled it and found some worrying information (trigger warning if you look it up!), so I told my OB. She got a little concerned and ordered tests for me. One of these, a 24-hour urine test, I found embarrassing. I turned in my sample and did my best to remain positive after that.
Nobody had called me back about my test results, which I took to be a good sign. Going into my next appointment, I figured everything was kosher, so I told my husband he could sit this one out. Instead, when my OB walked in she told me that my liver enzyme levels were slightly elevated, which was exactly what had worried me when I’d looked up my symptoms on my own. She was talking on the phone to the doctors at the hospital where I planned to deliver. While my levels were not very high, the negative outcome could be so severe that they thought it would be a good idea for me to get the baby out as soon as I hit 37 weeks. That was a few days away.
I had a hard time processing this information. Despite my “geriatric” age of 34, I had had a very healthy pregnancy up until this point. I was a first-time mom, so had been expecting to go a bit past my due date like our birthing class instructor had told us to anticipate. I had an ultrasound scheduled the following week. I had things planned to do around the house to prepare for the baby. I was still working.
“Wait, what do you mean?”
“I mean that ideally by Monday you’ll be holding your baby girl.”
I walked home as quickly as possible after and shared the news with my husband as best I could. After that, we told our families and madly Slacked our bosses and coworkers. I was going to need to go on maternity leave earlier than anticipated, aka, pretty much immediately.
The days after this were a blur. We were tying up loose ends while also nervously awaiting more specific information from the hospital about my induction. Their system had us waiting by the phone to find out exactly when to come in. Meanwhile, I was worried about the baby. My husband and family were worried about the baby. After a reschedule or two with the hospital, I finally got my time confirmed.
I’ll go ahead and let you know the happy ending right now: After a three-day induction, during which many drugs and objects were put inside me to get things moving, our gorgeous and healthy little girl was born.