I'm Singing the praises of the 3rd Trimester, and You Should, too.
Last week I felt myself slipping into the third trimester slump. I had been holding out, staying positive, staying active, not getting too down on myself about my weight gain, etc. etc. But I could feel it all slipping away. I was grunting audibly when I'd sit down or stand up, my restless legs were beginning to get worse, I went nearly two weeks without a single workout, and I had two tussles with heartburn that kept me up late into the night. My peace and patience were definitely on the decline, and I couldn't think about much else other than getting this baby earth-side ASAP. Well that's no way to live, is it? I have 6 weeks remaining until my due date. My babies have come early so far, so maybe I have less. Regardless, I am thinking we have at least a month to go, if not more.
This pregnancy has been great all these long weeks, I don't want to end it with groaning and discontentment as I languish on the couch. So here I'll take a moment to sing the praises of the 3rd trimester, the unsung hero of it all.
But why? Well, first of all, because I do not want to be miserable, even if I feel miserable. My approach to this pregnancy has been one led by positive thinking. I have a tendency towards pessimism, worry, and anxiety. When you combine those with all the unknowns of pregnancy, the result can be crippling.
Some recommend having a mantra that you can recite to yourself. Some call them affirmations, like "My body is capable and my baby is healthy." I think these can definitely help put you in the right mindset, but I haven't personally used them, at least consciously. When I feel worry starting to creep in, I firmly say, "Mary! Stop!" And then I go through the reasons of why my fear is grounded on nothing more than worry. The result has been sweet, and I've had little to no worry about this pregnancy, and feel ready for labor and delivery. Actually, if I have a mantra currently, it would be, "This baby is going to slip right out!" Just ask my husband, I've said this to him on more than one occasion. If you're beginning to think I've gone loopy, there's actually some science behind this why this way of thinking is effective.
So how does this relate to the third trimester? It relates because I do not want to lose the momentum that I've gained over the past 34 weeks. If I give up now, I will likely find myself in a pitiful, anxious, wound up state when it comes time for the main event. I've worked too hard to let it all go now, and so here are the things I'm telling myself as I make the final climb.
One / Your baby is okay. The worry of pre-term labor is likely gone. At this point, if your baby is born early, modern medicine can do amazing things to assist your baby in developing properly.
Two / The miracle is still happening. It's been many weeks since you learned you were pregnant, and yet your body is still doing the demanding working of sustaining this human life. Pat yourself on the back (or get someone to massage it), because as your body stretches and swells, let it remind you of the miracle that is still happening inside you.
Three / The scent of anticipation. Yes, you're still pregnant (you didn't need me to tell you that). More importantly, the 3rd trimester is when the final work is being done, and your baby is almost ready. It's like when you're baking a batch of brownies and you start to smell the delicious chocolate scent fill your house. Really, you just want the brownies to be done already, but the pleasure of anticipation is heightened by the smell, the signs, the impending arrival of the brownies.
Four / The theoretical turns to action. You've been waiting, watching your bump grow, maybe doing some reading to figure out how exactly to cope with labor, or keep a newborn baby alive. But now the theoretical takes a back seat, and it's time to set up the nursery or nook where your baby will sleep (you hope). You pack your bag for birth, tucking in freshly laundered clothes in the tiniest sizes imaginable, you purchase a few things, organize your baby's drawers, do some deep cleaning, and make ready. This week I worked on sun bleaching some of our hand-me-down baby whites, and the act of real, significant preparation was therapeutic.
Five / Practicing contentment. The very act of practicing contentment in the midst of discomfort is sanctifying. Don't let this opportunity to grow and mature slip by with complaints and what possibly feels like the most incapable state into which you've ever been thrust.
Six / A reminder to be kind to your non-pregnant self. I try to remind myself that when I am frustrated with how stuck my body feels, or how my pregnant thighs rub together uncomfortably, or how I can't walk more than 5 minutes without feeling painful uterine tightening, that wow, I am so fortunate that this is not my "normal body." It makes me grateful for the body I get to enjoy when I'm not pregnant. This time, I'm going to say, "God bless my flabby postpartum stomach" because it is the beginning of the turn-around. The beginning of getting back to core muscles that allow me to hold my 40+ pound older children or let them sit on my lap without the risk of painful elbow jabs. I miss my active, capable body. I hope this temporary time of living without it makes me so much more grateful for it when it returns.
Seven / Your body is more than what's on the surface. It is capable, and made to do the crazy things it's doing. It may not look glamorous on the outside, but it sure is a veritable treasure trove of miracles on the inside. I always hit a point in pregnancy when I feel like, "Yep, things don't look cute anymore." Well, being cute isn't really the point, is it? I'm glad that the 3rd trimester reminds me of this. It's not about me, it's about something so much greater. It's about a new human soul.
When anxiety about labor strikes, remember that your body was actually designed to birth a baby. Your body was designed to grow and change in these specific ways. Let the weird things that happen to your body in the 3rd trimester remind you that your body has got things under control. If you're struggling with anxiety due to impending labor and delivery, I highly recommend reading Ina May's Guide to Childbirth.
Eight / Baby movements. You have been feeling your baby move for many weeks by now, but the 3rd trimester kicks, jabs and tumbles are something different. Your baby looks very much like the way he'll look when he's born, and wrapping your mind around this when you see a foot poke your belly into a funny point, or you see his little backside making a large impression on your stomach is nothing short of amazing. I marvel daily at the movements I feel. We don't know what he looks like, or what color hair he is growing, but he's all there.
Nine / The opportunity for more intentional self-care. You guys know I'm on a self-care kick these days with The Self-care Series going on, so it's not really surprising that I'd go here. During the 3rd trimester, your body needs more from you. I've spent time adding a few new supplements to my diet, being more intentional about using my essential oils, taking better care of my skin, and resting when I need rest. I've stopped any glorification of busy, and started being intentional about my time. I'm more productive, and more relaxed—yes, you can be both. I am not sitting around waiting for this baby, I'm preparing for this baby. I'm taking the time that I have now to work on myself, my habits, my mom-skills, my wife-skills, and my friend-skills. Sometimes this looks like sitting with a book while the laundry waits 30 more minutes. But it also looks like reading to my children, teaching them things, vacuuming our floors, cleaning our bathrooms, and doing a load of laundry every day. I am working hard and resting hard.
These things are helping me not just survive, but savor, the last days of pregnancy. I don't want to wish any of them away. They are a gift. This time is a gift.
Thank you, 3rd trimester, for doing what you do.