“How are you feeling?” People are routinely beaming at me as though I’ve invented penicillin, or won an Oscar. It seems churlish to admit to the truth: “I’m miserable. I’m sore. I’ve over this. There’s also a nasty rumour knocking about that you’re meant to love, live with and raise the little person responsible for the next 18 years.”
You might have noticed, but having an almighty whinge is pretty much my only vice right now.
Time once was that I used to describe myself as a journalist, but in the final weeks of this pregnancy I have a whole new occupation: sitting on the loo for hours on end to little avail, and wondering where the nearest bottle of Gaviscon is.
Sleep is a faded memory. With concentration at an all-time low, the workday is molasses-slow, and needs a minimum of three separate naptimes. Sitting is a challenge. My belly skin is stretched tight as a drum. Stretch marks have made an 11th-hour dash over my abdomen; my new "outie" belly button grazes off every door handle that it meets. There are entirely new, random pregnancy symptoms like itchy palms, leg cramps, nocturnal drooling and sweats. I feel like I'm a cough away from finding out what colour hair this baby has. I've started calling the baby "Keith Flint from the Prodigy", because I am clearly about to give birth to someone who thinks it's Glastonbury O'Clock all the time. I've begun frantically googling: "Does foetal activity tell you anything about your baby's personality?"
I've always been one of life's crammers – had Red Bull not been invented, I'd probably still be in college. I have been worryingly lax with Kegels and the perineal massage, and so I do what any sane woman would do in my position: cadge the lecture notes and panic. One friend has brought me up to speed on slings and another on breast pumps, while a third has imparted the lowdown on cloth nappies. I'm not joking when I say each of these requires a degree-level amount of information. I very nearly have my bachelor's degree in baby.
“Your baby is the size of a honeydew melon!” my pregnancy app informs me (funny that, because it feels like the whole of Tesco’s Aisle Five is in there).
I do have to laugh at my former self who, at three months’ pregnant (and with a baby the size of a pomegranate seed), would huff and puff getting out of an armchair, would cradle my stomach protectively, and would dispense evil glares on the bus if no one would offer a seat to me and my tiny bump. Those were heady days alright, back when I could put my own tights on.
This week, I feel like Violet Beauregarde, being rolled out of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory; an angrily swollen and helpless blueberry. Other times, I move with the gait of a post-marathon Jabba the Hut; an exhausted, wild-eyed mess. I'm fully aware, and grateful, that I'm currently providing digs on par with the Hilton to my firstborn, but I am also very, very ready to post a firmly worded eviction notice. The not-inconsiderable task of labour and childbirth looms large, and the birth horror stories are coming at a rate of knots. There indeed comes a point where fear of childbirth becomes outweighed by a desire to no longer be pregnant.
Urge to clean
There's excitement in the mix too, certainly. Clothes have been organised into orderly piles, making everything seem much more real than ever. In the final days and weeks of pregnancy, mums-to-be reportedly feel an uncontrollable urge to clean, prepare and generally Marie Kondo their houses in what's known as nesting (does ordering someone else to do it count?). The house is starting to look less like that of a child-free couple. Ostentatious displays of scented candles/diffusers have been dismantled. Shelves of shoes have been consigned to the wardrobe, to be replaced by changing tables and piles of muslin cloths. A second-hand buggy and crib take pride of place in the office, waiting for their next user.
I flip-flop from anticipation to panic that there’s no pause button on this situation. I worry more than ever about the possibility that I could return home from hospital to the buggy and the muslin cloths with the emptiest of arms. Other times, there are reminders that life is about to change beyond recognition in ways both good and bad.
A Monday night walk to the cinema with B feels bittersweet, because these spontaneous outings, ones that I’ve taken for granted my entire adult life, are now numbered. A pal tells me that she is going out for a birthday dinner and drinks. “I didn’t think you’d be up for it!” she texts, a throwaway remark that feels a lot more cutting than presumably was intended.
Gaviscon and the loo aside, I’ve spent much of January and February clapped out in front of a roaring fire and good TV. It’s never really been this way – even in the depths of winter I’ve made sure to have a social life and adventures. But I’m just about ready to put that version of myself in cold storage for now.
Unless I really do give birth to little miss/mister Glastonbury O'Clock.
Which would be interesting.
Tanya Sweeney's pregnancy series
Part 1: More chance of Bosco getting pregnant
Part 2: First came the shock, then the advice
Part 3: I'm pregnant and have a glass of wine
Part 4: People have never seen me like this
Part 5: Baby bump makes a woman so visible
Part 6: No more well-meaning advice
Part 7: Facing the financial shock
Part 8: My last child-free Christmas
Part 9: Being a mum but not having a mum
Part 10: I have a baby name in mind
Part 11: 'Biological clock' deadline annoys me
Part 12: What's my birth plan? Simple
Part 13: Posting an eviction notice to my baby