One problem with having a second child is the need for someone to look after the first while you are engaged in the actual process of having a second. Personally, I’m fairly comfortable with the thought of leaving that job to Barry – I realise I’m supposed to want him there holding my hand and staring into my eyes as we share this deeply meaningful moment, but, while that would be nice, it’s something I see as nice in an optional extra sort of way rather than as a must have. We will, after all, have a lifetime of deeply meaningful moments to share, lots of them involving parenthood. However, there is always the off-chance that something may go wrong and I may feel rather more acutely about having him there, and he’d probably come in useful for back rubs and the like, and he’s not too keen on leaving me to go through the whole thing alone, so we have a Plan B which involves phoning every available relative as soon as my labour gets to the point of meaning business and trying to find someone who’s free to drive straight down and take Jamie. Since all these people live a lengthy journey away and my last labour was a brisk seven hours and twenty-five minutes and second labours are supposed to be about half the time of the first, this may well end up being neck-and-neck.
One result of these practical considerations is that family attention is now focusing on my uterus to a degree I find somewhat disconcerting. Obviously people were eagerly looking forward to the happy event last time around as well, but there wasn’t the same requirement for precision timing. I somehow feel the onus is on me not only to produce this baby, but to do so at a reasonably acceptable time of day and with sufficient warning. My mother has already rescheduled the Law Society’s Christmas dinner around likely dates of baby production, and my in-laws, who came down for Jamie’s birthday party and have just left, are understandably a little leery of the possibility that they might potentially be required to turn round at the end of their 200-mile journey and come straight back again.
"Are you sure you’re not going to have this baby today?" my mother-in-law demanded, fixing me with a piercing stare.
What am I supposed to say to that? I doubt it – my uterine activity has settled down to the occasional crampy pain, which is the same level it’s been at for months, and there seems no reason to believe I might imminently go into labour beyond the rather obvious fact that I’m 39 weeks pregnant and such things have been known to happen to women at this stage. However, that does in itself seem like enough reason that I do not feel able to give an unequivocal "Yes" to a question like that.
The other thing I am feeling somewhat irrationally pressured to do is produce a girl. Despite my continued insistence on the failure rate of scans and the 5% chance we were given of this actually turning out to be Alfie, my mother and sister keep referring to the baby as Katherine and there seem to be quite a lot of pink clothes being bought, or at least admired in shops. I feel like Anne Boleyn in reverse.
Aside from such ungrateful gripes against those who are, after all, only trying to help and to whom I should be nicer, I am enjoying this stage of my life immensely. Most women seem to be desperate to get the baby out by this time and I have had a couple of people commiserate with me on the assumption that I’ll also feel this way, but, in fact, I’d be delighted for this pregnancy to continue for a good few days yet (words I shall no doubt deeply regret if the weeks then mount up with no baby, everyone nagging me, my maternity leave ticking away and the prospect of induction looming ever nearer, all of which could certainly happen as well). This is, as my mother put it, the eye of the storm – I’m no longer trying to juggle work and a child but have not yet had to embark upon the equally exhausting prospect of juggling two children. I’m actually managing to get some sleep and to get some things done. I’m enjoying the chance to spend some uninterrupted time with my son, and to spend time together, just the three of us, in that final short space before the whole exciting yet different adventure of it being the four of us.
Besides, I want to savour the last of this pregnancy while I can. It’s an odd feeling to know that not only do I have only at most a few weeks left of being pregnant, but barring major changes of plan I can add the words "…in my life" to the end of that sentence. After a fair bit of back-and-forth on the issue which would probably merit a blog post in itself if there was any chance of me ever getting round to writing it, Barry and I have decided that we will not be trying for a third child. I’m happy with that, and not even feeling the level of nostalgia I’d have expected to feel over knowing that this will be the Last Time – although pregnancy has been a fascinating, wonderful experience which I am utterly thrilled to have had, and had twice in case I missed any details the first time around, it does have enough attendant minor but irritating discomforts that I feel quite content with the idea that in future I will be enjoying its fascinating wonder in memory’s edited version only. Twice is enough. I’m pleased that I won’t ever again be going through those first tense and queasy months, and that soon the weird food aversions and the heartburn and the inability to go anywhere without needing to stop and find a toilet at frequent intervals and the slowness and the stiffness and achiness when I wake up in the morning after a night of not turning over because that’s more of a project than I seem able to manage in my sleep will all be well and truly over for good, never to be revisited.
But none of those things are troubling me enough at the moment to make me in a rush to give up the good bits. Looking down and admiring my bump and marvelling that my body could grow a baby to that size. Feeling the kicks and thumps and trying to interpret them – the little movements just to let me know the baby’s still in there, the huge fiercely determined kicks that make me think it’ll be a force to be reckoned with, the steady rhythmic kick-kick-kick-kick that Barry interprets as "OK, bored, bored, bored, bored, bored….", the feelings of pressure as the baby tries desperately to stretch its legs out in insufficient space (something the poor little thing can probably look forward to a lifetime of, if it takes after its father). I love those parts of pregnancy, and I’m going to savour every last moment of them while they do last.