As a doula and birth educator, I spend a lot of time talking with clients about the end of pregnancy. ‘Make the most of it’, ‘Do lots of lovely things for yourself’, ‘Read’, ‘Sleep in’, ‘Don’t rush the process’, ‘Journal your feelings’, ‘Go gently’. But as I find myself here for the third time (I am writing this on my ‘due date’) I remember just how hard it is. I have literally found myself pacing around the house, waiting. The freezer is full of meals, the fridge and pantry are stocked, the house is clean (thank you, nesting urge), my birth supplies are sitting in a big pile in the spare room, my birth ‘altar’ is covered with beautiful things, my to do list is at the smallest it’s been in months. I now need to remember my own advice, stop doing and just be. There is a German word that has been appropriated/borrowed/repurposed to define this time in a woman’s life. The Time of Zwischen.
Before my first two births I kept doing and doing right until the end when labour forced my mind to switch off but this time I’ve taken a different approach. I really started to notice the need to slow down at around 32 weeks. I started to crave just being at home. I started to crave more quiet time. I started to crave a more spiritual or intuitive approach to my upcoming birth. It made me realise that the labour process, the process of tuning out of the outside world and turning the focus inwards is a gradual process and really does start quite early.
But unless you’re living in a serene environment with the ability to not have to work and no older children, honouring that feeling by tuning out from the outside world and turning the focus inward is no easy feat.
I was able to finish most of my work at around 35 weeks with only small jobs here and there until 38 weeks. I have been saying ‘No’ a lot. To work, to social invitations, to plans. This has been a really important self care practice in these last weeks of pregnancy. Exercising my right to just say ‘No’ – especially with Christmas upon us and all of the rigmarole that entails. I still have my two boys though. While I am fortunate to have family support which includes a lot of playing with the kids, I still have to function as a parent!
To have a name or at least an understanding of the immense feelings of this time between pregnancy and newborn motherhood is so important.
When we are pregnant we start the metamorphosis to mother but that short time, when we are waiting and waiting to hold our tiny soft baby, to truly become mother, is such a variable and vulnerable time.
We are vulnerable to fears, vulnerable to the impacts of other’s stories, vulnerable to the energy of those around us. We are also faced with the immensity of birth. And this holds such a wide spectrum of feelings for women based on preconceptions, previous experiences and inner work done in pregnancy.
I want to acknowledge that this place of in between is hard. It can be hard to understand our own feelings and it can be hard to express to others what our needs are at this time.
I also want to say that if you are a friend, family member or any other person in any way associated with a pregnant woman now or in the future please don’t say anything along the lines of, ‘Any news yet?’, ‘Have you had the baby yet?’ or ‘Oh, you’re STILL pregnant?’. Instead you could say, ‘How are you feeling? Here is a treat from the bakery’, ‘What day shall I drop off dinner?’ or ‘When is a good time for me to come over with cake and massage your feet?’
I have felt the need to stop analysing, stop thinking, stop doing and to just be and I encourage other women in this place of Zwischen to consider how they can incorporate some of this slowness in their final days and weeks of pregnancy and embrace the 'in betweenness'.
I’m the first to admit that I’m not the world’s greatest meditator. I find it hard to switch off. I am getting better with practice though! I use tools like yoga with relaxing music, some kind of breath practice, listening to guided relaxations and birth related meditations, watching beautiful birth videos and reading beautiful birth stories as my way of going slowly while focussing my attention inwards and focussing my intention on a positive birth and love filled postpartum bubble with my new little love (and my other loves).
It is said that pregnancy, birth and motherhood are initiations, rites of passage, opportunities for spiritual growth and I couldn’t agree more. It’s as if each pregnancy opens up a new portal, one that I don’t yet understand and maybe even resist a little but if I surrender to the lessons and the urges, I experience unprecedented growth and understanding.
I live in Darwin in Australia's Tropical North and am the mother of three beautiful children. I am blessed with working with women through their fertility, preconception, pregnancy, birth and early parenting journeys. I am committed to lifelong learning and am interested in nutrition and natural health, the childbearing cycle, natural parenting philosophy and practice and the spiritual journey of motherhood.