As I write this entry, I am 36 weeks, 5 days, 14 hours, 32 minutes and 5 seconds pregnant give or take a millisecond or two, but who's counting? My baby is head down in blastoff position, which is good news. The bad news is that his butt and feet are constantly kicking me in the ribs and diaphragm since he uses them to springboard downwards and head butt me in the bladder, then trampolining right back up and repeating. The baby thinks this is so much fun that he does this all night long. I spend my sleepless night plotting postpartum revenge. I hate to complain (yet that's all I ever seem to do lately) but I fear that I am rapidly losing my sense of humor. Just last month I was testing for my brown belt in tae kwon do and feeling pretty good. A few short weeks later, I can't turn over in bed without flailing my short limbs around helplessly like a turtle on its back and then huffing and puffing for five minutes afterwards to catch my breath.
There's a region of ocean near the equator known as the doldrums where ships stagnate without movement or progress. And I have finally sailed into the pregnancy doldrums these final few weeks. I've done all my baby shopping, re-carpeted the nursery, taken my childbirth classes, the breastfeeding and infant care classes, read my books and now all that's left to do is wait and wait... and wait some more. Picking lint out of my belly button, which used to kill a good minute or two, is no longer an option since my belly button is now almost flat. So what's a bored, cranky beyond uncomfortable gal to do? And then it hit me -- pack my hospital bag of course! This is a task I've been simultaneously dreading yet anticipating for some time now. As a rule, I absolutely loathe packing, even though packing usually precedes an exciting journey. There's just something about packing that awakens every dormant anal retentive, control freak characteristic in my nature. Packing requires making an endless series of seemingly inane decisions on items that can often make or break your trip. And rather than risk being far from home without something questionably important, I usually end up over packing. Why pack two pairs of underwear, when you can pack four?
Each time, I vow it's going to be different and each time I am cruelly disappointed. I thought that I had discovered the ultimate packing system a few years ago when I went backpacking to Europe. It was a three-week trip and I and was forced to consolidate everything into a single backpack. I agonized over every single item until I read somewhere that anchorwoman Connie Chung's secret to packing was using Ziploc bags for everything. Not only does this keep everything wrinkle free, but it compresses clothing when you squeeze out the air and zip it shut. There was something so unapologetically obsessive compulsive about a whole bag of hermetically sealed clothes in sandwich bags that the idea appealed to me immediately. At the risk of sounding like a Glad Ziploc bag commercial, it was sheer genius and I was able to fit in twice as much stuff that I didn't need. I neglected to consider that there were no bellhops or skycaps when you're traveling on a shoestring budget and my friends teased me about how retarded I looked staggering through idyllic cobblestone streets under the weight of a gargantuan, green backpack, bearing a striking resemblance to a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. By the time we reached Paris, I looked and felt more like Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Even though I do have Teddy as my designated labor and delivery pack mule, I have decided that now that I'm 30 years old and about to be a mother, it's time to exercise some restraint and discipline. After reading a few books, downloading some packing lists online, and listening to my childbirth class instructor, I've decided to whittle everything down to two small bags. One duffel bag for labor essentials, and the other for postpartum essentials for Teddy, the baby, and me. Easy enough, right? So wrong. I started reading the various checklists and realized that I was in deep doo doo. Not only do these lists contradict each other, they're all a mile long and there's no way I'm going to fit everything in these two bags.
The labor bag wasn't too tough. Almost every source advised packing snacks -- mostly for the coach since I wasn't going to feel like eating during labor. So being a considerate wife, I threw in some Cliff's bars, crackers whatever else I could find in the pantry without too much mold growing on it for Teddy and figured if he is really hungry he'll eat it without complaint. Slippers, lip balm, socks and a robe to cover my bare ass seemed like a no-brainer. A camera with extra film and batteries was also logical. But I became stumped on massage oils, candles and tennis balls. I had a hard time visualizing Teddy oiling me up and massaging me as if I were in a day spa instead of laboring in a hospital. I had an equally hard time imagining any hospital allowing candles in a room where oxygen is administered -- talk about a combustible situation! And tennis balls as massage aids in case of back labor? Does that really work? After some deliberation, I shrugged and tossed them in. They didn't take much room and I can at least use them as non-fatal projectiles to hurl at anybody who pisses me off. A few CD's and a portable CD player were last and that bag was finished.
However, the postpartum bag is another story. Everyone warned me that I would still look pregnant afterwards and not to even bother packing those slinky hip hugger jeans. Excuse me? I'm supposed to believe that my body is capable of performing the impossible feat of squeezing a watermelon sized fetus through an opening the size of a toilet paper roll, yet I can't squeeze my big ass back into a pair of size two jeans? How phenomenally unfair. I don't doubt that this is true, yet something in me will surely snap if I have to go home wearing an over-worn maternity outfit or the same schleppy sweats I've been wearing for the past nine months. The problem is, nobody says exactly how pregnant I'm going to look afterwards so I have no idea what to wear. And then there's the nightgown issue. Some say don't bother, you're going to bleed all over your own nightgown if you wear it, just wear the hospital ones. Others say it's nice to have something kind of pretty to wear when you're receiving visitors. And then there's the whole sanitary napkin issue. Should I bring my own box or wear the hospital kind? My friend is a nurse and she says that the hospital kind may be as big as adult diapers, but she assures me that I'll need that kind of protection when that crimson tide comes in. She told me not to bother bringing my own underwear and to just wear the super sexy disposable mesh panties provided by the hospital. Although the idea of wearing the maxiest of maxipads and hospital issue underwear and nighties is pure fashion suicide, it would save a ton of room in my suitcase not have to pack them, and I wouldn't ruin any of my own things. And so it goes until I just give up in frustration. Days pass and my bag is still only half packed, sitting forlornly in my bedroom waiting for me to have the courage to tackle it again. I circle the bag warily, eyeing it suspiciously, but can't bring myself to go in for the kill.
I don't know why I keep procrastinating. Maybe I fear the moment I'm done packing, it'll be an announcement to the pregnancy gods that I'm ready for labor and delivery and everything that will ensue. Pregnancy is a journey, and for all journeys you have to pack a bag. But unlike conventional journeys, this bag is packed at the very end because you also have to pack for a tiny stranger who arrives totally naked and empty-handed. So sue me if I'm a little nervous and anxious to make a good first impression. I realize that the journey will come to an abrupt end whether or not I've got my luggage, because I have to meet my little passenger and transfer to the next leg of our journey together. Hopefully, we'll both have something to wear.