The changes to your body are much less interesting during a second pregnancy. I don’t take enthusiastic bathroom-mirror photos of my expanding girth, and my feelings towards the pregnancy mostly consist of eagerness to reach the end of it. My recollection of the first months of parenthood with my son is that they were grindingly exhausting, and I think this contributes to my general longing to get on with the whole pregnancy business and start work on the brand-new-baby bit. Selecting potential names is an activity I am more wholeheartedly enthusiastic about. I have various draft lists of name combinations and occasionally bombard the husband with series of texts of my more outlandish choices. “Clementine? Beatrice? Wilhelmina?” These are inevitably not met with glowing approval.

My memories of childbirth have blurred in the intervening three and a half years. While I remember thinking at the time that it was the most shatteringly painful thing I had ever experienced, the very definition of unbearable, I can no longer recall what that pain felt like. Last time I had rather lofty ambitions of following the lessons learned in my hypnobirthing classes and breathing my way silently through birth. This time I’m limiting my goals to things like a) take your skirt off before giving birth so it doesn’t get covered in gore; b) don’t try and complete a conveyancing while being induced – little things I feel I can improve on from last time. (The conveyancing thing was just spectacularly poor timing and not because I thought it was somehow a good idea).

I remain hopeful that the brand-new-baby-business will somehow be easier the second time around. Less weeping despairingly in the middle of the night longing for sleep, that sort of thing. (From me, not the baby. I figure the odd bout of weeping despairingly is fairly central to babyhood.) Combining this version of brand-new-baby with parenting the already existing toddler will no doubt be an interesting experience. Although he is no longer a toddler, I suppose, given that he is heading rapidly towards age 4 and about to begin kindergarten. A pre-schooler. Albeit a pre-schooler who still needs to be snuggled to sleep and who has an unhealthy attachment to my hair as a soothing aid. I won’t be making that mistake this time around. Baby-to-be can get unhealthily attached to a teddy or blanket or anything that’s not actually physically part of my body.

Music to give birth to

We bought a little docking station with speakers to take into hospital with us and use with my ipod for some musical accompaniment for birth. (Actually, it’s not really little – the husband helped me select it, because he cares a lot more about sound quality than I do, and he selected one with a tiny sub woofer in it – “so at least there’s some bass”.) I’ve been busily filling my ipod with things I think I might like to listen to, focussing on music that I find relaxing. I find the process of labour hard to imagine, mostly the length of time it takes, and I wonder what exactly I’m going to do with myself for all that time. Of course, by all accounts, I will be totally focussed on my body and not terribly aware of hours passing, but as I find that hard to imagine I’ve put a PG Wodehouse audio book on the ipod as well, just in case I want to pace around having contractions and listening to Jeeves and Wooster getting into amusing scrapes. I’m sure that afterwards I will laugh cynically at my innocent ideas, but for now, given that never-go-anywhere-without-a-book is such an ingrained part of my personality, I feel better knowing I will have some Jeeves and Wooster stories with me.

Another purchase I’ve made has been an electric oil diffuser, which I’m going to take into hospital with some lavender and sandlewood oils – the idea of which is to make the hospital smell relaxing and comforting and not so much like a hospital. I’ve been burning these oils at home when I’m relaxing, although I realised I need to be careful around the cats after Abigail jumped after next to the oil burner, took an experimental lick of sandlewood oil, and spent the next five minutes on the floor making the cat equivalent of a “blergh!” face. I turned on the tap in the bath as I thought she might like to wash her mouth out a bit, but she just attacked the stream of water with her paws, so the sandlewood can’t have been that bad. Either that or she is a bit brain damaged, as we tend to suspect.

My musical choices have tended towards the classical – I have some Bach cello suites, some Albinoni oboe concertos, Haydn symphonies, and then some collected classical music called something like, “The Most Relaxing Classical Music Ever!” and “The Most Relaxing Guitar Music Ever!” Which are horrible, horrible names, but they contain nice familiar pieces of classical music that I find comforting – one of the Water Music suites, Canon in D, Moonlight Sonata, that sort of thing. Then in case I’m not in the mood for classical music, I have some folkish music, ranging from The Weepies and The Waifs to Vicki Swan and Johnny Dyer, which is more traditional British folk music. And I also have the entire Beatles discography, because the Beatles always make me feel happy.

The baby was kicking around having a jolly time when the doctor tried to listen to his heart today, and I was sent up to the maternity ward to have some monitoring for a while, to check that his heartbeat wasn’t too high. I lay with the monitor strapped on, clicking a little button whenever he kicked and watching as it coincided with a higher heart rate, spiking on the print out slowly scrolling out of the machine. “What an active baby,” the nurses said as they watched the monitor, and I watched my stomach, the skin jerking and rolling as he moved underneath it. I tried to practice some of my relaxation breathing, closing my eyes and listening to the other women on the ward being told they needed to stay in overnight, to have steroids, to call their workplaces and arrange to cut back their hours, and felt rather lucky that this pregnancy has been so dreamily uncomplicated. It hasn’t prevented me complaining about my back aching, or this lovely new burning feeling from the muscles at the top of my stomach, but I do realise that everything has progressed wonderfully easily, compared to the things many women experience during their pregnancies. This experience has made me feel more confident about giving birth, as I feel (probably unjustifiably) confident that the birth will be easy as well – although by easy, I mean a nice uncomplicated natural birth where everything progresses without problems. But I’m prepared to go with the flow of whatever happens – however it goes, it’s going to be wonderful to have this kicking wriggling little lump of a baby out of my stomach and into our arms.

Imagining the future

My 35th week of pregnancy, which means if all goes according to the books, I’ll give birth in about 5 weeks. A little over a month. Barely any time at all. My stomach feels like a drum, my skin stretched tightly, and it’s easy to feel the baby shifting about and stretching inside now, his feet and back pressing out occasionally in hard little lumps. When I rub his feet he wriggles, and I wonder if it feels ticklish. At ukulele club he shifted and kicked the entire time, and I patted my stomach soothingly. I imagine the body of the ukulele pressed against my stomach makes some interesting resonant noises to him when strummed, but I couldn’t decide if his energetic response was one of enthusiasm or disapproval.

Thankfully we are gradually getting through our pre-baby to do lists, although as the husband pointed out, our lives aren’t going to stop once the baby arrives and there’s probably no need to treat it as an apocalyptic event. Most of the time I agree with this, but I find the inevitable changes that parenthood will make to our lives almost impossible to imagine, and this makes me look towards the future with a certain amount of wariness.

At the moment I have been thinking about the point at which I will return to work, when the baby is about six months old. We’re intending to juggle both working part-time (or at least not five days a week) in order to share parenting duties, with a bit of grandparently assistance. For a variety of reasons, it has to be a see-how-we-go arrangement, which I find rather frustrating in terms of planning and imagining the future. The vast majority of our friends and acquaintances seem to manage this stage by having one partner (well, always the woman) stay at home with the child or children for a significant amount of time. Either that, or they’re single parents who use daycare. Given that I’m the higher wage earner, this isn’t really an option for us, and we hope to be able to share in parenting in as much as that is financially and logistically possible. I presume – I hope – that we’ll be able to make this work. It would reassure me more if any of our friends had similar working arrangements.

I feel almost ready for this baby to arrive. Recently we’ve been spending our weekends doing things like reorganising the linen cupboard. This may not seem very related to baby arrival, but given that things like the mess in the linen cupboard have been my major source of teary pregnancy related meltdowns, the newly clean and organised shelves are making us both much happier. At the moment I am being paralysed by prams – the number of brands and styles and internet reviews, which go into mind numbing detail about the subtle differences in airflow between this model of hood and that. I’m going to go for something three-wheeled and rugged so I can go tromping around our area – I have decided in my limited experience that little children seem to be much more relaxed and happy when they have some time out of doors, either being carried around or playing out on the grass. So that’s my vague grand plan for baby happiness and my post-birth recovery – getting out for daily walks, remembering that the linen cupboard is clean and organised, and generally making the most of the time I’ll have away from work, doing the full time parenting thing.


My father sent me an email from China suggesting we call the baby “Hercule”, to which I composed a polite response advising that I was sorry to disappoint him, but that the names we were actually thinking of were rather boring and traditional. “If you were born now,” he told me, “I would call you something much more exotic and interesting.”

I am grateful that despite what feels like my constant whinging about being uncomfortable and achey, I really only seem to have one very uncomfortable day before I adjust to whatever my stomach muscles and skin are doing, and I also appear to have avoided any severe indigestion and water retention. I have occasionally puffy feet and a few reflux episodes, but no endless day to day complaints. As I am going to continue working until a week before my due date this is particularly helpful. Sitting behind a desk does make my back ache a little, but I’m sure it would be infinitely more unpleasant if I was sitting behind a desk with feet the size of balloons and doing vomity burps into my mouth all day long.

(Now I have written about such things, of course, I will no doubt be struck down by reflux for the rest of the pregnancy.)

People now seem to think it’s perfectly acceptable to refer to my gait as ‘waddling’, such as commenting cheerily, “And where are you waddling off to?” While I do feel rather enormous, I had been fondly imagining this was all in my head. Apparently not, and I am in fact doing a fine impression of an overweight arthritic duck. Hopefully one with colourfully pretty plumage.