One would think by the time your 4th baby comes around, much if it would be routine. And some of it was. With all 4 pregnancies, I had what would probably be considered mild symptoms. I was very active for about 30 weeks. I would develop a cold or upper respiratory infection in the third trimester and was slow to recover (this time it was the flu, yuck!). I would then give myself grace in the last 5 weeks to forget about exercising and start nesting. I continued to work until delivery. I tolerated remarks and discussions from strangers and patients about my pregnancy, my gigantic belly, and how many kids I had. How far along are you? Boy or girl? When are you due? Is this your first? Fourth!!?? Oh my you’re too young to have 4 kids (really? I’m one year away from being considered high risk!). And don’t get me wrong, I sincerely appreciated their interest and concern, but when you see 20 patients a day the conversation gets very old.
All of this was very routine and pregnancy number 4 was no different. I would say my body did feel, for lack of a better way to describe it, more defeated than before. While my pregnancy was not complicated, and I can’t really pinpoint exactly how it felt different, I was a little more tired. Had a little more joint pain. Was a little less active. Took a little longer to recover from mild illnesses. Everything felt a tad more “stretched out.” Pregnancy at 34 just felt harder on my body than pregnancy at 27. I felt like my body was telling me “ok girl, this is the last time you and I are going to do this and get along without a fight.”
Even labor felt routine. The anxiousness that accompanies the last few weeks of pregnancy returned. Every cramp or mild contraction made me wonder if this was the day she was coming, only to not feel anything for another day or two. I loved the anticipation knowing at any second our lives were going to completely change. All my children came on their own between 37 and 39 weeks. All vaginal deliveries with no complications. 2 with epidurals and 2 without. Routine. But no matter how similar the process, each one of those babies from their first cry sparked a unique, spontaneous, intense flood of emotion in my heart matched by nothing else.
There is absolutely nothing routine about holding your baby for the first time. The first cry. They way they smell. Even the sticky vernix covering their skin is somehow comforting as they nuzzle on your bare chest for the first time skin to skin. Yes, the feeling is familiar, but it is not routine. And February 22nd at 2:23 is one of four times in my life where time stood still.
This isn’t the outcome every mom experiences, and I am thankful every day for delivering 4 healthy babies. They say you just know when you’re done having kids, and both my husband and I feel our family is complete. This was the last time I will experience holding a newborn in their first minutes of life. I’m certain from time to time I will grieve about this, but for now I hold my daughter. I watch her sleep. I embrace her sweet baby smell. I worry about her future. I pray for her safety and health. And I tear up when I realize tomorrow she will be one day older. Time stood still, and now I can’t stop it.