June. 27 ish weeks. We have a month to move out of our house. Dave reckons I’m insane to insist on packing this early, but I’m adamant to take a tortoise-like approach to the matter of moving. It’s an exercise in enfuriating patience; I can pack a box of books, but not lift it, and I have to restrain myself from the temptation to totter at the top of stepladders.
We finish our so-called Hypnobirthing class. It feels bizarre to me that there’s such a heavily branded and marketed version of birth activism, of all things. So despite appreciating the information and the techniques, I can’t help bristling a little at the brandedness. I return to the writings of Ina May Gaskin, whose wisdom and vision seems to me far more authentic, inclusive far-reaching than that of the Hypnobirthing programme. Nonetheless, perhaps the important thing is that the acceptance and confidence to give birth naturally and in a non-medicalised environment is becoming available here. The first woman from our class gives birth easily and naturally, at home, and I’m gladdened to know that natural home births are gradually becoming a tiny bit more commonplace in this corner of the world.
The baby is moving around and kicking a lot. It feels like she’s doing somersaults in there some days – the kicking is all over the place. I can watch my belly like a cartoon in the bath.
June. 28ish weeks. On a whim, I decide to go visit a friend in London. Long-distance travel on the brink of heavily pregnant, and in the middle of a house move, is possibly not one of my best ideas yet. I look forward to a bit of London summer. That, too, is a non-starter.
London is colder than Cape Town. I seem to have forgotten that striding the streets of the Big Smoke in the third trimester is going to be somewhat taxing. Nonetheless, it’s a trip and a trip is always an adventure of sorts.
I spend mornings playing with four-year-old Leo and six-month-old Tommy. I’ve never seen anyone as interested in melon. I also can’t believe how small a six-month-old baby is. No idea how teeny a newborn is going to seem, when I’m used to picking up 20kg of 5-year-old in the middle of the night.
I soak up some West End London theatre, and walk miles and miles. I find some teeny weeny little girl clothes, mostly not in pink, and pack them carefully in my otherwise almost empty suitcase. It’s impossible to shop for myself as I’m expanding by the day. Somehow sushi bars and pubs have never been quite as appealing as when I’m seven months pregnant.
July. 30ish weeks. The trip to London has taken its toll. My hips have gone completely out of alignment – apparently there is a pregnancy hormone that rightly relaxes all the ligaments so the pelvis can move and stretch its way open a bit during the birth. The flip side is that everything tips out of alignment all the time. I walk around in stoic agony for a couple of weeks, til I eventually ask my midwife for advice. She sends me off to a heavenly chiropractor. Life gets bearable again.
I go back to TheatreSports class, and just the very mellow warm-up is enough to make me feel like I’m at boot camp. Pregnancy is a taste of your own mortality: every tiny movement is eventually a dance of creaking joints and ligaments. It’s bizarre to be of childbearing age, and feeling so very old and slow.
Late July. 33ish weeks. All three sisters-in-law have now had their babies – two little boys and one little girl, in the space of the last three months. The extended family has exploded. The Brits are getting hysterical over the imminent royal birth coming up; the South Africans are getting conspiracy-theoryish about the near-/almost-death of Mandela.
Dave takes a couple of days off work and we go visit Robben Island. Last time I went on that trip, the ex-prisoner’s tour and anecdotes were fascinating and deeply moving to me. This time, I was more absorbed by the view of the mountain, the glittering water, and the sudden memory of my own long swim from that island nearly ten years ago. The tour seemed superficial and shallow; with Mandela near death in hospital, mired under sinister clouds of political and family feuds, the tour guide’s patter seemed disconnected from anything real about being South African or living in South Africa. More meaningful was spending a day in the sunshine with husband and child, looking out for the different birds, taking a slow ride and a leisurely, sunny lunch. Life, it seems, is slowing right down.