People are terrified of heavily pregnant women. They tiptoe around us, as if a baby might burst out at any moment. This is, of course, ridiculous. With a very few exceptions, labor does not occur like the Hollywood version, with a sudden anguished look, a few screams and then a miraculously clean and shiny baby prompting tears and cigars all round.
Nobody who is not actually pregnant seems to know this. It’s very annoying, but does present opportunities for some fun. Here are some things to try in those tedious last few weeks before baby arrives.
1. Go for a swim
This is one that I like to do regularly, to benefit both my mental and physical health. Physically, of course, swimming is great for pregnant ladies. It gently works muscles all over your body, and creates a blissful sense of weightlessness. And it benefits your mental health too, because the lifeguard’s expression as you waddle out of the changing room will cheer you up no end. Be sure to pick your way carefully along the tiles, holding onto the wall and doing all you can to convey the impression that you might slip over at any moment. Then lower your gigantic self warily into the pool and set off, huffing and puffing as much as you can. Of course the lifeguard will maintain his professional composure, but you can be sure he’s petrified at the prospect of having to rescue the equivalent of a baby blue whale from his pool, should you get into difficulties.
2. Run a professional event
I did this a month or so before I stopped work. My team and I liaised with the conference venue and made sure everything was organized in advance. Then I arrived and starting asking some final questions about lay-out, fire exits etc. The young Eastern European man in charge responded in a distracted, half-hearted way, asking as soon as he could get a word in: “You are pregnant?” Incredulous and excited, he couldn’t seem to get his head round the fact that I was both with child and in charge. Some conversational fencing ensued, as I put forward questions about our event and he parried with attempts to steer the conversation onto diapers, baby names and how terribly tired I must be. Clearly, he adored children, and if I’d met him at a parent’s group I’d have been happy to chat, but the idea that at that exact moment I was more concerned with my professional responsibilities than my pregnancy seemed to really flummox him.
3. Go to an exercise class
Funnily enough, the fitness instructor most perturbed by my late pregnancy is my ante-natal yoga teacher. My Body Attack leader took the whole thing in his stride, yelling at me with just as much vigor as he did every other member of the class. Sadly I had to give up the class mid-second trimester: it was just too depressing to watch everyone else whooping and jumping as the adrenalin and music took hold, while I puffed and sweated at a gentle jog. That’s when I took up pregnancy yoga, and as the weeks progress, my teacher has become more and more twitchy, regularly asking, “How far along are you? Phew, you might pop at any minute!” At the last class, when I was 37 weeks, she more or less bid me farewell and looked forward to hearing news of my birth. Tough. I’m going again this week, and it will serve her right if my waters do break all over her nice mats.
4. Keep working until close to your due date
Your ability to move around the office will become increasingly limited, not because of your bump but because every single colleague you encounter feels obliged to enquire when you are due, when you are finishing up and how you are feeling. Even if they asked you the exact same thing the day before. Many will also helpfully point out that you are now big, goodness you really are big, you wouldn’t think it would be possible for someone to be so big, would you? No-one will ask you anything work-related, and every attempt to carry out a professional responsibility will require the above conversation to take place first.
5. Get your hair cut
The best place for a heavily pregnant woman to be is a hairdressing salon. Alone among almost every other societal group, they are unperturbed by gigantically gestating ladies. Salons are feminine environments staffed by women who are confident enough to mess with other women’s hair, and not afraid to wield a pair of scissors. I got my hair cut last week, and although there was an initial chorus of “Ooh, aren’t you big?” from the staff and customers, the chat quickly changed to a brisk discussion of how much they would all like to help deliver a baby and exactly how they would go about it, should I require their assistance. I felt pretty relaxed about the idea: after all, they already have hot water and towels. And in the post-birth pictures, my hair would have looked fantastic.