If you’re new at being pregnant — if this, for instance, only your sixth or seventh child — you probably know how many weeks along you are. You will be able to recite exactly which fetal neurodendons are likely being formed at this moment, and can calculate to the minute how far away your due date is.
If this is, however, your ninth pregnancy or beyond, you take the longer view: all you can really be sure about is whether or not your water has broken yet. Not yet? Okay, then you gotta make supper again, darn it.
For those of us who have long ago abandoned our manuals and our pregnancy journals, here are some helpful tips for identifying whether you are in the third trimester:
1. Being pregnant is all you can think about. Say, for instance, that you’ve agreed to write three posts a week about Catholic culture, politics, liturgy, spirituality, and other matters of general interest to Catholic readers. The first topic that pops into your head is, “Have you seen my FEET?” Then, rather than thinking, “Wait, that doesn’t really have anything to do with Catholicism,” you go ahead and write about it.
2. You have totally relinquished anything like a sense of personal dignity. In theory, you know that you are one of the grande dames of the domestic church, the very mirror of Our Lady, anchor of civilization and hope of the future. But in practice, your one and only goal in life is finding the next bathroom as quickly as possible. There are only so many times you can walk into an exam room, find out how many elephants you could displace in a pool of water, and then let someone – erm, “take a look” at you in an exceptionally personal way, before it starts to take its toll on your avidity for decorum. “Hey,” you will find yourself barking at the guy in the toll booth, “Let’s speed this up! My cervix isn’t getting any less effaced!” He looks at you in a weird way, and you assume this is because HE has a problem.
3. You do an excellent imitation of efficiency, but are about as effective as a blindfolded duck. You make a doctor’s appointment, dream that you cancelled it, wake up and call a slightly baffled receptionist to reschedule, forget to write down the new date, notice the old date on the calendar at the “last minute,” show up ten minutes “late” in a frantic lather, and discover that you’re in the wrong building anyway. And wonder why the sheaves of “You and Your Colostomy” pamphlets in the waiting room didn’t tip you off. So as not to waste a trip, you stop at the supermarket at the way home, and then drop exhausted onto the couch, where you sleep through your real appointment, leaving four gallons of milk rotting in the sun the back of the car.
4. By 4 p.m., your aphasia is almost complete. You start out the day unable to remember nouns. By noon, verb and adjectives are on their way out. But by the time the kids come home from school, and you’re in charge of making sure they pack nutritious lunches, do their chores and homework, take showers, pick out clothes for tomorrow, and hand over all the important papers you’re responsible for as a caring parent, you’re reduced to standing in the middle of the kitchen pointing at their grinning faces and yelling, “You! That! Now, it! Oh, why can’t you!” Even God thinks this is funny.
5. In the immortal words of Lili Von Shtupp : Let’s face it, everything below the waist is kaput.
[This post originally ran in the National Catholic Register in 2011, which was the last time I was in the third trimester — during which, unlike this time, I could still come up with two words to rub together.]