40 and pregnant

We’ve come to the final installment of the series Vegan, 40, and Pregnant. Before the baby arrives, anyway. At 38 weeks, it’s somewhat startling to think about it all coming to an end, but as it becomes increasingly impossible to think about anything else, I do know one thing is imminent: I’ll be a mommy soon.

For a while, pregnancy felt permanent. It was the new normal. Nine months really is a long time. I’ve been pregnant for all of 2013! I adjusted my diet, my exercise—my entire life!—to accommodate this baby growing  inside of me. But I promise not to get too emotional about it.  Truthfully, I’m ready for the pregnancy to end. While a few months ago that seemed like an impossible aspiration, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Even though I can no longer see my toes.

We’ve overcome some major hurdles along the way. Being 40 and pregnant, we had my age to contend with. Could there be something wrong with the baby? She’s at a higher risk for issues like Downs syndrome. And we won’t know if she’s totally healthy until she’s born.

As a vegan, I was worried about my protein consumption, which is really important for the baby. But that has been the least of my problems. I’d never really paid attention to how much protein I was eating before. As it turns out, it’s quite a bit. From hemp seeds in vegan yogurt to almond butter on toast, beans and rice…I’m getting more than my fill. Did you know that a serving of soy sauce (one tablespoon) contains two grams of protein? And an avocado contains three grams?

I navigated some strange pregnancy side effects, too. From an extremely annoying case of eczema around my eyes that took more than a month to go away, to some more serious issues recently with vaginal bleeding, likely due to a mild placental abruption (the doctors were never really sure). The baby weathered through it all, though, and she seems hell-bent on being our daughter, no matter what challenges we face. That seems to be good makings for a strong family unit.

To further cement ourselves as a family, we gave her a baby blessing last month, too. With the help of friends, family and some shamanic guidance, we called on ancient traditions to let our unborn daughter know that she’s welcomed, loved, and will be fully supported once she enters the world outside of the womb.

Being pregnant is unlike any other experience I’ve had. It took over every aspect of my life. From the deeply physical ways it changes my body, to the intensely emotional, spiritual and existential dialogues that bringing a child into this world necessitate.

While there were many things I’d hoped I’d do during my pregnancy, like sing to my belly, take more photos and write a journal, it’s been the surrender to it all that I hope becomes the greatest gift to my daughter.

I surrendered to the fact that as a working mom-to-be, I couldn’t spend the time every day doting over my growing belly as much as I would have liked; but I was always aware of her there, right inside of me. Even in the age of Instagram and Facebook, there’s still something magical in being present for the moment, not being obsessed with capturing it. I surrendered to the undeniable reality of what it means to become a parent, and that it’s my responsibility to accept that at times, I may totally suck at it. I surrendered to bringing a child into a world that’s struggling with management of resources and power. She may grow up on a planet that sees more destruction, greed and violence than I can imagine. I surrendered to the fact that it’s her life, though. She is not coming here to live out my fantasies or become the person I think she should be. This is her life to live and she owes me nothing. I’ve surrendered any expectations, exchanging them and giving myself permission instead to love her as she is, no matter what kind of life she’s going to lead. And now, as birth gets closer every second, I’ve surrendered to both the end and beginning that my body serves to be for her. That like life itself, pain and joy often go hand in hand, and the only way through either, is to just totally surrender.

This is the latest installment of the series, Vegan, 40, and Pregnant. Read the entire series:

Vegan, 40, and Pregant, Part One

Vegan, 40, and Pregnant, Part Two

Vegan, 40, and Pregnant, Part Three

Vegan, 40, and Pregnant, Part Four

Vegan, 40, and Pregnant, Part Five

Vegan, 40, and Pregnant, Part Six

Vegan, 40, and Pregnant, Part Seven

Vegan, 40, and Pregnant, Part Eight

Vegan, 40, and Pregnant, Part Nine

Vegan, 40, and Pregnant, Part Ten

Vegan, 40, and Pregnant, Part Eleven

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: Amy Ettinger