It is the home stretch, the last week of pregnancy, the final count down, and I am terrified and excited because the baby is due in a month! The third scan has revealed the baby is a girl and I am over the moon!
Maya’s father and I debate long and hard over names. I now understand it can be hard to choose your baby’s name. I have heard about some children even being born with no name as the parents could not decide. Are you struggling to find a name for your unborn baby? After six months we eventually agree on Maya. In the end I likes many names but chose one that represented a woman I am inspired by. Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira rode the biggest wave ever surfed by a woman, of 20.8 m (68 ft) in January 2018 in Nazare, Portugal. Since then she has set a new world record for men and women after riding a 73.5-foot wave on February 11, 2023 in Nazare.
Maya’s bravery gives me courage that I can make it through the last stages of pregnancy. If she can ride a 73.5 foot wave, I can give birth to a child – right? I can barely get out of bed because I have gestational diabetes. I can’t eat anything with sugar in it and every week I go to the hospital for check-ups in the maternity ward in University College London (UCL).
I stay home the whole month except for a corporate lunch which is super painful to attend. Not only because my boss is over from New York City and is in a bad mood with me, but also because making small talk while sweating profusely and trying not to pass out, in a rare hot British summer just isn’t fun.
C section or Natural Birth?
The UCL hospital nurses leave me the choice of a C section or a natural birth. This is something many women stress over as we are all told a natural birth should be the first choice. Are you currently making a choice between the two? Closer to the time one of the more helpful nurses suggests a C section to me pointing out at my age will be easier for me and the baby. I am worried about childbirth at my age and the beauty of the C section is that I can also set the date for everyone to come to UK for the birth of the baby. I can help with their accommodation and visits to the hospital to see the baby.
As fate would have it my parents and brothers’ family are already visiting from USA for my cousins wedding, something we had all planned a year previously. The father of my baby is from Brazil, and he also wants to be at the baby’s birth too. Coordinating all these people is much easier now that I have a C section date of 15 July 2019.
And so onto a Family Wedding during my last week of pregnancy
My cousins wedding is one week before my C section date. I don’t want to say no to special occasions except when it just isn’t possible, so I say I am coming. But I do wonder what the last week of pregnancy symptoms are. I have visions of going into labor at the wedding and spoiling it. I am trying to learn more and reading about infections and rips and umbilical cords around baby’s necks and feeling super happy with my C section choice.
My parents book a car for when they arrive at Heathrow and I take the underground to meet them. With one week to go I now look big enough and uncomfortable enough that people willingly give up their seat on the underground trains. Previously I always had to point at my “Baby on Board” button and ask people to get up. I find that African and middle eastern men always stand up first to give me a seat at the height of my pregnancy. On this particular day a man who had dreadlocks and gold rapper chains around his neck jumps up to let me sit all the way to Heathrow. It reminds me to “never judge a book by its cover”.
On arrivaI I have a happy reunion with my brother, his wife and daughter and my parents. I have booked our accommodations around the country and am the only one with a UK phone for maps and calls and directions so it’s handy for them that big fat pregnant lady has made it.
I am there squished in the back seat all the way to Axminster where we have booked the Coaxdon barn holiday cottage for our stay. It is in the beautiful Devon countryside near my cousins wedding venue. It is a proper farmhouse with a lovely landlord who shows us around on arrival. Farmhouses are great for big groups like us and much more cost effective.
The big wedding day arrives. It’s funny to arrive heavily pregnant for the first-time seeing family in years. Some of my uncle’s expressions are priceless when they see my condition. By the time the Church wedding is over I am uncomfortable. Before the end of dinner I sit alone in a tent with my swollen feet up, sipping water while my relations boogie on the dance floor. I wonder what else I could be doing at 37 weeks pregnant in order to make myself comfortable.
And so to Cornwall…
After the wedding my family travel to Cornwall. We arrive to a beautiful surfer beach style cottage near Sennen Cove. The glorious weather reminds me that there is nowhere more beautiful than England in the summer. We can’t wait to go look around down to the nearby beach until we realise the Airbnb doesn’t have any towels.
I find this extremely irritating when basics aren’t provided and who has time to read through lists of what a flat provides before booking!?
We have to make our way back into town to buy towels. The next day we wake up to sun again and are in good spirits. We go to explore the area of Lands End where my brother’s daughter Kayla enjoys numerous children’s machine rides and vending machines. The adults wander around admiring the view of the Atlantic Ocean and we have some fish and chips at the Land’s End Restaurant.
We feel like we are at the “End of the world” or at the last place in the area to go to for a family day out. The venue is mobbed with families and driving our big car on the narrow country road in and out isn’t easy. With relief we don’t scrape the car rental against the small, stone walls. We make our way to the Minack Theatre, an open-air theatre built into a cliff side and it’s much more relaxing.
Rowena Cade spent her life designing the theatre and while tickets are often sold out for the performances, visiting the Minack is glorious even without one. The coast looks like somewhere in the Caribbean, with stunning azure waters and green grass on the cliffs. I manage to negotiate my way around the theatre which has many steps along the cliff side. After weeks of pregnancy, I know to expect to be tired, so walk slowly along the steep cliff edge.
The next day we explore the area around our cottage and head along the coastline. I feel tired so I stop and sit down and tell the others to come back for me later. After sitting there for an hour, I feel the baby kick and it’s only then that I realize I am all alone, without cell phone service. If the baby decides to come now it’s just me and the rugged coast. I didn’t think that they would be walking for so long. I should be more afraid of being left alone I realize and am relieved when a couple of hours later they come marching back along the coastal pathway towards me.
Exhausting Saint Ives…
The group continues with their energetic schedule and since I am also exploring the area for the first time I keep up. We reach Saint Ives, known for its surf beaches and British art scene. Everyone runs into the ocean and then scrambles back across the rocks. It is the second time I don’t give much thought to it and follow everyone. When I am past the rocks, I see it’s hard to get back to shore if ambulance services need to get me. I hobble back to the sandy part of Saint Ives Bay. We enjoy lunch at the Rum and Crab Shack, I love the crab tacos and they have Vegan options for my parents.
We do not have time to see the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, or go on a boat trip to Seal Island, to see the seal colony, but I would like to go back again another time and see more.
My Maya’s imminent arrival – UCL here I come!
The next day we make our way back to London with a stop in Oxford to visit family friends. That night I feel contractions which subside by the morning. I google it and see it is normal for the last week of pregnancy. One of the family friends is a doctor which gives me some comfort mentally, but I am relieved to make it back to London the day before my C section without having gone into labor beforehand.
The morning of the fifteen I am the first to be operated on and arrive at the hospital at seven am. The father of Maya is there, and he holds her when she arrives in this world, crying at full decibel levels. He insists on sleeping in a little plastic chair by the bed and complaining about the lack of sleep.
UCL – please can I stay!?
I am horrified when after two days the nurses try to send me home as I am still bleeding and trying to get the baby to feed. There was also the small matter of my brother and his wife sleeping in my bed. I need to stay until I stop bleeding and the baby can latch on. Other than this I found UCL to have an amazing maternity ward.
To read about my previous trials and tribulations whilst being pregnant and travelling, visit here.
Or to read about my IVF journey from the start, go here.