Because I am currently in the beginning stages of crafting a PhD project about maternal health, with a focus on childbirth specifically, I’m reading tons about pregnancy and labor (for work, okay?). As my interest is in childbirth, I’m focusing my time on what leads to various kinds of childbirth experiences. One of the more interesting things I’ve read concerns the rise in the reporting of “back-to-back” labor in the later 20th century. A labor is said to be “back-to-back” when a baby starts its descent into the birth canal with its spine aligned with its mother’s spine and its face toward the front of her body. This means that the widest part of the baby’s head (the forehead and face) enters the cervix first, which has a lot of implications for the mechanics of childbirth (which I will spare you) and essentially means a slower, more painful labor (leading to higher rates of induction, epidural use, Pitocin, and eventually c-section).
An explanation for this rise in back-to-back labor is that as women moved out of mostly housekeeping roles and into office work, they stopped performing tasks that kept them leaning forward (cooking over a massive cauldron, washing clothes, scrubbing floors on their hands and knees, etc). Instead, women began spending their days leaning backward into office chairs, which can lull their children into the back-to-back position, as the babies aren’t being forced forward by gravity all the time. My opinion on this theory is: who knows. This sounds a little like all the evolutionary psychology theories I used to love as an anthropology undergraduate, and have now come to side-eye pretty hard all the time. However, because I am a crazy person, after reading the book a few weeks ago, I committed to spending more time leaning forward as the baby grew. Every little bit helps, right?
This means that I’ve been sitting like an idiot on my chair at work, legs on the sides of the chair with my knees bent, and my belly forward and under the desk. Essentially, I look like I need to fart all the time, which coincidentally, is now constantly the case.
In previous weeks, I could feel the baby at very proscribed times: in the morning just as I woke up, in the evening laying in bed, and, very occasionally, if I really focused during some quiet time during the day. However, now, it’s all over the place all the time. I woke up to a dance routine at 2 am the other night. I feel kicks when I’m sitting like a moron at my desk. I am punched in the guts while standing around grocery stores, deciding which foods I am not going to be able to stomach. I also saw it from the outside last night for the first time and then spent more time than I will admit taking videos of my stomach, trying to document it. (Did not happen.) The baby is super active, and I think my insides are now beginning to feel it.
I made a super not great decision Friday night and ate Indian food, which haunted me for the rest of the weekend, because my digestive system can no longer handle foods that are not apples, avocado, or bread. In an ironic twist of fate, I finally found the time to spend hours on my hands and knees in Child’s Pose on my bedroom floor, my belly down, gravity pulling the baby into its proper position – at 3 in the morning, after frantically Googling remedies for what the English so delicately call “trapped wind.” Face down on the carpet in the middle of the night, sipping peppermint tea by the mugful, miserable and desperate for sleep, at least I was maybe preventing back-to-back labor.
It’s the little things.