Blackpool: a study in liminality was the title of my dissertation at University. This concept of liminality has followed me through my subsequent years, and I often come back to it at times like these to ponder transitions, precipices and spaces where the normal rules don’t seem to apply.
Liminality means ‘on the edge’. In the case of Blackpool, it is literally on the edge, where the Irish Sea meets the land. It is also a place on the edge of society. It’s one of the last remaining places in the country where you can go and ballroom dance to a real Wurlitzer organ. The ballroom is open daily, and well used. People travel from all over the country for the chance to dance in this beautiful room. Ballroom dancing used to be the norm, but despite a surge in popularity with the reintroduction of Strictly Come Dancing, it’s still a pastime from a bygone era.
But writing about Blackpool isn’t my intention. I’m not in a physical liminal place, but a temporal one. Where time feels different. It stretches, folds and turns upside down. I’ve not experienced the time when someone I love is dying, but I can imagine this feeling is very similar. The anticipation of huge change in our lives. For me, the change is that I’m waiting to have my second baby.
I’m 38 weeks pregnant, which means the time left is short before my baby is here. I remember this strange time from my first pregnancy. The feeling of wanting to prolong this time, to enjoy and savour, but wanting to meet the baby who rolls in my belly. Knowing that my world is about to be tipped upside down; but not yet.
Pregnancy insomnia is one of nature’s greatest jokes. At a time when you should be banking as much sleep as you can, you’re making constant bathroom trips, and your body clock wakes you at 4am. My summer baby came with light mornings, and to wake up to the sunrise was nearly pleasurable. This baby, being born after the clocks have turned back, has meant waking when it feels like it’s the middle of the night. It is the middle of the night.
This morning when I woke at 4am, and tried in vain to return to my dreams, baby started hiccupping. The regular pulse in my tummy, accompanied by the rolls of her getting comfy put pay to me going back to sleep quickly. When she settled down, the thunder started. My stomach, deprived of food for eight hours, started complaining. Rolls of a different type. Complaining pangs of hunger.
By now, my mind had given up on dreams, and instead was beginning to occupy itself with all manner of important thoughts.
“I wonder what time it is?”
“What was the last thing I ate?”
“This time is so weird, maybe I should write about it.”
When I started composing this piece in my head, my husband disturbed by my fidgeting, I decided there was nothing for it, but to go downstairs.
So here I am on the sofa under a blanket trying to capture this feeling of wanting to meet baby, but dreading the sleep deprivation. Feeling ready and not ready.
When you are pregnant, you have a secret life. There’re things only you and your baby experience. Mostly in those quiet moments in the morning and evening, when the business of the day is yet to start or falls away. That’s when she starts to move, and you tune in to what she’s doing. You imagine elbows, legs stretching, turning over.
You talk to your baby in your head all the time. You think about what she’s going to be like, whether she’ll have blue eyes like your husband and son; whether she’ll be calm, or active like her big brother. You imagine the life she’ll lead, the things she’ll experience.
You think about yourself too. How you’ll adapt to being a Mum of two. How you’ll cope. You think about giving birth a lot. Whether it will be like last time; whether it will start the same way. Trying to remember the sensations – the surges coming like waves, the noises you made, the things you want to be different, the things you want to be the same. Trying to remember that feeling when you reached into the water and picked up an actual baby. One with hair and eyes that open, rather than a nebulous creature living inside you.
You are acutely aware of your body. Every twinge and ache. You check every time you go to the toilet. Are there any signs? You google early symptoms of labour. You are ready, but not yet. You’re not full term yet. One more week until then. Three more days of work. Counting down until this date, then this one.
So here I sit in this limbo land. A mother to two, but not quite. Waiting is always hard, but I want to enjoy this time when I can still do things without a baby in tow: eat with two hands, nip to the shops. But I’m looking forwards to being able to turn over in bed without it being burdensome, like a beached sealion getting comfortable. I can’t wait for a nice cold glass of white wine, and to be able to exercise hard enough to release endorphins. That time will come.
So, for now, I’ll enjoy the hiccups, try and nap when I can and be in the present with my baby while she’s still inside and I don’t have to share her with anyone.