What was it I guessed, back a few weeks ago? That this cold would last eight days? Ten?

Here it is, day twenty-four (24) of the damn thing, and no amount of obstetrically-authorized Robitussin can apparently stop me from coughing up a lung. I got drafted to sing in a chamber choir performance at an embassy tomorrow, but despite the fact that I dearly love embassy gigs and am loath to bail on one, I’m fairly certain I won’t be able to make it through the European Union Anthem without unintentionally harmonizing in the key of bark.

Meanwhile, I am 37 weeks 3 days pregnant. Which means that every time I cough, I pee a drop. And on particularly spectacular coughing runs, I’ve actually caused myself some contractions. Just the squeezy kind, not the crampy kind; but still, the thought of coughing so hard I send myself into labor is equal parts hilarious and terrifying. (And probably impossible. But no less fun to ponder than the bizarre food combinations that are purported to induce labor. Which reminds me, we need to stock up on licorice, eggplant, and pineapple.)

Re: the contractions. I’ve felt more of them throughout this pregnancy than I ever did with Natalie. I even managed to score myself a completely gratuitous ultrasound right around 28 weeks, when I expressed concern that I was feeling an awful lot of pressure and squeezing in the baby department. And I wonder: do these sensations mean something? Why did I not feel a single contraction with Natalie until the day I went into labor with her, and even then, why did they feel less like muscle flexion and more like menstrual cramps with back pain? Does all of the squeezing I’m feeling now mean that actual labor, when it does kick in, is somehow going to be different this time than last?

I’ve started imagining contingencies. Last time I was certain I’d go long; this time, it really does feel as though I could go at any moment now. At 37 weeks, I’m 50% effaced and halfway between 1 and 2 cm dilated. I’m still walking normally, not feeling laden and sluggish and jointsore the way I did last time. A woman in my office recently gave birth over two weeks early, and now people are looking at me funny. And the proximity of my due date to Christmas Day has convinced no shortage of folks (including her own father) that my daughter will in fact share a birthday with the Christ Child.

I’m not convinced; my own money is on December 31, mostly because I think that’s the kindest birthday you can give a kid in late December. But there’s enough abdominal squeezing going on already that I’ve given myself permission to fantasy-plan. I’ve signed up for Uber. I carry my Pretty Pusher gown and a pair of flip flops in my backpack. I’m planning on working until Friday the 28th, the day after my actual due date; if this tips my karma such that I go into labor at the office, well then, the trip to the hospital will be that much shorter. (2.7 miles, according to Google Maps, compared to 4.0 miles from my house.)

My OB advises that no correlation has been observed between first-time mothers who deliver past 40 weeks and the timing of those same mothers’ second children. “If you’d delivered prematurely the first time,” she says, “then we could say that there was an increased likelihood that you’d deliver prematurely again.” But for non-preemie births, she says, there’s no predictive value. You can go late with #1 and early with #2, or vice versa. Apparently it’s just up to the kid.

But there does seem to be a near-universal consensus that second, and subsequent, labors go quicker than one’s first. And this is where it gets exciting. Natalie took three hours to arrive. This gave us enough time to deduce that I might actually be in labor, take a taxi to the hospital, get checked in and unsuccessfully catheterized for an epidural, and then push out a baby practically before I realized what had hit me. The thought of expelling another human from my loins in less than three hours verges on the unimaginable. Even if that’s what my body has been limbering up to do for the past several months.

One thing makes me think that it won’t happen quite yet, though: I’m not sick of being pregnant. Not like last time. As demanding and exhausting as this kid has been, I’m feeling pretty damn fine. Even though my Pregnant Tummeh has attained monument status, my ankles are finally starting to disappear, my wedding ring no longer fits, and I move with the unmistakable gait of someone who’s nine months pregnant. Nonetheless, I waddle with swagger. Life is good. I had a mimosa or three at a brunch with office friends today, and then got a pedicure. I’m having what is probably my final child in the next few weeks, and then we’ll shift into yet another alternate universe. But right now I’m going to enjoy this one for as long as it lasts.

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