I am not a patient person. I am terrible at waiting in long lines, waiting for the plane to take off, waiting for water to boil. When I want something, I want it now.
I have been known to spend months debating some new item I want to buy, comparison shopping and turning around and around in my head exactly what I want, what color or size or pattern. But once I decide, once my mind is made up, I must have it right then. I have spent years staring at the walls trying to decide what color I should paint them, only to rush out to the store for paint and rollers the instant I have settled on a color. I have come home and painted well into the night because the moment I knew what color I wanted my kitchen to be, I wanted the color on the walls that very instant.
It’s not my best quality, this impatience. It’s juvenile, brash, unnecessary and sometimes even destructive because when I want something and can’t have it that very instant, I obsess on it. I haunt the website where I found it, clicking back over and over to see if it’s still out of stock. I let it rattle around in my brain, drowning out all the other thoughts, clattering for my attention. I start feeling thwarted and irritable, unable to enjoy what I do have until I get the thing I have suddenly decided I am missing.
Think two year old. Think Veruca Salt. It’s not a pretty picture.
And now I find myself in that seemingly endless waiting game of pregnancy. Nine long months of aching to hold your child, of counting the minutes until you can sleep and walk and get up from the couch without discomfort. I have the names picked out, a boy and girl version of the nursery planned out, and my maternity clothes folded cheerfully in the top of my closet just waiting to be needed. But did I mention that I’m not even through with the first trimester yet?
I find myself staring at the calendar, asking how many more days do I have left of feeling this sick? How long until I can tell people? How long until I go from looking fluffy to looking truly pregnant? How long until baby is two inches long? Three? Until I can feel it kick and learn the gender?
But, beneath all of it is the constant question how long until I can stop worrying? How long until I can stop waiting for the other shoe to drop? How long until I can stop being terrified of a miscarriage? Until I can stop waking in a cold sweat wondering if this child will make it to term, wondering if I will ever hold it in my arms? Has my luck run out? Will this be the one that breaks my heart and leaves me empty handed?
My doctor warned me that it might be a little harder going through pregnancy after having a special needs child. I might worry about things that never kept me up at night before we had a surprise birthday diagnosis. I figured she meant I would dream of DNA helixes and heart murmurs and Trisomy 21, but instead I fear something far worse than Down syndrome. I fear losing this child. Truly, the idea that this baby might show up with Down syndrome does not keep me up at night; the fear that this child will never show up at all is what has me impatiently checking off the days and sending up desperate prayers.
Living with this level of uncertainty doesn’t come naturally to me. If there was anything I could do, any project I could take on or any magical vitamin I could add to my diet that would make me feel safer, I would do it gladly. Yet there is nothing for me to do these days but wait and hope. Sam says hope is believing in the absence of evidence, choosing to cling to the good even when you know darn well it may never materialize. I tell him hope if for optimists, not for the likes of me, but I try anyway. I close my eyes and scrunch them up tight and say “I believe everything will be okay.”
I sit with my other children, those on the outside, who once were also little beans growing inside me, making me wait impatiently. They put their sticky hands on my arm and vie for my attention and pull me back into the moment, this moment where all I can do is feel this churning impatience and try to cover all that agitation with a thin veneer of fledgling hope. In this moment, they are eating lemon slices left over from dinner. They are making lemon rind teeth and pained expressions from the sour flavor. They are calling “mom, mom, mom” over and over again, like a reassuring mantra. And I am pulling them into my lap and kissing their heads and thanking God that their impatience for my attention has rescued me, at least in this moment, from my own impatience for time to go faster. In this moment, I can’t believe I ever wanted time to go faster because they are still tiny things, too, who want nothing more than to sit with me in the here and now, with no agenda other than to curl up on my lap and feel my arms around them.