I was just about done setting up for one heck of a pity party. The table was set and the balloons were blown up, and one of those world's smallest violins was just about to play some maudlin tune. At first I didn't even see it coming, but as the evening wore on last night, my mood was growing darker and darker. I had half a dozen things on my to do list for the evening, but instead I was sitting in the living room, listening to my children play video games and letting the weight of my worries rest on me like ten thousand pounds of borrowed trouble.
There's a funny thing that happens at the end of pregnancy. You get
to the point where the doctor tells you that if you go into labor, they
won't try to stop it, and from that moment a realization creeps in that
any day could be the day. I find myself looking at things around
the house -- at the little messes and the things I've been meaning to fix
for how long now and the random piles of hard to organize stuff that
never seem to get put away -- and thinking I need to fix that right now,
right this very second, because if I go into labor today, those piles
will still be there, junking up the counter when baby comes home.
I've got eleven days left until this baby is scheduled to arrive, and I alternate my free time between frantically doing the last little things that feel like they must get done, adding to my lists of things I don't want to forget to get done, and collapsing on the couch in exhaustion. At work, I have a post-it note with the list of things I need to remember to take care of if I go into labor suddenly: set the out of office email, grab the laptop, don't forget to grab my purse and the only umbrella we seem to own these days.
At night, I wake uncomfortable from sleeping on my side, lumber to the bathroom, and then lay awake in the dark waiting to feel the baby kick because I can't remember exactly the last time I felt her move. And just when I start to panic, she gives me a hard kick and decides to keep me up another hour with a series of aerobic jabs. So, I lay there and think of all the things that need to be done or discussed or decided in the next eleven days. We still haven't called the pediatrician's office to make sure he's taking new patients. I think we need some hats in the newborn size, but goodness knows if babies even need hats in the heat of a Texas July. And we haven't decided on a middle name yet. Why can't we just commit on that already?
People tell me that it's getting so close or they can't believe I'm still working. They ask if we are so excited and if we have everything ready. I know they mean well, and so I don't have the heart to say that eleven days feels just as far away as eight months felt at the beginning because I don't think I'll be able to believe that this baby is really going to show up until I am holding her in my arms. And I don't know how to say that we are equal parts excited and terrified at just how excited we are because we can't stop thinking what if something goes wrong again. Or how to say that we have all the necessary items to bring a baby home, but I still can't stop cleaning and organizing and doing everything I can drum up to keep myself busy and pretend we are actually bringing a newborn home in a few weeks.
Even though we have eleven days left, I know it could happen any day now, and sometimes that sends me into a panic. Because the way my brain computes that is: any day now, we could have another surprise. Another loss, another heartache, another scary diagnosis, another stay in the NICU, another meteorite that might slam into us and throw us so far off trajectory that we aren't sure how we will ever get back. That could happen any day now, and no matter how much I clean or work or organize, I don't know how to get ready for that.
So last night, by the time I tucked the boys in their beds for the night, I was all ready to throw one grand ole pity party. The sky was working up a rumbling mid-summer thunderstorm, and I was lying in bed watching old episodes of Law and Order, counting all the things that could still go wrong with this pregnancy. I was thinking how, when I try to imagine what this baby will look like, I can only see a fuzzy place, like a blurred out, not-suitable-for-TV image that keeps me terrified nothing will ever show up to fill in that fuzzy, unsure place.
But also, I couldn't help thinking of something my mother said on the phone earlier in the evening. She said, "Be excited. I have peace about this."
I turned off the show to wait for sleep, but the lightning was bathing the room in intermittent strobes and this baby had just started her nocturnal aerobics. I thought about what my mom had said, that command to be excited already, and about a message a friend had sent earlier in the day to check on me. I thought about how all the people who know and love us understand how hard it is for us to be excited about this, and yet they still want that for us. Not because we are supposed to be excited, but because they don't want us to miss out on all the joy of anticipating what's to come.
Laying there, I thought about how it all could happen any day now. I could go into labor at any moment, and just like that I would be done with my last ever pregnancy. Any day now this little girl could arrive, and when she does, she's not going to know or care what I've been through to get her here. She's just going to know she needs her mother, the one whose smell she will recognize from birth. She's going to know my voice and that she's hungry, though she will understand only basely, instinctively how to remedy that. She's going to realize that the world is both quieter and sometimes louder than what she knows, that it's brighter and colder and less comforting, and she needs to be held close and loved and kept alive in ways she never before imagined she would need.
Any day now, I will need to be ready to take her into my arms and tell her, with some semblance of conviction, that it's all going to be okay. That I know she's new and she's cold and she's scared, but she needn't worry about any of that because I will take care of her. Because I am here, and she is so loved, and she will never understand how much we've been waiting for her, willing her into existence, listening for her heartbeat and feeling greedily for her kicks, desperate for any trace of her.
Eleven days from now, if not sooner, she will be here, and when she comes I had better be ready. And I don't mean ready as in the baseboards have all been scrubbed clean and her clothes are all washed and organized by size. I mean ready for her, to comfort her, to parent her, the only thing that matters and perhaps also the hardest part of all this waiting.
And just like that, as I was setting up that brilliant pity party, it all evaporated. I realized that I can't ever be prepared for all the bad things that could happen. And no matter how clean my house is, it won't make me ready for the only part that's really important. But I can be ready for her, and so I will try to be, so achingly, hauntingly ready to see her and hold her and promise her it's all going to be okay.