Looking back there were plenty of signs – The first time I approached a cross-walk at the very beginning of the ‘walk’ countdown and still didn’t make it to the other side in time. The moment I had to pee so badly that I almost wet my pants, despite having dashed to the bathroom only 2 minutes earlier. The lady who asked me if I’m having twins (I’m not).
While the writing has been on the wall for a while now, I’ve been ignoring the fact that my due date is fast approaching. It finally took an extraordinary act of kindness on the part of my husband for reality to fully set in.
I was sitting at our dining room table recently when Jeffrey came home from a trip to Target with a certain glow of excitement on his face. Usually this particular look is reserved for Home Depot so I was intrigued, and then thrilled, when he said he had a surprise for ME.
What I most certainly did not expect was to reach into the shopping bag only to find a pack of diapers. Not cute little diapers fashioned for a newborn but large, adult diapers.
Yup, a surprise for me. I looked up at him, silent and wide eyed, not exactly angry but definitely not happy. Next I find a pack of highly absorbent pads so thick I’m suddenly taken back to my junior high nurse’s office, and last but not least, a bottle of stool softeners. “Did you know there are two whole aisles at Target dedicated just to pads, and that some of them even have wings?!” he says with a sense of confusion tinged with wonder.
When the instructor in our last birthing class went over a checklist of postpartum essentials, my husband was clearly paying attention. As Jeffrey walked away with a casual reminder that I should start taking the stool softeners twice daily, whatever last shreds of denial I had carefully constructed around what is about to happen came crashing down.
The truth is, I’ve been silently pushing away fears for a while now, unwilling to admit just how scared I am of having a baby. I go through the motions, doing all the things you’re supposed to do when you’re pregnant – I facetime with in-laws to play show and tell with my growing belly, I relay updates from the doctor to caring friends and inquiring relatives, I read endlessly about newborn care and listen to podcasts about birth stories.
In my search for knowledge I’m secretly looking for validation that it is normal to be this fearful, and confirmation that everything will ultimately be ok. I’m not just scared about the birth (adult diapers…) but mostly for what everyone assures me will be drastic changes that come with a baby. Changes to my lifestyle, my career, my friendships, my marriage, and probably most profoundly, my identify.
I’m 38 weeks pregnant now and was sitting in a prenatal yoga class listening to the teacher go around the room, asking each expectant mama to give an update on how they are feeling. While most everyone sticks to the usual suspects – sore back, painful hips, trouble sleeping – one woman finally says what I’ve been too afraid to voice. Without hesitation or shame she says she is not ready for her baby to come. She says she cries thinking about how it won’t just be her and her partner anymore. A wave of appreciation washes over me and I suddenly feel like I don’t have to hide anymore.
I know exposing this sentiment makes me sound like we didn’t plan on getting pregnant (we did) or that I don’t want my baby (I do). I think it comes down to the simple fact that the unknown can be scary, and for all the attempts to get an edge on what new parenthood will be like I’m still left feeling like these changes will be overwhelming and hard as hell.
I’ve also realized that like many others who persistently pursue answers in the face of so many questions, what I’ve really been looking for is happiness. I keep thinking that if I can just talk to enough people, read enough information, I’ll eventually be able to uncover the path to parenthood perfection.
And then, when I finally let myself take a break from all the baby books to read something just for my own entertainment, I came across a quote that spoke so clearly to my current quest – “While we pursue happiness, we flee from contentment”.
It dawned on me that I’ve been so focused on searching for the answers, on seeking happiness, that I’m completely missing out on the moments of joy woven into each day. Since then I’ve started to accept that I can’t possibly know what life will be like when our baby arrives, but as cliché as it sounds I can more fully appreciate what life is like now, day to day, and try to take that approach into being a mom as well. I’m slowing down to truly appreciate things like the sensation of tiny feet kicking inside me, the generosity of a helpful husband, and the comfort that comes when I spend time with old friends.
I’m starting to understand that the act of bringing a new human into existence is both and art and science, not a clear cut process with wholly known outcomes. As someone who always wants control over a situation, this is tough. Pregnancy has been the ultimate lesson in letting go, sometimes willingly and sometimes reluctantly allowing my body do what it’s going to do to grow a baby. Ask me when I’m on the other side of this journey, but I’m getting the sense that the transition from pregnancy to parenthood will require the same amount of flexibility and openness in taking things as they come, day by day.