We went into escrow on a house last week. It’s a scaled down dream house of sorts. Scaled down, because, of course, we’re still not quite those kind of people, but dream house nonetheless. Room for the growing family, old character details, shady, sloping street. All the things I love, all the catch phrases I’ve written so many times. All of it under one roof, contained within one property line, and just a moment away from being mine. I should be jumping up and down for joy – and I was, for a minute. Until I understood what escrow is all about.
Escrow as defined by the internet: A contract, deed, or bond deposited with a third person, by whom it is to be delivered to the grantee upon the fulfillment of some condition.
Escrow as experienced by me: Everything that can possibly go wrong in the one tiny moment sitting between me and my dream house.
I am a first time homebuyer. I spent my twenties breaking leases faster than most people break up with boyfriends, then shifted into something along the lines of serial monogamy once my husband (and double the books and furniture) entered the picture. I’ve signed fifteen leases in the past fifteen years, including some multiyear and some in foreign languages. I’m an expert at landlord relations, deposit negotiations, thirty-day notice letters. But escrow? Escrow is all new. So why does the experience feel so oddly familiar? Well, obviously. Pregnancy is to parenting what escrow is to real estate.
You find the house, or you miss your period. You are filled with equal parts fear and joy, followed soon thereafter (hopefully) by just a bit more joy than fear. Your first trimester begins, also known as the inspection period – a specified number of days for examining the property, for understanding the pregnancy, each test more costly than the last (NIPT anyone?). Some days come with easy answers, other days bring nothing buy more questions.
Then there are quite a few days following in which all those tests must be interpreted, all that information absorbed, the days in which your new reality must be negotiated – the second trimester, of course. Pregnant but still not quite taking comfort. You harbor growing beliefs that everything will work out for the best, that everything is going to fall into place, beliefs supported by statistical odds, yet made to feel irrational, irresponsible even, by all of the potential what ifs and worst cases. Just because most houses make it through escrow okay doesn’t mean your foundation is going to get fixed, and just because you got that one good sonogram doesn’t mean you’re out of the high risk club.
And so you wait. And wait and wait, until the third trimester comes. The final days of uncertainty are so limited now that the uncertainty is nearly gone. Finally now, you reach the time of nesting, of packing and unpacking, of moving furniture and preparing the nursery. Maybe, if you’re like me, you buy big kid furniture for the soon to be big sibling. It’s all downhill from here.
Right about now, I could use some downhill. Right about now I’d give just about anything to coast along even for a day. I’m feeling more secure in my pregnancy, feeling less fear that something will go wrong along the way, but I’m still wrestling with the unease of not knowing how the new balance of a new human in our family will ultimately play out. I’d like to believe that getting our housing situation sorted out will somehow fix this, but I know better than to let myself skip too far down that foolish path – it’ll simply distract me for a while, with all the organizing and getting settled and all the constant work to do.
And so I wait. And every so often, maybe every million seconds or so, that waiting allows me to just be still. To wake with the sunrise and appreciate my neighborhood during what might be one of my last little neighborhood walks. To look through my window at the trees I’ve just now gotten to know. To sit softly and feel this little human kick around inside of me. And in this waiting, maybe I’ll remind myself that pregnancy is more than just forty weeks separated into three imbalanced but equal parts. It is a singular experience start to end, in which I learn this child, and if I am lucky, maybe learn myself a little more.