The end is near, my friends, the end is near. The nursery is unpacked. The name is chosen. The baby shower has been thrown. I will be 35 weeks on Saturday, and if the collective wisdom of every friend and stranger is to be believed, the baby will not be long to follow.
And yeah, you guessed it. I’m nowhere near ready.
The nursery, for example. Unpacked, yes. For the most part. Unless you open the closet and find a wall of gift bags and disassembled toys, unless you look beyond the beautiful new rocker for some of those essentials that will allow me to bathe, nurse and bed my child with ease. A short lived spurt of energy and miraculous flurry of friends carried me over that pile of boxes on the floor, but once on the other side I collapsed into a heap of third trimester exhaustion. My nesting instinct seems to have nested elsewhere this time around.
Then there is my situation at work. The more I commit to going out on leave the more I find that must absolutely be finished before I sign on the dotted line and sign out of my email. I’ve organized myself into a corner with a list that gets longer with every item I cross off. No matter how many times I declare to my family that this Friday will be my last that laptop always finds a way to open itself over the weekend, and there is always something urgent that I am the only person in the world who can fix.
And of course there is everything else. The already embarrassingly late thank you cards from Christmas that must be sent before I can even start on the thank you cards from the shower. The over the top birthday party I absolutely must throw for my daughter this weekend so she can enjoy her one last moment of only child glory. The hospital bag that can only be packed after I finish and fold every last scrap of laundry and finally get around to organizing the linen closet and travel toiletries, because otherwise how will I ever find what I actually need?
I would not be me if I didn’t find ways to keep myself wound up precisely at the moment that I am supposedly attempting to wind myself down. My mind is cluttered, distracted, constantly rewriting the proverbial shopping list that loves to rattle around during morning meditations.
I fear I’m not ready to incorporate another child into my emotional existence, and instead of facing this fear head on I focus on the red herrings all around me.
When I tell myself I’m not ready for another child because I don’t have a dimmable light for the nursery, what I mean to say is – I’m afraid of the isolation associated with being home alone all day with a newborn.
When I tell myself I can’t possibly go into labor yet because we haven’t set up the co-sleeper (despite the fact that I have, actually, set up the crib and the bassinet, and despite the fact that my daughter slept in bed beside me for the first 9 months of her life), what I mean to say is – I don’t believe I have the physical or emotional wherewithal to handle the sleep deprivation of a newborn while still managing to be an even halfway decent parent to my toddler.
When I tell myself that I will ruin my entire career and be publicly flogged to the point of never finding another decent (let alone ego-satisfying) job if I don’t complete to perfection every last initiative I set in motion over the past year before I go out on leave, what I mean to say is – I worry I will lose all sense of self-worth the moment I retreat from my public persona.
When I begin to dismantle my worries one at a time, they all seem to come back to the same theme: I’m afraid of being a mother. I’m afraid that the moment I step away from my job, the moment I close up shop on my social life, the moment I get sucked into the unrelenting cycle of napping and nursing I will lose every last shred of pride and independence that I have fought so desperately to regain over the past few years. I’m afraid that just being a mom will not be enough for me, and I’m quite certain that just being a mom will not be enough for all the external validation I’ve come to be so reliant upon.
Paramount among all fears is the suspicion that even voicing these concerns is absolute proof of my ineptitude as a mother. Because shouldn’t I be nothing but excited by now?
I’m learning to sit with these conflicting feelings. Like when I am overwhelmed by equal parts love and frustration at least ten times a day over the course of a typical weekend with my daughter. Or like when my job is so maddening that I want not just to quit but to set my laptop on fire and throw it off suicide bridge at the same time that I enjoy a deepening sense of satisfaction and pride in my ability to work through even the most challenging of professional situations.
As I grow older as a human being and grow more experienced as a parent, I’m coming to understand that the beauty of spending time on this planet is the daily opportunity to learn and to evolve, and I’m coming to understand that these inner conflicts, this friction of moving in opposing directions while trying to stay whole, this is what propels the growth that makes life worth living. So for all my fear and all my games of distraction, I’m able still to leave the door open for hope – hope that life will continue to be wonderfully all things at once.