We are as ready as we’ll ever be. My husband, playing games of speed chess with projects and deadlines at work, trying to keep his calendar limber enough to accommodate a last minute retreat to an internet-free maternity ward. My daughter, asking more times every day when baby brother will be here, sleeping less hours each night as her anxiety creeps up and into her dreams. Me, sitting on my hands, spinning circles in my head, worrying that I gave up on work too soon, that this baby boy of mine will come too late, worrying that no matter how much readying I do, I will never actually be ready – or worry, in fact, that the more time passes, the less ready I become.
This impatience we’re feeling is a perfectly reasonable result of the timeline of my third trimester. During the final months of my pregnancy we (as in my doctor, my husband, and I) became increasingly wary of the possibility of preterm labor. Over time, my physical discomfort had transitioned from major nuisance to potential red flag. I suffered through my final weeks of work, clocking fifty hours a week from my home office in a desperate attempt to get everything done just in case the baby came sooner than expected.
From 32 weeks on, I was keenly aware of the fact that the baby really could come at any moment – pelvic pressure, back pain, Braxton Hicks, too many signs that my body was getting ready. At 35 weeks my contractions suddenly became more painful and more regular and I cut my work schedule in half. I made it to 36 weeks, officially threw in the towel at work, and felt I had dodged a cannonball-sized bullet.
Now I’m nearly a month into my leave, but still no baby. After all these weeks of waiting, full-term feels more like overdue, and after the traumatic post-term birth of my daughter, overdue feels like all my fears come home to roost.
Contractions come and go. Bursts of energy come and go. Hormonal surges come and go. Some days I’m certain that a natural start to labor is underway. Other days I brace myself for a purely medicated process.
The only thing I’m certain of is that I am afraid.
I’m trying to accept that the only control I have over this situation is my reaction to it. I can let my mind spin endlessly in a cyclone of fear and anxiety. I can Pollyanna my way through the next few days and imagine that everything will sort itself out swimmingly. I can hope for the best while preparing for the worst. Or I can just sit with all of these options at once. I can let myself experience fear and hope simultaneously. I can allow myself to imagine a perfect labor, delivery, and homecoming for my perfect newborn son while also making space for practical considerations of very possible complications that might very well interrupt my fantasies of that perfect birth.
I can’t change how I feel. I can’t eliminate the fear or push away the memories. Trying to edit the experience as I’m living it will only create more friction – I can resist my natural responses and inclinations, or I can accept where I am emotionally and allow myself to walk through this experience with grace and with soft steps. I’m doing my best to choose the latter.
As my daughter loves to remind me, waiting is not easy. I exist right now in windless, directionless doldrums, but I’m trying to make the most of my time. I rest, I nest. I go for long walks and listen to dharma talks. I rest more. I make fresh headway into the pile of books on my nightstand and talk with friends I’ve neglected for too long in favor of work. I try without straining to find quiet in my mind.
And I wait. Sometimes I find that quiet, sometimes I don’t. My patience has its limits, but I know this wait is worth the while.