I am eleven days away from my due date. Babies come early, babies come late; for first-time mothers, babies are often late-- and yet-- it is also true that I could go into labor any day now, any place. I feel my body growing heavier, I’ve been more achy and tired with increasing menstrual cramp-like sensations. There’s less room for my baby to move in there, so when he does move, whole sides of my belly stretch and protrude. He moves, and I immediately feel pressure on my bladder. He moves, and I cannot help but notice-- and wonder, and imagine-- at what point will this movement translate into my first contraction? My water breaking? Sudden cramping or pain? At what point will the realization sink through: this is it. Sweep the floors, make the bed: our baby is to come.
Corresponding to his impending arrival, I’ve been thrust into the “nesting” phase of obsessive-compulsive task- completing and list-making. I’ve gathered all the home birth supplies, including a huge stack of old towels, and tied them in plastic bags now stored under our changing table. Baby diaper service has delivered our first week’s worth of 70 cloth diapers. My husband and I have gone to Costco and stocked up on toilet paper, laundry soap, soy milk, tomato sauce, black beans, pasta, fluids for labor, and much more, to avoid as much shopping as possible in the months to come. We’ve cleaned out the attic and basement, and dropped stuff off at Value Village and the dump to make room for all the baby gear slowly populating odd corners of our house. We decided last weekend to sell our two old station wagons in order to buy a newer car for me to drive the baby in. We’ve chosen our baby’s doctor, written a birth plan, ordered a birthing tub, held two baby showers, written thank you cards, attended classes on labor, newborn care, post-partum planning, and breastfeeding, reorganized our dresser drawers… and the list goes on.
Thankfully, most of the important stuff has been taken care of, and now I’ve moved on to tackling other projects on my list. I am currently scanning and transferring hundreds of old slides of my old friends, Els and Frank, onto my computer; I also have a stack of Els and Frank’s letters I still hope to transcribe; I am making a digital scrapbook of the last two years of me and Matthew’s lives; I am about to start collaging a belly cast my friend Amy helped me to make—and I’d still like to make some other birth art with the watercolors and pencils I bought for this purpose.
I’m trying to strike a balance between staying busy, and slowing down. People say it can be good to stay busy around this time or else you might go crazy with anticipation, especially once you reach your due date. I enjoy these projects, and it would feel great to finish some of them or else who knows when I will return to them. But conversely, and more importantly perhaps, I want to slow down and spend time moving through my days aware of these last quiet moments alone, breathing, anticipating the changes to come.
My home is my temple, and may never feel like this more so than when we welcome into it our baby, this new life. I want everything to be clean, to feel open, uncluttered, and relaxing. To be perfect. And yet this is where the paradox comes in: I know that true perfection can only be realized when I let go of caring about all the imperfections. I know that when I go into labor not every last inch of the house will be scoured, all my signs of every day living may still be strewn about, my husband may very well be on the road for his work and hours away from me yet, or that something will be “out of place” or not quite as I imagined, and I’ll just have to breathe and say “holy shit it’s happening,” and go with it. Know that I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. Trust that my body will know what to do. Trust in the awareness training I’ve cultivated for years. Breathe and greet each contraction anew. Be curious about the pain as it evolves and grows stronger. Groan, grunt and dissolve into the wild creature I’ve learned I can be. Let go of my fears and inhibitions. Accept that I am not in control.
I believe that I can do this, that I can give birth without drugs at home, and that I can labor for hours or days if that is what it takes. Yet I also know that I am not a failure if I need to transfer to the hospital. If the pain or fatigue becomes too much for my body to take, or if there are any complications. I trust that they will take care of me there too, and that nothing about this labor is a fight or a show. That it is an experience handed to me from God, a dance, an interplay of what is given and how each moment is received. And while I am not in control of what happens, I know that the connection between my mind and body can play a huge role in how it unfolds.
I’ve carried so much anticipation in these past months, learning and thinking about this day when my baby will be born, what my labor will be like, and who my son will be. Now, it is so strange and overwhelming to know that this day is soon to arrive.
I’ve been in training for what feels like the most important day of my life. I’ve checked things off lists, read scores of books, attended classes, talked to friends, written blog posts, and yet, ultimately, I sense that it is the slow, steady, internal transformation that has been preparing me most of all. It is the sudden brimming of tears, the “holy shit” moments of reckoning, and the deep deep surrender to a trust that I must now embrace.