The end of a pregnancy is very much like its beginnings – coloured with the same sense that one must hold one’s breath while the unknown becomes a constant companion. As I count down the quiet, uneventful evening hours on this long-awaited due date, with no labour pangs in sight, I am reminded of the day I found out I was, indeed, having a baby.
I had gone to visit a naturopath to help me address some of my concerns about not getting pregnant after trying for some time – and instead of a hopeful, strict regimen of health and herbal encouragements, she returned to the exam room brimming with good news, prenatal vitamins ready. And so the waiting began, and a single question became my constant companion for the next nine months.
What if has a million companions, all swirling about in a deep pool I could often drown in. What if was already a familiar friend in the months leading up to conception, as I fought my hardest to just relax and not care too much meanwhile caring so deeply that every time a friend announced their joyful news, I swallowed and smiled way too widely and hoped my personal dissapointment didn’t show through.
So when I knew I was with child, I expected what if to flit away and be replaced by satisfaction and happiness as I transformed into the perfect picture of a glowing, expectant mother. Perhaps it would have if the internet didn’t exist, people never gave each other unsolicited advice or shared unsubstantiated and unproven self-diagnoses based on personal experience. Or perhaps I could have conquered the what if by not spending so much time communing with the commode in the first four months, or worrying that every french fry and bite of candy I consumed would irrevocably damage my baby’s IQ for life and mark me as a negligent mother, or over-analysing and obsessively googling every twinge, pang and weird symptom that the pregnancy gurus don’t mention in the glossy brochure of impending motherhood.
Fast forward over all those middle bits, (which I hope to write about as a way to reflect in the next week or so as I await the baby and remember all the upchucks and delightful moments) and come back with me to today, my due date.
What if still lingers – a full-circle question that I continue to make daily conversation with. But I think we’ve become, if not friends, at least companions who don’t bother one another anymore. Because while what if can lead one into fear, apprehension and inaction, I now know it can be answered with the open-ended and hopeful. What if I have the world’s easiest labour? What if everything goes so smoothly it’s just plain shocking? What if all this time, I had nothing to worry about? What if the baby knows exactly when to arrive and will join us when they are exactly ready? What if everything works out just fine? What if I love being a mother?
Worst case scenarios tend to be our default thought mechanism of choice, especially when pressed by health concerns, the great unknown of new relationships, jobs, major changes and life circumstances. But on this perfectly uneventful due date, what if and I are at peace. Not because I know what’s coming, how I will feel about it, or what, exactly, will happen. Precisely because I don’t know…and nine months on this road has taught me that not knowing invites, as William M Dixon put it, “…a miracle. You have exchanged nothing for the possibility of everything.” Everything means everything: good and bad, unknown and unimaginable, all of it.