The day my little sister was born, my brother and I were given special presents, as my mom explained, “from your new sister.” I was utterly confused. How could a newborn baby who didn’t even have her own clothes, or money, or open their eyes give me a new toy? Where did she keep them? Was there a gift shop in my mother’s tummy? Why did I not know about this magical place before? What else was in there?
Now I know how. Because my little one has given me the best gift of all: as of midnight tonight, I will officially be a week overdue.
Overdue: the word connotes failure and stress, and as a professional project manager, I try never to miss a deadline. As a writer, the sense of an ending makes my heart sing, and I often look for and cultivate well-orchestrated endings in all aspects of my life. So as my due date approached, I bore down into the joyful excitement of getting every little thing ready as a good project manager does. I scheduled my last day of work, set my vacation response on my email, planned and executed some getaway time, organized my closets, pre-made freezer meals, took care of all the paperwork and government updates needed, collected baby clothes and gear, pre-ordered diapers, scrubbed the house with the help of friends and family, and made sure everyone knew I was about to have a baby on this date. I read up on all the literature, packed my hospital bag, prepared all the necessary home birth supplies, finalised, sent out and printed our birth plan, taped the list of emergency contacts to the fridge. You get the idea. And then, with my list firmly and efficiently checked off, I then looked at my belly and in my best event manager tone said, “And…cue the baby.”
Everybody looked. Texts from friends and friendly comments from family started to come in, all wondering and asking. We were all staring down the Belly. In-laws and relatives arrived, breath held, eyebrows raised. And nothing happened.
My friend the maternity nurse has the best stories, and she recently told me of a woman who walked into the hospital on her due date, and said, “Okay, I’m ready!” The nurse checked her over and asked a series of questions about the usual indicators of imminent labour, and none of them applied. Mystified, she asked why the woman had come in. “Well, it’s my due date. So I’m here.” I heard this story, laughed and thought, “I’ll never be that silly.” But let me tell you, as my due date dawned and I whiled away the hours, I was that silly – every weird sensation, cramp and slight twinge had me on high alert and as midnight passed, I was honestly dissapointed.
You see, I was born precisely on my due date and hit the ground running. I love being on time. I delight in agendas and plans that come to fruition in a timely manner. So why would my baby be any different?
I should have known. Every time the spotlight swings in their general direction, this particular baby likes to slip into the shadows. From keeping their legs crossed during the ultrasound so as not to reveal a gender, to ceasing all kicks and wiggles as soon as I point them out to my husband so he can feel them too, to maintaining a low physical profile right up until this last month this baby has sweetly resisted all expectations and pressures thrown its way.
And of course, I paid no heed to all the research out there that tells you babies generally come when they are ready, and due dates are just that: estimated. Or that only five percent of women deliver on their due date. Or that unborn babies don’t read the memos of our minutely scheduled and busy lives.
I think this is the final and most beautiful lesson in a series on waiting that my little one has been teaching me for the last nine months before we meet in person.
Waiting is not a common practice anymore in this culture. We have lots of things to fill our time. Even waiting for the bus is made bearable by our personal handheld universes of constantly updated content. Our lives are as organized and distracted as we could ever want them to be and I’ve always thrived on the high that goal-setting gives me. From university days where essay deadlines hung like guillotines to the heady experience of managing events and people, I love staying in motion, staying on schedule, meeting targets. I enjoy, especially, having strategies in play for the future – not that all events must have a particular outcome, but that I have the tools and tactics to meet whatever comes along.
So having an extra week and possibly more where nothing is certain, nobody knows what time or how or what it will feel like for this baby to make its grand entrance into my world is totally foreign territory. Every morning (and middle of the night) I wake up wondering, and every plan I make has to be couched with contingencies. I have had to give up control and enter into a world without deadlines and proper agendas and the word “should” has all but dissapeared from my vocabulary.
Mind you, there are plenty of options out there to help things along – induction, herbal concoctions, natural remedies, bumpy car rides, acupuncture, and a little bit of frisking about with one’s hubby all promise to coax out the shyest of babies.
But having been through this first week of waiting and fighting back the pressures of my own expectations and those of others, I have entered into a kind of peace and rest I have rarely felt and I am not really interested in hurrying things along anymore. I know, especially if more kidlets join our family, I won’t get this kind of unplanned for downtime ever again (and I am in awe of second, third and fourth-time mothers who go through nine months of pregnancy with toddlers and kids underfoot. I salute you. I am also fortunate to feel so good in my last few weeks of pregnancy – I haven’t struggled with any of the physical ailments that make some women legitimately feel more than ready to have their babies out asap).
I know that having a week or two outside of pre-scheduled and spoken-for time has already yielded some truly peaceful and enjoyable moments: going for a walk just because, making a meal that suddenly popped into my head as delectable, having time to talk to friends for hours, sleeping in because I have nowhere in particular to be, popping in for casual visits, spending whole days with my husband just having fun and seeing where in the city we end up…all of it is an astounding gift from this wonderfully, perfectly overdue baby, who will no doubt wait until no one is looking, and we are least expecting it, and say hello to the waiting world at exactly the right moment.