It’s beginning to occur to me that most of this is out of my control. By “most of this” I mean: getting pregnant, staying pregnant, how incapacitated the pregnancy makes me, how each week seems to bring new challenges even as it takes away previous ones, and––most significantly at this moment––when the baby actually shows up. If you comb the internet (not that I do—all that much), you will find a gazillion and one questions from woman to woman, basically asking a variation of the same question: How can I use information to figure out where my little ship is at this moment in time? More specifically and recently, I have Googled:
“lost mucus plug—labor soon?”
“2cm dilated—labor soon?”
And thousands of pages come up, most of which say, “The baby comes when the baby comes. You can’t rush it and you wouldn’t really want to if you knew the consequences.” Some say, “Yes, that was the beginning of my labor,” or “I had that, and delivery was still four weeks away.” You’d think I’d learn by now that there is no relief to be had by punching my questions into that little bar on the upper right side of the screen, but just today, I typed: “crying jag—labor soon?” And got the same three answers: yes, no, and the baby comes out when the baby comes out.
It’s been a kooky pregnancy. I had my daughter a bit early (36 weeks) and so I’ve been anxious about a premature birth for this one. I’ve had a lot of Braxton-Hicks contractions since Memorial Day, and so the docs have been monitoring me carefully. The big question for me was whether or not I’d make it through (or to) the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, my favorite gig of the year. I was determined to be there no matter what, and fortunately I have an OB who is a folk fan. She said I could show up at the festival the day after giving birth if I needed to. (There was an OB at the festival site, and also an ambulance—I was prepared to jump in if the contractions got strong.)
I made it to and through Falcon Ridge, and here I am, over 2 weeks later, wondering if this or that contraction is going to morph into the real thing. Have I mentioned that patience isn’t one of my virtues? Nor is sitting still and doing nothing. I have taken this opportunity to move my office and decorate both children’s rooms. I had some hopes that the heavy lifting would trigger labor. I eat spicy food every day. I do all the things one does to satisfy the folklore. But the piece of folklore that’s sticking is “the baby comes when the baby comes.”
So about my crying jag. It started yesterday morning when I noticed the candlesticks on top of the refrigerator. As per my book, How to Be an Adult, I was following directions on how to get the wax off. You put them in the freezer and a few hours later, scrub them under hot water. The wax falls off easily. But before I can get a few hours in, my husband keeps taking them out, annoyed at the way they fall into his face when he wants to get some ice. (Can’t imagine why that irritates him.) So he puts them on the roof of the fridge, and I, later, put them back. This had been going on for weeks, and I suddenly had the thought that the baby wouldn’t come out until I’d succeeded in de-waxing these last two candlesticks. So when he came down for breakfast, I said, in my best gentle and reasonable voice, “we need to have a talk about these candlesticks.”
Now my husband has been fairly saintly throughout these last 9 months. When my doctors began to worry about me, he took over all the housekeeping and almost all the care of our 2-year-old daughter. But something about the candlesticks beaming him every time he wanted some ice must have been the last straw.
“We do NOT need to talk about these candlesticks! YOU need to get them out of the freezer and keep them out! And stop talking to me like I’m in third grade!”
“I’m talking to you like you’re in third grade,” I said through gritted teeth. “Because I’m afraid if I don’t, I’ll hit you in the face!”
This shocked him, since I don’t usually talk like that. Ever. He said, “What do you want me to do?”
“Take them to the downstairs freezer!” I shouted, as if the idea that I could possibly carry that huge load––two candlesticks––all the way to the basement and then have to ascent again with my big pregnant belly was practically wife abuse. He took the candlesticks down, and I promptly burst into tears and didn’t stop crying for four hours. We drove up to church, and I said, “I’m not mad at you. I’m sorry I said I wanted to hit you in the face. I’m just pregnant and emotional.” I sobbed through church and all the women with babies came up to me and said, “Oh. You’re really close.” One said, “Don’t worry. It’ll all be okay.” Another said, “You should worry! It’s all scary and real! And now is the perfect time to cry!” They were both right, and it was perfect advice. I felt grateful.
The scripture for the day was that Rumi poem with the lines: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing is a field. I will meet you there.” That pretty much sums all of this up. As the wonderful writer Catherine Newman says in her book, Waiting for Birdy, pregnant women put so much emphasis on the details of labor and delivery. In addition to my burning question (“when is the baby coming?”), so many women worry about how it’s all going to go on Labor Day. Medicated or “natural”? Home birth or hospital? Midwife or OB? Vaginal or C-section? And on and on. It’s like focusing on the wedding instead of the marriage, writes Newman (or something to that effect.) The real point of the whole enterprise is what we do with the baby after that first experience. Similarly, (and obviously, I am sure to every reader of this piece) the day the baby is born doesn’t matter one whit, even though I’ve convinced myself that astrologically, seasonally, financially, childcare-wise and school-wise (if the baby is born in September rather than August, he’ll stay back a year) it does.
At one point during my crying jag, I prayed. “What should I be doing? What am I doing wrong?” and the answer came back lightening fast: “Nothing. You’re supposed to be crying.” Life is full of weather like this. Why do I try so hard to control the things I cannot change? Even that question has to be left on the near side of the field. Hopefully, I will look back at this ninth month of pregnancy and laugh. Hopefully, my son will too, whether his moon is in Capricorn or Cancer.