“Time is of utmost importance to Americans. Time is something to be on, kept, filled, saved, lost, wasted and even killed. Americans tend to be more concerned with getting things done on time than they are with interpersonal relationships. Americans stop discussions abruptly in order to make appointments on time and to be productive.”
– 13 Commonly Held American Values, by L. Robert Kohls
Last night I was checking my email when a new message popped into my inbox.
Notification: Stina’s Due Date @ Thu Nov 20, 2014.
Thank you, Google Calendar; I am well aware that my 40 weeks of pregnancy are up. I’ve received texts and phone calls from friends and family over the past few days.
“How are you feeling?” or “Thinking of you!” they read.
“I’m feeling good!” or “Thanks, xoxo!” I respond.
But really, what is there to say? I am waiting to go through one of the most defining experiences of my adult life. I am waiting to add a new member to my family, something I may never do again. I am waiting for life to emerge from my very body, to hold my wet newborn son to my chest, to watch him take his first breaths.
There is no other time like it, this waiting for a baby to rip through your pelvis. When else do you have a notification pop up on your email – “it’s your due date!!” – like it’s high school graduation or your wedding, but instead of going ahead and putting on your cap and gown or wedding dress, you sit down on the couch and take a deep sigh. It’s here! So hurry up and wait. You wonder if you should make plans for the days ahead, fielding the curiosity and excitement and anticipation of everyone around you. You imagine them thinking: When will your body get it together?
The waiting. There is so much waiting. I want it to be here, to be on the other side of birth, to know that we made it through. I want it, even though seasoned parents of more than one child say, “Get your sleep!” or “You don’t know how good you have it!” or, my favorite, “It’s two on two now – you’ll never get a break!”
Even if it is as tiring and achy and emotional as I imagine parenting a newborn and toddler in wintertime will be, at least I will be in it. It will be there and I can take the next step, even if it’s crying into my bathrobe.
I wonder if all my discomfort with waiting has something to do with being steeped in a productivity-and-deadlines obsessed culture. We Americans like to be in control of our time, we’re not used to sitting around and awaiting an unknown fate.
In the three years since my last birth, I forgot what it felt like to be waiting for a newborn. When I’d watch acquaintances approaching their own due dates, I couldn’t remember what to say, how to empathize, or what ways to support them.
“How are you feeling?” I’d ask, forgetting that they’d likely fielded that question several times already that day.
I’d wonder about them in subsequent days, curious if they were in labor yet. But life would go on, I would make my toddler lunch or get the mail, until I’d absent-mindedly check Facebook. “Oh!” I’d exclaim. “They had their baby!” And I’d marvel that my friend had been sweating and pushing and undergoing one of the most intense experiences of their life while I had been eating a sandwich.
(Does it ever feel strange that so many things, so many experiences can co-exist at the same time? Right now, someone is being born. Someone is dying. Someone is getting married. Someone is having sex for the first time. It’s mind-blowing to me, the plurality of human experience.)
It’s hard to be the one waiting; it’s hard to encourage the one waiting. We struggle with trust, with open-ended and uncertain answers. But with every “how are you feeling?” or “happy due date” message that I receive, I am reminded that I am not waiting alone. I have a web of interpersonal relationships that surround me, eager to welcome this new baby into the world.
When I went into labor the first time, my friends and family lit candles for me, to remind them to pray, to acknowledge the struggle for new life that was happening while they went about normal routines. I take comfort in that image of tiny flames, of small lights of hope. All I can do is take it moment by moment, trusting that my baby will come when he is ready. In the meantime, I will keep fielding those wonderful texts, phone calls and conversations about all that is to come. Each one reminds me that we’re in this together.