Kathleen is 39 Weeks pregnant and time is slowing down for her. While she goes through the challenging paces with good humor1, truth is the last few weeks have been a struggle. Her feet have swollen so much she can’t fit into the larger shoes she bought specifically to fit said swollen feet. Weird pains stab at her from crazy places. Her gait has morphed into a flailing waddle. Kathleen is ready to have this baby.
This, perhaps predictably, is in direct conflict with my internal monologue, the gist of which is, “Uh… wait, a we’re going to have a baby? Can I have like another few weeks?” I feel tremendous sympathy for Kathleen’s discomfort2, but a piece of me wants to hang on to the past. There’s something to be said for the duprass of an offspring-free marriage. Having a baby is one of the few life decisions you can’t unmake, after all.
In general, I feel I’m keeping it together. Preparing and planning happens to be one of my superpowers, so car seats are installed, the Go Bag is at the ready, the cooler is stocked with snacks and plenty of coconut water. The biggest loose end is our dog Stanley, but we have a few contingencies in the event Kathleen gets the launch codes before our houseguests arrive3. The potential immediacy of labor keeps me on my toes, though I haven’t lost any sleep worrying about it just yet.
I think Major Life Changes seem like a much bigger deal before the thing happens than in the rearview mirror. You’re very young and you go to school for the first time. I can’t even come close to remembering my first day in school, much less the apprehension/excitement I may have felt4. I do remember looking forward to going away to college. I had a plan (heh)! I was going to be in the movie industry! I couldn’t wait to be in Los Angeles5.
Going into the workforce just kind of happened. Summers off and extended holiday breaks disappeared; I’m not sure I ever stopped to notice the shift. I was conflicted about moving to Portland for a job. I resisted the idea that it was a permanent move and planned to cut bait after filling in a few years of experience on my resume. But eventually I removed the very, very large chip on my shoulder and started to build a life here. The marriage transition felt natural and refreshing. And now the baby comes.
Having a child means you are making a life change–making a life in the literal sense– where everything is asked of you and almost nothing can be done to change it. It’s not that I’m lamenting my “loss” of “freedom” or any such cliched nonsense. It’s more about indelibility. Walking away from a job or a relationship is a normal part of the human experience. Walking away from a child destines you to a lifetime of guilt or a commitment to compartmentalized sociopathy.
The anxiety I feel today is temporary, but it’s real. The sleepless nights are coming, but they are finite. The tantrums will be exasperating, but they will pass. These are the small details that obscure a much larger picture. I am about to become a father, a permanent gig.
Down the road in five, ten years, I’ll look back on this time– “The Time Before”– and wonder what all my internal fuss was about. The new normal will have become the every day. Nothing will be the same as it was, but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?
- When she’s trying to rise from lying on her back, she calls herself an upside-down turtle.
- A relatively new development in the context of the pregnancy. We like to say that she had “34 great weeks.” Not a single problem or discomfort manifest itself, and then Week 35 hit and a cascade of physical chaos rained down upon her like an avalanche.
- My mother is coming in two days, and one of her secondary functions will be to deal with Stanley while Kathleen is in labor. So… hang on until at least Saturday, please, Creature.
- Perhaps my mom can chime in on this one in the comments.
- And it was a lot of fun. My freshman year of college still ranks among the best years of my life. What’s more: I knew it when it was happening, so I really appreciated it.