The Invisible Countdown Clock, and other reflections at 38 weeks.
Sometimes I feel like I have a giant countdown clock hovering above my head that others can see, but I can’t.
“You’re almost there!”
“So little time to go!”
“Next time I see you, you’ll be a mom!”
Well, maybe. Or I’ll still be sitting next to you in class next week, slightly more tired and still waiting.
I look up. I can’t see those numbers ticking down. Maybe they’re in the cloud — you know, the one where we store all our information. I wonder, would being able to know exactly when baby arrives help me feel more prepared, or would it simply allow for anxiety to build?
Imagine, working on a project within a certain structure — with deadlines, expectations, and milestones. You’re up nights wondering, planning, brainstorming. Then, and one day, your manager tells you, “actually, you have all the time in the world.” How strange. How frustrating. How liberating.
That’s what it feels like to be waiting — there’s an energy, somewhere, that knows when baby is to come. I trust that it will engage when it needs to, that it will bring forth the experience that I will need to go through, that whatever lesson lies in my birth experience is part of my path. After a decade of purposeful healing, of active recovery- that is where I am. It will be what it needs to be. Well — that’s how I feel most of the time. Sometimes, my mind catches up to these musings and wants to talk about how anxious it feels.
I’m surrounded by excitement and anticipation on my behalf. Don’t get me wrong, this is a lovely energy to be greeted with, but sometimes it doesn’t fully jive with how I feel. Most of the time, I try to just be in the moments I have, and enjoy the little things that may soon only be possible with rather extensive planning and consideration. Things such as — taking a shower AND washing my hair, going out to get coffee, going to class, taking the subway (yes, still taking it at 38 weeks), sleeping, having a clean shirt on. When I’m trying to focus on enjoying those little moments, it can be disorienting to jump into the wilder energy of excitement about the moment where my life will change forever.
In a sense, that moment does already exist. When we think about the infinite and flexible nature of time, there exists a version of me that has already given birth and whose life has changed. When I am awake in my physical life reality, it is a stretch, even for my imagination, to be at once here and there. In my dreams, however, I have experienced life in that future self — I have held my baby, nursed my baby, asked my mom how I know I’m giving enough, I have even woken up because I thought I heard phantom cries. I am a mom — but I have also been one throughout the process of becoming one. From the moment I felt that little one hold on for dear life when we experienced a plane landing together for the first time, and my instinct was to hold my then — barely apparent- bump — I was a mom.
Does that giant countdown clock to my life changing feel ominous? Well, it’s a bit weird that I can’t see it and others can — but other than that, not really. All I have to do is look around — my life has already changed. Although I am, by most appearances, the same person I was almost 10 months ago, I have learned so much about what matters, what my morals and priorities are, and what safety and health actually mean in terms of my own life, that I am actually already living in that change.
My life changed when I began to put my baby — and thus myself — at the front of the line. My life changed when I could no longer ignore my body and my spirit, who were actually cooperating for once, telling me that where I was putting my time and energy was no longer serving me. At 24 weeks, my whole relationship landscape changed — some fell away dramatically, while others deepened and now enrich my life in ways I never foresaw. The term “family” both solidified and opened to include so much more.
Yes, once we add baby to the mix, our lives will change again — we will have a whole new set of priorities, a whole new “normal”, and my husband and I will explore new layers of cooperation and communication.
Am I ready?
I have no idea what any of that really looks like. Intellectually, it sounds great. My brain thinks its ready. I’ve read, talked about, studied, questioned, analyzed, and reflected upon the transition into motherhood from every angle. Yep.
Luckily, I’m not silly enough to just listen to my brain. My heart trembles with the knowledge that it is about to be tested beyond its known limits of love. My body is learning to loosen and open and face thresholds of sensation that it may not have the tools for. My spirit is preparing for its next task — serving the growth of one which is about to enter this realm. My toes — they’re not ready. They’ve just gotten used to the idea of stability in this body — how are they supposed to figure it out when one that is two becomes two that were once one.
I don’t know. What does the countdown clock say?
In yoga this week, we did one of my favorite breathing techniques. I don’t know what the name in Sanskrit is, but when I teach it to my students, we call it the “ocean breath” because of the sound it makes. It’s basically an exhale that allows the throat to open, so it makes a whisper sound. When done in a class setting, it really does sound like the ebb and flow of waves crashing onto the sand.
I’ve never used it in my practice as a student before — and it was really interesting to notice how with each exhale, I found more space in my body. At 38 weeks, this is no small feat — the body is literally being stretched to capacity as now-basically-human-sized baby occupies much of the space. If you’ve never seen a graphic of what happens to a woman’s organs as the fetus grows, I recommend it for the visceral empathy sensation. I could feel space opening up in my joints with each exhale and energy literally breathing its way out. Even the downward dog, which has always been the pose where I have found both challenge and growth, felt loose and open.
Why do I share this? Because that notion of finding space where there doesn’t seem to be any is what keeps me grounded amidst all the shifts. Our home space, which slowly fills up with baby energy and stuff, is slowly being redefined. After tomorrow, I am taking my first real “break” from teaching in…ever? Meanwhile, my workload doubles as I try to finish as much of this semester’s work as I can within the next two weeks.
I have deadlines, but I also have all the time in the world.
What does the clock say again?
I don’t know.
So, I take a deep breath in, and let it flow out as waves rolling in the ocean. I explore the space that exhale brings. I look around, and smile at my husband who made me pumpkin rolls to surprise me, at the Mets leading in the series, — and I say — let those minutes tick by, let the moment approach. Let it be what it needs to be.