I’m approaching the end of my pregnancy. The strange thing is not knowing when that day will happen. It could be today, tomorrow, next week. All I know is that it will not go beyond two weeks from now! I’ve been asked by everyone – friends, family, even grocery cashiers – if I’m ready or how I feel as it’s steadily approaching.
Here’s how it feels. It feels like I’m living in this perpetual present day. It feels like I can’t really make future plans because I don’t know how today will dictate tomorrow or next week. It feels like in any instant, my life will change dramatically. In the meantime, I still have to go about my day as normally as possible – getting groceries, doing chores, sleeping, checking email, seeing friends. I’ve also run out of baby preparation tasks. The newborn and 0-3 month sized laundry has been cleaned and folded, the nursery is ready to go, the hospital bags are packed, the freezer is filled with ready-to-make food, and the birth plan is ready to be implemented/modified/disregarded entirely.
This sounds morbid, but anticipating labor is like knowing I’m going to die someday. I don’t know the details of when or how it will happen, but I know it will happen. The idea of it is scary, yet an inevitable, somber truth I have to accept. Dear Sugar describes the moment her son was born as “my life ending and beginning at once.”
Well if it has to end, then so be it. These last few weeks off of maternity leave have given me the space to ease into that transition. It’s been an incredible gift. I’m privileged and appreciative that my job, supervisor, husband, mothers, and financial situation have allowed me the opportunity to take off a year. I wasn’t sure what I’d do with this time, but a dear friend told me that this would be the last time I’ll ever have all to myself before being a mother. Take it. Savor it.
I had grand ideas of what I could do with 3 weeks off. Pre-pregnant Pauline would have swooned over such luxurious time wealth. I could start a creative project! Read lots of books! Write more blog posts! Cook more! Learn watercolor! Go to yoga classes! Binge watch Netflix and Hulu shows!
I did some of those things, but not nearly to the degree I imagined I would. Mostly, I caught up with friends and family, took trips to the grocery store during off-times (going to Whole Foods is my new favorite hobby) to cook simple dinners, did light reading and journaling at coffee shops, and stretched a lot at home. J and I were blessed to have two weekends where we could take small day trips to the beach. These activities weren’t what I had planned, but they were better than planned: they made me happy.
I learned that I could be completely happy in the present moment. The present was all that I had, and I could either accept and embrace it, or I could resist it. I chose to accept the uncertainty of my days. And I spent that time listening to my intuition and deciding how I wanted my days to look every morning. Some mornings, I had the energy to see people, to try a new recipe. Other mornings, I wanted to stay at home nestled in my pink robe and reading a book or listening to a podcast. The following books are currently on rotation in my nightstand: The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. Every morning represents a different book and a different mood.
I learned that I don’t need to be tied to my work or a creative project to feel fulfilled. I do miss working with my colleagues and students along with the energy of running programs under an academic timeline. I was worried that I didn’t know who I would become without the identity of my job. It’s still a layer of myself that I’m continuing to shed. It will be an ongoing process throughout the remainder of my year off. I still don’t know who I’ll become, but I’m excited to discover this new side of myself.
The truth is, the end is already here, even if the baby isn’t yet. My former life has already ended and a new one is beginning to emerge. And yes, I am ready for it.