Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Change is Gonna Come

There is a nursery in our house.

Each time I walk past the doorway and peer in--which I've been doing quite a lot these days--I have to blink: where once was my husband's office, filled with computers, file cabinets, papers scattered, MBA and other business books, and a couple of Johnny Cash and Alfred Hitchcock prints is now a clean, crisp room painted a sweet blue. There's a mission-style crib (donated to us by fabulous friends), an 1830s Federal style dresser we bought from an antique store downtown, a corner cabinet filled with stuffed animals, baby books, toys--and a lovely rocking chair, courtesy of my parents. I still can't get over the crib. I can't get over that most likely in the next 5 weeks there will be a tiny being habitating there.

My mother and my aunt camped out at our house for several days earlier this month, and took to the room with can-do gusto. They cleaned, primed and prepped, and painted the entire thing: walls, ceiling, trim. They helped me sort through the piles of baby clothes, blankets of different sizes, hats, shoes--all shower gifts--in an attempt to figure out what needed to be washed and ready before the baby gets here. Without them, I would be still staring at those piles, wondering what in the world to do with all those tiny little blankets. Heck, I still don't know what to do with the big ones.

Being eight months pregnant is a constant exercise in humility. I've certainly left the "honeymoon" stage of the second trimester and am now well into the intensely fatigued, awkward, hormonal, I-am-as-big-as-a-whale-no-lie throes of the third. Strangers everywhere--at the community college where I teach, on the street, in Subway--have abandoned the shy glimpses and sweet, knowing smiles and are now full-on staring at my tremendous stomach. Lately I've had to squelch the urge to smack them across the face for it; all that holds me back is the South Carolina in me, urging me to act the lady and stay calm. I don't know how long I'll be able to heed that magnolia-laced voice. It sounds remarkably like my grandmother.

My experience has been utterly Janus-faced, which I suppose is not unlike the rest of my existence before pregnancy. On one hand, I am struck dumb by a mix of fear and doubt and anxiety that my life is changing in ways I'll never be able to gain control over again: that I'll miss out somehow on the traveling and the writing and experiencing I treasured so as an unencumbered woman. That I'll never really be "me" again. This is an unnerving prospect, one that keeps me awake at night, unable to write about it in my journal or even in an essay for fear that putting it there makes it all real, happening. On the other hand, I am terrifically excited at the promise of this alien being turning somersaults in my belly, at the tiny clothes, the prospect of a new adventure, at watching my husband become Daddy, at the challenge of being me as a mother. The only hope for this two-sided sort of internal battle, I suppose, is that I've been this schizophrenic for 31 years--surely my brain is used to it by now.

Every semester I ask my college students to write under the header: "What do I want to do with my time on the planet?" Now, I find myself composing my own internal essay. Only I know, unlike many of my students, exactly what I want to do; my answers are more selfish than I'd like. And I wonder that I'll ever be able to fit everything in, the traveling and writing and exploring and making a difference and leading a noble life. I live in the constant knowledge that there's a chance I'll wake up one day having discovered I've walked the same path as everyone else, that I've "given in" to the conventional. And regret is a pisser.

But even in the ridiculously banal land of "preparing for baby"--and it is banal, with its pink and blue-ness, its bevy of unneeded things, its websites with asinine titles like "The Bump" (really--the bump? Come ON.)--I've found myself feeling new things and thinking in new ways I'd not expected. Despite my reticence and the stress circus going on my head, I feel a layer of confidence and surety that all will work itself out in the end. I don't know if this is my innate optimism or simply sheer insanity, but it's there, and it's welcome. It keeps me from crossing the line. Makes me smile in the oddest of moments. Relieves me that at least one thing about myself hasn't changed.