What to Expect When You Have Expectations

After an afternoon of intermittent but sorta-regular contractions, Shannon has bustling around the bedroom, assembling her hospital bag. Which means the baby may be coming soon, or not.

Either way, I'm reminded again of just how terrifying this waiting is, or seems like it should be. Back in my early 20s, I had a terrible time waiting for anything, from the El and the pizza man to results from my grad school applications. It's not like I got surly or superstitious or anything; I was just reduced by even the most banal wait to a twitching, twittering nervous bundle who could see quite clearly how this delay would mess up that appointment which would throw over those plans which would lead... Really, it was regret about things that hadn't yet happened. One year, I made a new year's resolution to be less affected by waiting, and it actually worked - in unison with the endless opportunities offered to this young, poor grad student in Chicago for responding with patience, if not calm. Shannon might even say that I might exhibit a bit too much equanimity nowadays. I'll admit that on occasion I do graze the line between patience and procrastination.

And but so, the same goes for this wait for the baby. As the partner who will not be laboring, and who stands to suffer no injury more severe than a badly-squeezed hand, and who can pretty much do his duty by just showing up and doing what I'm told, I have little to be nervous about. It's no use being worried about things over which I have no control, like the surgeon's skill or a birth defect, so those things are largely out of my mind. (Largely: the words "post-operative complications" keep running through my brain, for reasons my in-laws will recognize from personal experience.)

Just the same, I can readily imagine being the partner who does have to labor, and who thus might be reduced to a shrieking wreck by the mere wait for labor, much less the process itself. But I don't know any woman who has reacted that way. Fatalism, determination, preparedness, naivete - whatever the reason, those who do the delivering seem to be pretty well ready for the challenge. Certainly Shannon does: after a harrowing first labor, she'd have a warrant to be a blubbering fool as she approaches the end of this pregnancy. But she is actually the furthest thing from that state. She's calm, collected, and engaged. It's admirable and inspiring, and it makes me very hopeful that whether everything goes down tonight, next Monday, or the 25th, we will come out all right, and four.

email: christopher at tassava dot com