For something so measured and exact, time is an odd thing. People have discussed the strangeness of time and how is passes throughout history. We have heard that the days go by slowly but the years fly by; good times are over too quickly while bad times last forever. We have been told that time is on our side, and that we are always in a race against the clock.
The paradoxes in which we experience the passage of time can be applied to almost any singular situation or experience, and pregnancy is no different.
When I was pregnant with Oscar, time seemed to move very slowly. One week I was so excited about meeting our baby that I was convinced I was a week ahead of the actual gestational age, and I had to notify our family that our baby was not yet the size of a turnip, but still an avocado. It’s both with humor and longing that I look back on that and how upset I was at the time. I don’t think anybody at the New York Times cries when they publish a correction, particularly about the relative size of produce.
Once I reached 20 weeks with Oscar, time seemed to fly. It was spring, and spring in Vermont means we had odd days when the temperature hit 70 and the mountains were still open to skiers. We dealt with the thaw, refreeze, rethaw, refreeze cycle in the ground and watched the roads bump up only to be torn apart to reveal huge potholes. The forests that blanket the Green Mountains waited out the changes patiently, not releasing their buds until they were sure to take hold. The snow and ice which had collected since mid-October clung stubbornly in patches, glaring in the light, defying the sun it caught. It snowed on May 15.
Spring sprung; the mountains bloomed in a spectrum of greens. The air warmed, even as breezes remained cool. And as suddenly as spring arrived, summer burst upon the scene. I sweated through everything, staying as naked as I could at home. I spent days sitting in the river when the July heat wave struck, driving the heat index to over 115. Time flew, and Oscar’s short, wild life was swept away to the stars. Time stopped – but somehow, it continued. Life moved forward and time passed.
I had a complete meltdown at work this week.
I noticed the date: exactly three months from when I could be induced, should this little one need coaxing out into the world. I looked at my calendar and saw I had 14 weeks left. OK, that felt good, exciting. We had lots to do, but time to do it. I double-checked my math to be sure; we were actually 13 weeks away.
That slight difference gripped me in a tight fist of panic. 13 weeks. A coworker asked me brightly how things were going. I turned to her, and she simply said, oh dear. I talked with her and another coworker briefly about suddenly realizing the lack of time between now and the baby’s arrival, which was met with gentle laughter and reminders that things would never be the same. I’m sure many people can sympathize with me, I truly appreciate my coworkers, even when they are not the least bit helpful.
I shut my door and took deep breaths. 13 weeks. I texted my friends and called my wife at work. 13 weeks. My pitch rose and my voice wavered as I worried about a million things at once, my sentences and fears jumbling together into incoherency. 13 weeks was not enough time. How are we going to do this? When Oscar was born still, my cousins came and picked up all the baby stuff at the house, so I didn’t have to come home to see the cradle and his tiny clothes. The baby shower had been scheduled for two days after he was born. I didn’t know what we had even received. I wasn’t ready.
There was too much to do, too many unknowns, all underwritten by the nearly unspeakable fear of getting everything done and ready only to lose this baby, too.
Everyone I reached out to reminded me that we were not alone, that we had support, and they would help however they could. They offered different options that I couldn’t fathom at the time, like joining us to pick up the baby furniture, carrying it for us, and helping assemble it. I nodded along with their calming offers and handed out new worries, which were met with more compassion and assistance. Our chosen family tree is strong and unwavering in the face of storms born of grief and fear.
By the next morning, the vise-like grip of panic had loosened. Time was not running out; this baby will have everything she needs – a place to sleep, a way to travel, food, warmth, diapers, and us. Should she surprise us, she will still have those things. I feel better now, more ready. We will see how I feel when she’s the size of an ear of corn.