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The Waiting Game

It’s getting harder to communicate. Every time I call my best friend she screams into the phone, and it’s a good two minutes before I can calm her down enough to explain I just wanted her recipe for turkey chili, or to find out what her kids want for Christmas. My mother asks, breathlessly, “Are you home?” before I can even squeak out a “Hi, Mom.” This, I believe, is her not-so-subtle euphemism for “Are you at the hospital and how fast do I need to get to the airport?” My cousin jumps six feet every time she gets a text message. The other moms at preschool drop-off always look surprised to see me. And a little guilty, like there’s a #2 birthday betting pool I don’t know about.

You’d think I was 57 weeks pregnant, not 38. Yes, it feels like I’ve been pregnant forever and yes, it’s definitely reasonable to expect that a phone call from me might mean the end is finally near. But I still feel like plain old me, and I keep forgetting that while I’m busy tackling my to-do list and going about my usual business, there are a lot of people out there waiting for me to give birth any minute now.

There should be some sort of device that allows women in the final stages of pregnancy to call friends and loved ones without causing panic on the other end of the line. A special ringtone, maybe, or a flashing green light that means “all OK, no labor yet.” The only person that seems completely oblivious to the fact that I’m almost ready to pop is J, who looks confused every time I mention it might be our last night out without the baby, or we’d better get such-and-such done while there’s still time. “What do you mean?” he asks, genuinely surprised. “It’s not like you’re having the baby tonight.”

Not so far, anyway. All the anticipation is starting to get to me, and while it doesn’t feel like I’m any more ready to go into labor than I was ten minutes ago, I’ve become a little bit alarmist myself. All my friends went into labor early with their #2s.  This baby is measuring freakishly large, so it’s possible he’s done cooking already and has begun to plot his escape. And because I was induced with E, I have NO IDEA what it feels like to go into labor on my own. Which means every unusual ache, every sudden twitch, has me staring down at my stomach with a lump in my throat, thinking “Now?”

We made a deal, #2 and me, and I’m very pleased that he kept his part of the bargain. I would keep him safe and warm, and he would let me get through Thanksgiving, and seeing Harry Potter in the theater, before even considering an early arrival. Turkey’s eaten, popcorn and the boy wizard are crossed off my calendar, and now it’s just a waiting game. I tried to keep these last two weeks light on scheduling  so I wouldn’t feel guilty about cancelling anything. Thanksgiving weekend always felt like the final frontier. But it’s Sunday night, and no sign of #2 yet, so I’m feeling lucky—maybe there’s time for a prenatal massage and a few more playdates, after all.

If only I knew what signs to be looking for. So far the only thing truly unusual was a couple of episodes of crazy lower back pain and cramps, so authentically PMS-like that I was convinced I was getting my period despite the whole pregnancy thing. I’ve looked online and reports there are inconclusive; signs of early labor seem to be vague at best, and most of them fall into the “that’s been happening for six months already” category. I’ve never experienced a Braxton-Hicks contraction and I’m not sure I’d know if I was having one, anyway. Everything feels normal—as normal as 38 weeks pregnant with a ticking time-bomb for a belly can be.

I’m OK with the waiting—there’s still a lot I want to get done before #2 turns my life upside down. My closet needs reorganizing, E has a school party this Thursday, my holiday shopping isn’t done yet. I’d like to get a pedicure. It’s the giant, scary unknown of going into labor that’s freaking me out. It feels like labor is suddenly going to leap out at me from a dark corner, not give me any time to pack a bag or get E safely home from school. Will it go from zero to 60 just like that? One minute I’m cooking breakfast, and the next  I’m blowing through red lights on the way to the hospital? Will I even have time to make those all-important phone calls?

I forgot how nerve-wracking it is to wait around for your body to take control. To not know what to expect, or when to sound the alarm my friends and family are so anxious to hear. When I do go into labor, I’ll make sure the important people know about it. I’m just hoping I’ll know myself. OK readers, it’s time to tell me I’m being ridiculous. I’ll know when I’m in labor for real, and have a little time to get the essentials taken care of…right?

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