Preparation. The word conjures up lists, planning, expectation, excitement, goals, and work. I think of this word in a few realms: athletics, academics, and, recently, to the imminent arrival of the baby I’ve been toting around inside of me for the last 31 weeks. Yep, that is correct: I am statistically 75% of the way through my pregnancy, and am looking now at the last two months (plus or minus) until our baby is ready to make her grand entrance.
I recently was sent an article that comically discussed how no expectant parent is ever truly prepared for a new baby. As I ask myself, “Am I prepared for this baby’s arrival?” I appreciate the humor of the ‘you’ll never be ready’ statement (baby holding is equated to fish wrestling), but I also got to thinking about my own methods of preparation for major events, be they in the realm of baby or running.
In the realm of running, many of my friends and fellow runners are currently in the process of preparing for the summer US Track & Field Olympic Trials. I myself had hoped and planned on qualifying for these Trials and was keen to toe the starting line at Hayward Field — as we know, life intervened, and I am taking this opportunity to enjoy the races as a spectator. How do I assess my preparation for “big” races such as the Olympic Trials? Tune-up races and workout splits are helpful, but I truly recognize preparedness in my ability to ‘float’ through tough workouts, as my legs, feet, and eyes navigate tricky trails with greater synchrony, and as the circuit of mind and body completes to create a swell of happy confidence. As the race approaches, I turn to habits grown out of years of running: sleep schedules, ‘sharpening’ workouts, visualizations and favorite meals, familiar waves of nervousness are all anticipated. These habits, routines and resulting confidence help me to calm these nerves, making sure I get to the start line with my body and mind primed for the challenge ahead.
I just expounded how my ‘big event’ preparation is hinged on routine. Having never experienced giving birth before, this leaves me asking, how do I prepare for the birth of our child? As what first seemed to me like an eternity (9 months of pregnancy! almost a whole freakin’ year!) has accelerated into single-digit weeks, I catch myself wide-eyed wondering this question. Most recently, this question has poked its head into my consciousness as I sit blindly in traffic (startled into awareness by the guy honking behind me as the light has turned to green), or catching a glance of a girl trailing behind a huge round belly as I windowshop on Nob Hill and think “huh, she must be really, really pregnant, maybe I’ll look like that — wait that IS me!” Other times it occurs to me as I try to get up off the couch and it takes several tries before I gain enough momentum to rock myself out of my seat. I have been telling myself, this being pregnant is completely natural, these changes are no big deal, millions of women do this, yada yada yada…. but as the baby in my belly seems to be growing increasingly alive and human (a close observer can see and feel feet, head and body parts moving within my convulsing belly), the message she’s sending me is clear: I’m kind of a big deal!
Kind of a big deal. Am I prepared for the “Big Deal” to be born and come home in approximately two months? Thus far, I’ve employed my tried and true preparation tricks: I obsessively scour the internet for 3rd trimester must-do lists, make my own checklists and as we try to convert our office into a nursery, find myself staring helplessly from the doorway into what appears to be fallout from a nuclear blast of outdoor gear, desks, printers, text books and a growing contingent of baby gear that is our ‘baby room’. While my to-do lists have ballooned from sticky-note size to multiple paper pieces taped together, baby room progress has stalled as I tread mental water: semi-paralyzed and overwhelmed with the magnitude of things that need to get done in order to be ‘prepared’ for the baby, I am scared by my own lists. I catch myself looking at the calendar for weekends that John and I can go camping, hiking, climbing only to realize that perhaps planning a camping trip in Colorado the weekend before my due date is maybe not the most prudent of ‘let’s celebrate summer!’ ideas.
The logistical side of baby-arrival aside, I believe the true reason I’m having trouble making progress on nursery assembly is I deeply question my body and it’s ability to have this baby. Much as I dread approaching a start line when I know I’m in sub-par fitness, or am babying an injury and face the gaping question of “will I be able to make it?” as the starting line of labor approaches, the idea of giving birth to a being of my own DNA is daunting simply because I have never done it before. A small sampling of questions that haunt my increasingly frequent periods of early-morning insomnia: What will I think of contractions? How will my narrow pelvis handle having a small pumpkin-sized baby squashed through it? How long will it all last? Will labor pain be on par with the pain of tearing my hamstring racing at nationals? Is the mental strength needed for birth comparable to the single-minded, dogged focus I rely on during races? What kind of encouragement will I find helpful (or abhorrent)? And… what if my baby is injured or sick? Through racing I’ve learned how to deal with self-inflicted pain, but how will I react to my babies discomfort? Or how will my husband react to being up-close and personal to my pain or our child’s pain? Will we be able to take our baby home without dropping her, will we be able to feed her, will we be able to remain human post-baby?!
There are no lists I can make for these fundamental questions and fears. As with running, I realize that while the book-reading, internet-fact-scouring, and list-making soothes my logical side, deep down in the pit of my stomach and dark corners of my brain, the best preparation I can do is to fall back on my health, excitement, enthusiasm, positive visualizations, confidence in my body’s physical capabilities, and the support of my husband to calm my nerves when I am on baby-making starting line.
More on our preparation progress in the near future as I try to tackle some of the Big Questions specifically. And, don’t worry: I’ve still got 9 weeks to complete my lists!