When you’re pregnant, 40 weeks is a long time.
(That’s right, I speak in weeks now to confuse all the non-pregnant people, who give me a blank stare until they finish mentally dividing the number by four to translate the period into the more acceptable measure of months.)
As I repetitiously count down each week (32 weeks, eight to go; 33 weeks, seven to go…), it begins to feel like the gestation period will never end and that I may be suspended in a tired, sober, bloated state forever.
But despite the number of remaining weeks slowly edging closer to zero, my brain seems to have put on a defensive mental block about what comes when that number is finally reached.
Last weekend, with the help of a hospital birthing class, the reality finally sunk in.
The lesson in contractions, bloody shows and episiotomies quickly eroded my mental dam, and suddenly the reservoir of fears behind it swooshed in.
And now I can’t stem the tide.
At night, I lie in bed begging sleep to come as my brain goes through a checklist of all the possible things that could go wrong.
It’s not the whole being legally and physically responsible for the needs of another human for the next couple of decades, and likely worrying about him far beyond that, that concerns me – though that in itself is rather frightening.
It’s the practical things I fear, whether rationally or irrationally, that plague my overtired mind.
It’s the inevitable process of getting the baby from his warm, watery home of the past seven and a half months to the jarringly bright, noisy outside world.
It’s the pain, the messiness, the nakedness, the pooing, the tearing and the decisions about medical interventions.
It’s something being medically wrong with the baby.
It’s being able to breastfeed, mastitis and cracked nipples.
It’s whooping cough, cold sores and pretty much anything remotely contagious.
It’s being so tired and emotionally fraught that the tears won’t stop.
It’s post-natal depression.
I’ve done what I can to prevent these misfortunes. I’ve taken the pre-natal vitamins, eaten the right things, avoided alcohol, undergone numerous medical tests, had vaccinations, done a first aid course, set up a safe sleeping area in accordance with SIDS and Kids guidelines and read baby book after baby book.
Logically, I know it’s now a matter of waiting and dealing with any problems if and when they arise.
But no amount of reassurance from others can allay these fears because, even with statistics on my side, the terrible stories that happened to “a friend of a friend” are the ones that stick around in my head.
Maybe it’s the normal mental preparation associated with becoming a parent for the first time. Maybe it’s another bizarre symptom of the hormones floating around my body. Maybe I’m just a worrier.
Probably, it’s the constant mild state of anxiety that is parenthood.
And, likely, smelling the clean, milky scent of my baby boy, touching the fine silky hair on his tiny head and seeing his rosy red lips curl into a crooked little smile will be the only panacea.
And for those moments, more than the fears that shoot through my mind as I lie in bed at night and all those I am yet to conjure up, I cannot wait.