Who knew that sleeping in one’s childhood bed again would inspire a wave of deep thinking into the wee hours of the night? I’ve been “home” for three weeks now, and though my twin bed has lent me a comfort similar to that in decades past, sometimes it robs me starkly of slumber, letting my mind cascade from one apprehensive thought to the next.
Like now. Less than 40 days to go, and visions of motherhood leave me at once jubilant and nerve-wracked. Will I be able to soothe him? Will he embrace my steadfast commitment to nursing him? Will he be calm or colic? Will he resemble me? And the precursor to all this – how will I survive childbirth?
Since bygone days of university, I have been told about my strong maternal instincts. Looking out for friends altruistically; tuning in to their worries and woes; helping to assuage them with patience and a composed demeanor; doting on guests and visitors with fervent hospitality and whatever snacks flesh out my pantry.
For years, I’ve known that I want a family, a loving, tightly-knit support system where I can shower my little ones with the same affection afforded me as a child and perpetuated into adulthood. But now that the time is drawing nigh, with just over five weeks in the home stretch, the reality of the situation is unmistakable. Motherhood is not a discrete milestone you just tick off and move forward from. It’s a lifelong commitment, far more permanent than even the institution of marriage.
In that light, I’ve done everything in my power to prepare for this paradigm shift, for isn’t education the key to success?
|One of the boons of expecting: baby clothes shopping!|
Indeed, I’ve pored over the pregnancy and motherhood bible What to Expect When You’re Expecting with a fascination evocative of a dog on a bone. I check my Ovia Pregnancy app every day for tidbits on baby development, body changes, and nutrition.
Maternity classes? You bet. Volume I in Beirut, and Volume II in Riverside. I’ve enjoyed gleaning and contrasting insights from two different schools of thought—the Lebanese, which closely mimics the European, and the American, which emphasizes a more natural, unmedicated passage into motherhood.
A few weeks ago, as I was signing in for the hospital’s maternity tour, the instructor, a grandmotherly soul with an ineffable warmth about her, expressed pleasant surprise at my “elegant” clothing. I donned a sequined black dress and matching flat shoes, attire I considered to be smart casual at best. She insisted I must be coming straight from work, and I had to suppress an amused laugh as I shook my head politely.
|Me on a typical outing: guilty of liking to look good!|
The Lebanese coursing through my veins dictates I always look my best when out and about, even if it’s just a dash to the grocery store. To an American, I might look unnecessarily overdressed or out of place. Sure enough, the other moms-to-be came clad in sweats, leggings, tank tops, and flip flops. I think the instructor feared I might show up to my own childbirth dressed to the nines as contractions racked every extremity in my body!
One of our courses emphasized the imperative of nutrition and exercise, which to me goes hand in hand with the notion of outerwear and thus self-image. The Registered Nurse administering the course studied me closely, impressed that even in month eight, I haven’t exhibited any swelling or imbalance in my gait. In fact, all of my shoes still fit, and my rings slip on and off loosely.
This espoused a discussion on my adherence to the Mediterranean diet, to fresh home-cooking, and very limited consumption of sodium and refined sugar. I also mentioned my daily hour-long walks, for which she applauded me and encouraged I pursue up through active labor.
Beyond the context of a classroom, coming home two months in advance of my expected delivery date has allowed me to shadow my mother. And from whom better to learn than the woman who exemplifies and excels at the role, with her selfless devotion to her kids even now when we’ve emptied the nest? She fell right into step with my arriving bundle of joy, populating his entire closet from bib to blanket, onesie to layette, cap to burp cloth. Because Grandma knows best, and there’s no arguing with that.
|Baby's closet, assembled entirely by Grandma|
Armed with this knowledge, a bit of relief starts to sink in. I’ve been watching my mother in utter captivation my entire existence, smitten with how she’s managed to raise us as useful members of society, all while looking trim, put together, and at least a decade younger than her age. She’s posed as the perfect model of motherhood, and I’ve been in tacit training since before I can remember.
So maybe I will be okay. Maybe I will succeed to soothe my baby, nurse him, and instill a sense of security from the minute his skin brushes against mine and he’s planted on my chest in the delivery room. Maybe he’ll be calm and content and stare back at me with the same wonderment in which I'll envelop him.