The Waiting Game

Today I’m 39 weeks and 4 days pregnant. I’ve been on maternity leave for 3 weeks already and whilst it’s been great, I am now more than ready to meet this little person who has been kicking me relentlessly for the past few months, testing out his motor skills and preparing to make his debut on the world stage.

It wasn’t an easy journey to get here. But neither was it a desperately hard one. We suffered one miscarriage before this pregnancy, something I have since learned is painfully common, despite being so often brushed under the carpet. That was a very sad time, but it also made us stronger, and more grateful than ever when the second pregnancy came around and was viable.

As the end of this pregnancy draws near it feels, ironically, less real than ever. We have all the ‘stuff’ that one is told one needs in order to prepare for the arrival of a baby, and in theory are equipped with at least a rudimentary knowledge of how to keep a baby alive for the first few months of its life. But the enormity of how different things will be any day now is still somehow eluding us.

The waiting is so strange. I know I have to go through the pain of labour in order to get him out, but until you’ve done it there’s no point of reference as to how it will be or how you will feel. Similarly, we know our sleep – something we prize above most other things in this version of our lives – is about to be decimated, but can’t truly imagine how it will be to carry on regardless, in the new version of reality we will be crossing into.

Most of all, until he’s here it’s so hard to imagine having a little person around us all the time, entirely dependent on us to find his way in the world, at least in the early years. The weight of responsibility to be good parents is huge, and to say we aren’t nervous about that would be an untruth.

And so we wait, excitement in our bellies and hearts in our mouths, every night settling into our normal routine – chat, dinner, TV, read – knowing that soon, so very soon, things will never be the same again. Hoping we can hack it. Hoping we can thrive.

Come on little one. Let’s see how we do.

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Marshmallow dreaming

I would have been good at that marshmallow experiment they used to conduct on children in the ’60s (you know the one, where kids were offered one marshmallow to eat now or two if they waited twenty minutes – to test the effects of delayed gratification). Why? Because I’ll take build up and anticipation over instant gratification any day (unless it involves wine on a Friday night, but that’s another story).

Apologies in advance for stating the obvious, but once you’ve had something pleasurable, whether it be a holiday, birthday party or a cream cake, it’s over – the exception being, of course, if you’re lucky enough to be able to have it over and over again (though surely then you run the risk of being desensitised to the pleasurable outcomes in the long run anyway?) However, if you have to wait for that pleasurable thing, whatever it may be, then when it finally comes around it will not only be all the sweeter, you will also have enjoyed the anticipation of its arrival. Hence the overall experience will have been more gratifying. Or at least I think that’s the theory behind the marshmallow experiment (don’t quote me on that, there’s a reason I never made it beyond undergraduate level in Psychology).

How about this for an example: Most women will know the heady feeling of excitement that accompanies an impulse shopping spree, yet they will also be familiar with the speed with which that excitement wanes and the items become consigned to the back of the wardrobe, ready to be replaced when the next moment of impulse comes around. If they have had to save up for one premium item over the course of several weeks or months, however, the feeling of anticipation will have built up so much that when they do finally have the item in their hands they will cherish and love it for far longer.

Over the years I’ve been known to fall victim to the occasional impulse shopping spree, but by and large my ‘thing’ is not material items such as clothes but rather experiences – because at the end of my life it’s not the clothes I’ll be looking back and reminiscing on. Planning holidays is the perfect example of delayed gratification. From their conception to the moment they eventually come into being they create a buzz of delicious excitement and anticipation. I like booking mini breaks far in advance (not least because it’s so much cheaper, especially if you’re going abroad and need to book flights) and spending the weeks leading up to them daydreaming, imagining walks by beautiful rivers and lazy dinners in the early evening beneath the setting of the sun.

Then, once they’re over you can start the process all over again – it beats buying a new skirt from Hennes any day of the week, at least in my opinion! Now where did I put those marshmallows…

Spring has sprung

It’s been a long old winter this year, one that’s greedily stretched its icy fingers all the way into April. Roads have been closed, leaving cars shrouded in snow looking like strangely shaped, grotesque and faceless snowmen. Homes have been without electricity and thousands of elderly and vulnerable people have been housebound and alone.

And all the while an overwhelming, cloying, crushing malaise has settled on the dwellers of London, this city I call home, as I’m sure it has across the many other towns and cities in our fair (or, let’s face it, not so fair in recent months) land. The kind of malaise that leaves you wondering with alarming regularity why you don’t just move somewhere with guaranteed sunshine and be done with all the greyness and the bitter cold once and for all.

But we Brits are a hardy bunch, and our impressive ability to moan is surpassed only by our ability to bear the weight of such an oppressive spell of poor weather. The lack of Vitamin D has no doubt been a factor in our collective mood this past few weeks, but deep down each and every one of us has been stoic in the face of the Big Freeze, purely because we knew it wouldn’t – couldn’t – last forever. We have been playing the waiting game.

And if today’s weather is anything to go by, that waiting game may soon be at an end. For when I stepped outside this morning for my run something felt different. There was still a slight chill in the air, granted, but as I ran I could feel the warmth of the glorious sunshine on my face and I just knew in my bones that winter was finally losing its war against spring. Clapham Common was full of runners, their gloves and hats stowed away at home for the first time this year, as were mine. Parents pushed prams lazily, without rushing or wincing in the biting wind. The collective malaise had lifted, at least temporarily, and in its wake were cheerful people blinking in the light like newborns, ready for whatever life saw fit to bring. 

Though we dream of jetting away from it all, we Brits are a hardy bunch.