[Warning: the following musings contain graphic depictions of introspection and self-indulgence.]
So a few days from now my second daughter will be born. And for a long old while, in the run-up to this momentous occasion, I’ve been thinking how the English language is missing a word. One that captures that certain something that “ennui” does – only, specifically in the context of waiting for a baby to be born.
For me at least, waiting for a baby to be born results in a peculiar mix of mostly unpleasant sensations – alongside giddy excitement, which paints the whole thing in a much better light.
Top of the list, maybe, is anxiety. It’s low-key, for sure, and seldom at the forefront of my thoughts. But it doesn’t really quit, either. Like the steady hum of AC vents in the summertime: have I forgotten everything from first time around? Is the kid OK? Can I possibly stay awake long enough to help her through those long early months of fragility and need?
Next, oftentimes in waves, a sickly sort of restlessness. I’m not too swell at sitting still at the best of times, but recently I’ve either been in a frantic rush or else feeling like I ought to be. Knowing that a seismic change is right around the corner has a funny way of making the lines leading up to that corner seem, at once, both too long and too short. Fuzzy, just like the whole world goes when I take my glasses off to clean them.
And with restlessness comes impatience. Stuck behind everyone going 30 when the speed limit’s 40. What is the meaning of such a cruel fate, and why must I suffer it? Look at you all! Standing around with your beatific smiles, waiting patiently, in long lines, for ice cream. I don’t have time for ice cream. I have to be somewhere else, and get something done. Before it’s too late.
Oh, and so much worse: planning for a new life, I think more and more of death. Since first becoming a dad, my thoughts of mortality have increased exponentially. The cycle of life lurched suddenly into much sharper focus. That kid, my kid, was me. My parents looked at me the same way I look at her, and vice versa: the full breadth of my universe started with them; now look how much bigger it got – there’s a whole new person, and another on the way, gazing up at me.
What did I do with all those intervening years? Did I spend them well? Did I come close to reaching my potential? Did I appreciate them even halfway enough? Because, you know, one day that’s you’re lot – and as Woody Allen once said, you don’t get to go round again. (I think often of one childhood memory in particular: just me and my family sitting lazily by a river, somewhere in the north of England, watching an errant football drift inexorably upstream. Never before or since, I fancy, have I existed so completely, perfectly and happily in the moment.)
Will I set a good enough example to my daughters? And will the world someday respect them better than it respects women now? Boy, I hope so. (The bad news, my love, is that the world belongs to old white men right now; the good news, with a fair wind you can help to wave the past goodbye.)
But what the hell do I know? I’m just waiting for a baby to be born… Whatever else that entails, it’s a period of time that sometimes fools you into thinking – if I just think a little harder, I might finally figure something useful out. But no. (Someday I’ll ask my girls what they figured out, instead.)
Today’s post soundtracked by: