Suzanne Tobias

Anticipation not so sweet in ninth month

My friend Katie is having a baby. She's reached that final stage, the last trimester of the last trimester, when your gut feels like it's swallowed a burning, hiccuping, bladder-kicking medicine ball and terms like "pregnant glow" and "sweet anticipation" make you want to slap somebody upside the head.

Time flies? Enjoy every precious minute? I've got your sweet anticipation right here.

Her doctor said last week that he was on call over the weekend and, after examining her nether regions, said he might just see her soon. But unless he was shopping in the infant section of Target on Saturday, he was mistaken.

"Baby G watch, day 263," she reported to friends. "Nuthin'."

She's a planner, that Katie. Her nursery is done, hospital bags packed. She and her husband assembled the baby swing two months ago, moved it out of the living room to make way for the Christmas tree and, after the holidays, moved it right back.

"But lately," she told me, "I'm like, 'Is it now? Now? OK, how about now?' ... This having no control thing, it's terrifying."

It's also, as her friend Jennifer explained, a crash course in motherhood: Things don't always happen the way you want them to.

We've heard it before, and yes, it stinks worse than an old dirty diaper, but it's true.

"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men," wrote Scottish poet Robert Burns, "Gang aft agley."

Go often askew.

No surprise, Burns had 12 children.

When a child arrives — well before, if you count lost sleep and missed cocktails — plans become murky, nebulous things. Control beckons like Don Quixote's windmills, giant and menacing, just beyond reach, so you grab your lance and put up a fight — the 7 o'clock bedtime, the sterilized pacifier, the tiny hat to keep away cold.

For me, like Katie, the first mirage of motherhood was the due date. Mine blew past with both my children, who, like their mother, aren't keen on deadlines. I walked miles, ate chili and drank raspberry tea, all to no effect.

When people asked, "When are you due?" —in restaurants, grocery store lines, elevators — I took perverse pleasure in telling them, "Eight days ago."

The wait was agonizing, the first of many. I've since waited beside potty chairs, in hospital rooms, outside school the first day of kindergarten. Someday I'll no doubt wait for them to come up the driveway, to return from first dates, to hear back about that college application.

Sweet anticipation? Not really, as Katie can attest.

But yes, my friend, it's worth the wait.