As we inch closer to the due date, I try to wrap my mind around this baby situation. My wife isn’t so tortured. She celebrates her birthday when we’re on the cusp of the third trimester. It’s just the two of us for now, and while our lives are on the verge of big changes, Hattie feels at peace. “I’m in my mid-30s,” she tells me. “I’m ready for the next phase of my life.”
We count down the days, and I try to make sense of it all. With 90 days to go, we start baby classes. They seem never-ending. In infant first aid, we learn to bang away on the baby’s back if she’s choking. That’s unsettling. So is infant care basics, where we learn about diaper blowouts.
Hattie’s belly grows bigger. During the second trimester, it had a cute roundness. Now it’s out of control. One night she cooks at the kitchen counter and almost dips her belly in a plate of spaghetti and tomato sauce. “You got to watch that thing,” I say. “Maybe we need to put police tape around it.”
When we register, I ponder car seats and strollers. I also think about five years earlier, when we last registered together. I held the scanner gun as we roamed a Manhattan Macy’s before our wedding. Hattie lived across the river, and our nights were filled with music, food and the PATH train. Times have changed. Now I’ve got the scanner gun again, and we’re at a Babies “R” Us in a suburban Boston mall.
With 86 days to go, Hattie reads one of those baby books that’s supposed to calm fears but instead seems to create them. “I was reading about how babies’ heads flatten,” she says. “Look at this. They wear this football helmet-like thing to correct it.” “Are you trying to freak me out?” I reply.
With 70 days to go, Hattie researches bassinets. Most are around $100, but one made in Europe costs $300 and promises to contain no formaldehyde. “Formaldehyde?” I say. “They put that in bassinets?”
We fill out preliminary paperwork for the baby’s birth certificate. Filling in info about my birthplace, my mom’s maiden name, my ethnicity, I think of the descendants who in 100 years may look at this as they research the family tree. We’re all just a link in the chain.
With 56 days to go, I stare at Hattie’s bare, bulging belly. Weird things are happening. “I don’t think you have a belly button anymore,” I say. Hattie agrees: “At this rate, my innie will become an outie.”
With 48 days to go, the crib arrives. Hattie takes pictures. I double-check that the nuts and bolts are tight.
The crib is just the start. An all-out assault of stuff fills the baby’s room. It’s enough gear to drive you to madness, but Hattie has managed to organize it all. She tells me about changing pads, about bottles, about slow, medium and fast nipples. “A fast nipple?” I say.
With space at a premium, Hattie stockpiles boxes of diapers in the living room. I stare at them and think about how every last one will eventually fill up with icky things. It’s too much to comprehend.
Nearing five weeks to go, I give myself another week before I officially start to freak out. “Don’t worry,” my sister, mother of two, assures me. “You’re going to make it through and be happy.”
Everyone has a story. My buddy tells me of his wife’s unexpected C-section, of how she lost lots of blood, of how the situation became so serious that nurses escorted him out of the room. I don’t tell Hattie that story.
Everyone also tells me to sleep as much as I can now. But I’m not worried about a lack of sleep. What I am worried about is the next 21 years, give or take.
With 10 days to go, a co-worker gives me advice: “Whatever you do, just don’t drop her.” Thanks for the tip.
Every day, everything grows larger: Hattie’s belly, her puffy feet, the magnitude of her aches, the realness of the situation. We spend our days waiting for something to happen. On the couch, we stare at Hattie’s belly and watch it move.
Hattie is ready to go. I’m still not, but I realize that doesn’t matter. In dark moments, I linger on the changes to come, how daunting everything seems. I push those thoughts away. I’ll be fine. We’ll be fine. Hattie and I first met nearly 10 years ago, two people searching for someone to share a life with. We found just that. It’s now time for the next chapter.
The due date comes, and the due date goes. With the date to induce more than a week away, Hattie and I make plans to go out to a Saturday dinner one last time. We never make it.
Friday. 7 p.m. We’re eating chocolate chip pancakes for dinner, and Hattie suddenly announces, “I feel uncomfortable.” Five minutes later, she says again, “I feel uncomfortable.” By 8:30 we’re on our way to Massachusetts General Hospital. Passing Fenway Park on the Mass Pike, Hattie says, “Look at the lights.” We zoom past the game and the glow, on to new adventures.
John Crawford lives in Waltham, Massachusetts, with his wife, Hattie, and their baby, Riley, who was born in April. He’s an associate editor of Babson Magazine, the alumni publication of Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.