By Adria English
As my pregnancy progressed and my due date loomed closer, I felt nervous and scared. I had no idea how my birthing experience would play out, but I was pretty sure there was no such thing as an easy labor. I especially dreaded the recovery period to follow, not knowing what to expect from my body and afraid I might be unable to resume an active lifestyle or keep up with caring for my home and family the way I wanted.
And so I plotted ways to make my immediate postpartum life function smoothly. My sister Leslie had recommended I stock up on non-perishable and frozen food items, food that wouldn’t require more than a microwave or oven, and suggested making a few meals that I could freeze. I prepared cinnamon rolls, enchiladas, poppyseed chicken and chili, freezing pans or storing ingredients with cooking directions for my husband Garrett to follow later. I stayed on top of housework and laundry, increasing the frequency with which I completed regular chores so there wouldn’t be much time for housework to accumulate. As much as possible, I tried to keep the house, refrigerator and pantry in a ready state, thinking that would make the recovery period easier for us.
“I just don’t like not knowing when the baby will come,” I complained to Leslie one evening as I regarded my hospital bag, which I had constantly unpacked and repacked as days and weeks dragged on and I found myself needing items from it. I wanted sympathy and consolation, and maybe some secret sister intuition into the timing of childbirth. Instead she replied, “You better get used to that. Children make your life unpredictable.” With a pang I foolishly realized she was right. Planning and preparing would only get me so far—I needed also to relax my expectations and surrender my desire to control.
After wondering for weeks if the baby would come early and then accepting we could be as much as three weeks late (“early” and “late” being relative terms), I went into labor on my due date. To my amazement, mere hours after delivery I was able to walk around the room, holding and rocking my baby. I could nurse her and change her diaper. Not only was I able to do these things, but it was expected and demanded of me—demanded by a set of tiny lungs and a little scrunched up face that depicted a world of anguish until appeased.
I was exhausted when we returned home with the baby. Over the next few days I turned a blind eye to the unmade bed, dirty floors, unpacked bags, unsorted paperwork and mail, cluttered counters and food past its prime in the fridge. Garrett prepared meals, shopped for groceries (often deviating from the list I provided) and washed baskets of laundry (the tiny baby is quite the producer of dirty laundry!). Life did and does go on, quite happily, except now I find my personal desires and preferences supplanted by the needs and wants of the baby—and I want it that way.