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Still on standby for the new arrival

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By Kelly Dolejsi

Right now, my unborn baby ripples along the sweeping circumference of my belly. She strains against the wall of me dozens of times each day. She stretches her long legs, steamrolling my tiny sour stomach with her delicate feet. Soon, either she will outgrow her house, or I will outgrow mine.

It’s distracting.

Also distracting is the knowledge that I am due to deliver this baby in about one week. Although, of course, I will most likely give birth on some other day, maybe not until the middle of July or maybe prior to publication of this column. Facebook fiends are placing bets.

It’s exciting, but it’s also a little like being on standby for a flight. Maybe I’ll get a ticket today. Maybe I’ll just treasure hanging around the airport.

But seriously, I am in no rush. Pregnancy is a treasure. My husband Michael and I are only planning to have one child. This might be the only time in my life I ever get to have this incredibly intimate experience – an experience that, regardless of the exact date, is going to end soon. And although I’m not religious or even spiritual, it’s clearly a miracle.

One of the great wonders of pregnancy is that once it gets going, I don’t really have to do much. If I want to grow a spider plant – and spider plants are ultra-low-maintenance – I have to at least water it.

I have to make sure it gets sunlight, but not too much sunlight. I have to think about and actively tend to my spider plant fairly often just to make sure it doesn’t dissolve into brown goo.

But to grow a baby, I pretty much just eat and sleep and put up with a few temporary discomforts. This is easy because I eat and sleep even when I’m not pregnant. I also endure occasional discomforts when in my relatively concave state.

While I might eat slightly more now that I’m pregnant, it’s not like eating more requires much effort. Like most people, I enjoy eating. I especially enjoy eating cookies and cream ice cream, which, for those of us in the family way, is a perfectly acceptable breakfast.

While my discomforts are slightly more predictable these days – instead of an occasional pulled tendon I have the standard back pains of a person carrying a watermelon with her abdominal muscles for several months – I can’t really complain. It’s not like at the end of all this, I get to admire the lushness of an indoor plant.

No, I get a baby. I can’t think of anything better. It’s also true that I can’t think of anything else, but still: a baby.

Despite my pure exhilaration at the thought of holding our daughter, I admit a profound lack of training. This is Michael’s and my first child. We have never parented anything beyond puppies and the afore mentioned, not-exactly-thriving spider plant.

We have, however, babysat for a five-month-old. On Mother’s Day, we watched baby David for a few hours while his parents disappeared into the sunny, warm May afternoon.

At first, we failed repeatedly. David cried for more than an hour as we tried swinging him in his swing, bouncing on a yoga ball and lying him on his tummy on his special tummy-time blanket, which is far more interesting and three-dimensional than most blankets. Nothing affected his sad, wet-eyed, wet-nosed little face.

Then, inspired by a lack of any more creative ideas, we changed his diaper. This was the correct answer.

The quiet, happy afterglow of the diaper change, however, did not last. Soon, we had begun floundering anew. But this time, it didn’t take us quite so close to forever. Struck by revelation, Michael fed David, cradling the baby close to his chest and holding the bottle to David’s joyful, toothless mouth.

Babies, like pregnant women, really like eating.

Also, babies, like pregnant women, like sleeping, which is what David did after his snack. He fell asleep on my shoulder and then I laid him down in his crib. The house was silent and we were exhausted, but so happy. We have not been asked to babysit again but nevertheless, we did not turn David into brown goo. We show promise.

When I run my hand along my rippling belly, I feel like our baby and I can already communicate.

But I realize it’s not even the beginning. Knowing that within days or at most a few weeks, she will rely on me – the conscious me, not just my awe-inspiring, globoid body – preoccupies nearly all my thoughts.

I keep imagining what she will sound like to me the first time I hear her cry. What will change? Who will I be? Will I forget my obligations to the spider plant?

It’s absolutely distracting but I make no apologies. How could it be any other way?

E-mail Kelly at kdolejsi@gmail.com.