Everyone loves a good countdown. I mean, look at New Years – who doesn’t help bring in the new year by ticking away at those last few seconds of the old year? Or shouting out the final seconds of a really good sports event. I have always loved countdowns, even as a kid. I remember that feeling before something big was about to happen, that feeling of how-am-I-ever-going-to-get-to-sleep-because-I’m-so-excited. I always had this feeling before the first day of school, birthdays, vacations, christmas and easter, before any big field trip at summer camp. The countdown may have only been days or even just hours long – “If I fall asleep now, I’ll get 5 hours asleep…” I was never well rested for any of these days, and, looking back, part of me wonders if the anticipation ended up being just as exciting as the event I was actually waiting for.
By the time I reached 15, I started the antsy feeling of excited suspense earlier and earlier. Sure, I knew exactly how many days were left before Christmas when I was little, but at 15 I started counting down months – until I could get my temporary drivers license, that is. I counted down every month until it was low enough to count in weeks and then in days. I kept track of it on the dry erase board in the kitchen until, finally, it was March 2nd. Sure, I had to wait until March 5th to go take the test because the BMV was closed, but the countdown was complete, and that was half the fun.
Eventually, the countdowns started to include projects. Planning our wedding was a huge countdown – it started over a year in advance of the actual day. Having something to do, things to make and to plan, made the countdown even more exciting. All my hard work and stress led up to it and was validated by the event. Our day was everything I planned it to be and was perfect, at least in my eyes.
The waiting game that is part of countdowns is hardest part. Over a year for the wedding and then a little over 7 months of waiting for the baby inside me to finally decide to pop out have been the longest I’ve countdown for. They seem like such short time now that they’re over, but it felt like an eternity when I was waiting – especially while waiting to give birth.
There is so much build up to a baby’s arrival. You buy furniture and clothes. You have a baby shower. You see this little person grow and grow. Yet, it’s probably one of the most frustrating countdowns because you can’t actually see the baby. This thing you’re counting down for is merely a bump on your body. The only tangible items that tell you that what you’re waiting for is real is a few flimsy pieces of paper with grainy black and white profiles and little onesies waiting to be worn. And, at least with me, there was the fear. Sure, I was afraid of there being issues with her, that something might happen to her in there, that somehow I might lose her even later in the pregnancy, but no. My biggest fear, as superficial as it may be, was that she was going to come out with a penis. We had so much pink and were so attached to the idea of our baby being our baby girl that the thought of a Y chromosome scared the crap out of me.
The last month of pregnancy is the worst. Sure, the beginning is awful. I had “morning” sickness 1) at night and 2) the entire pregnancy. The last month was the worst because of the waiting. The excitement of the countdown seems much less exciting when you’re carrying an extra 38 pounds and you can’t get off the couch without help. Plus, once you hit 36 weeks you know that if that baby decided to come out early, he or she would be fine. You could give birth at any second, but you don’t. And if it’s your first, it may take up to 42 weeks to get that baby out. So, you wait. It’s like when you sit at a restaurant and you can see your meal in the kitchen window, but you’ve got to sit and wait for the server to bring it over to you. You can ask for it, but, ultimately, the power isn’t in your hands. Luckily for me, my wait ended a week early. The doctor decided it was time. The circumstances were not stellar, but, much to my delight, she was coming earlier than if we waited on her to decide to arrive.
And so, she arrived, thankfully without the penis I had been so afraid of. She was perfect in every way. She was beautiful and pink and not misshapen like most newborns because she came out via c-section.
And suddenly, time stopped. And all those countdowns I had always been so fond of were no longer important. After the wedding, I got depressed because I was bored and had nothing to do. I lived for countdowns, and there I was without one, nothing specific to plan and to look forward to. And now, with this little one here, I could picture all of the new adventures ahead – what I would have to look forward to – so many firsts that would be coming: her first words, her first birthday, her first day of school. They were all there waiting to be counted down to, but no.
I realized almost immediately that I no longer wanted to countdown. I wanted, instead, for time to stand still. Here was this perfect little baby and I wanted to have a million minutes to just sit and study her and smell her and touch her baby skin. I didn’t want to start counting down because it would mean that I was going to lose that very moment. Yes, I am excited about her first birthday and all the possibilities that her walking and talking and developing her little personality means, but I can’t countdown to them. She won’t be my baby anymore once all that happens. You only get to have a baby for one year – that’s it. Then that baby becomes a toddler and then a child and before you know it that little baby you held in your arms is an angry teenager.
In a few short seconds, once all the drugs had worn off, I learned not to count my life away. Ellabelle isn’t even 3 weeks old yet and she’s already taught me that. Right now, she’s sleeping, all stretched out across her daddy’s arm, and I just want to study her and be happy. She won’t ever be this little again. She won’t ever be this dependent on me. She won’t always be able to fit into her adorable monkey feet jammies. I don’t want to lose this moment. And yes, I’m sleep deprived and her crying is worse than nails on a chalkboard, but this is the happiest I’ve ever been. I take all the torture that having a newborn brings because she won’t be a newborn for much longer.
This time is so short. This time is so precious. So, I’m just going to kiss her froggy cheeks and snuggle her close and be thankful. There’s no need to countdown anymore when the moment you’re in is perfect enough.