Best Of 2020

Stray thoughts near the end of pregnancy

As my due date looms closer, our days are filled with anxiety. We are scrambling to get things done - install a car seat, finish decorating the room our boys will be sharing, pack the hospital bag. I find myself revisiting the old baby books and websites while making mental goals and challenges for life with this new child: a drug-free birth; breastfeeding for a year; attempting to cloth diaper; wearing the baby as much as possible. I have done this before, I know things don't always go as planned; still, I manage to get caught up in the different parenting philosophies and the debate over that magazine cover. With all this swirling around my head, I often forget the most essential thing - that I am growing a human, that I'm about to make a person come alive.

I dream about my father - who died on Nov. 28, 2009 - almost every night. It's a side effect of pregnancy, these incredibly vivid dreams. He is never fully present in them, though. I always dream that he's traveling somewhere, or that he's dying, or that he has been gone for a long time and I suddenly find a goodbye note from him in his planner. It's ridiculous; my father never had a planner. He didn't write people notes.

I miss him desperately in the dreams, and I wake up to miss him more.

Ailens father, Uli, with Lucas
  • Ailen's father, Uli, with Lucas

After he died, in the midst of my heartbreak and despair, I remember feeling slightly smug. Feeling like his death had given me some incredible insight that would profoundly change me, that would never allow me to look at things the same again. Nothing trivial mattered; all that mattered was that I was still alive, that no one I loved had died that day. Other people and their petty problems irritated me. And now, here I am, three years later, obsessing over the perfect color for our new baby carrier and fussing at Tony for buying convenience store milk instead of the organic, local kind at the farmer's market.

I'm not sleeping well anymore. I'm too big to get comfortable in bed and keep having to get up to pee, so I often find myself wide awake at 4 in the morning, my mind racing. Most of the time I think about what I'm going to make for dinner, or where I'm going to hang the new art print I bought for the house. But on some nights, I remember what it felt like right after my father died. I realize how incredible it is to be alive, how incredible it is that, in a matter of days, because of Tony and I, and our parents, and their parents before them, a new person will be alive. A real live human person who, God willing, will grow up and walk the earth, and be passionate about some things and really dislike others; who will be scared one day and laugh until it hurts the next; who will have a Facebook page, or the future's equivalent of one; who may become a great writer or musician or reality TV star, although what's most probable is that he'll be an ordinary person, just like most of us, just like my dad was.

And on those nights, I'm ready. I'm ready to have this baby despite the chaos around me, because it's not about the room or the car seat; it's not about labor pains or nursing bras; it's about realizing how incredibly lucky I am to be here, in this moment, how fortunate I am to bring a new life into this world. And maybe these are it, these - now sporadic - moments of focus and insight, these realizations of what truly matters are that metaphorical goodbye note I keep dreaming about.

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