Time can start to drag on when you’re waiting for a baby.
Here in Mexico, that waiting begins six weeks prior to your expected due date, when the government begins your twelve-week incapacidad. The first four weeks of my maternity leave, however, were anything but a drag. Free from lesson planning and grading for the first time since August, I dove full-force into all the other things that had been put on hold in my life: I spent days working on my dissertation. I organized and arranged the Tadpole’s room. I stocked the freezer with casseroles and the pantry with homemade granola. I caught up on the household budget. I finally finished unpacking and moving into our house. I dove into some pleasure reading. I celebrated the holidays and even escaped the city for a few days. I reveled in some free time with my family.
But in all my newfound ‘free time,’ I barely had time to get ready for the imminent arrival of the littlest Gibwater. Aside from the baby’s period pelvic thumping and the increasing frequency of practice contractions, I was too busy running errands and crossing things off the to-do list to pause and ready myself (and this Tadpole!) for labor and birth.
So I’m not surprised that, yet again, I find myself here at 42 weeks. With a big, stubborn baby happily nestled into my womb. While he fooled me a few times into thinking labor was coming soon, in hindsight, I think this might have just been his way of asking for some attention in the whirlwind that is and has been my life since we moved to Guadalajara.
Life for the Gibwaters is always busy, whether in Madison or Mexico. Two working parents who care a little too much about their jobs. A scene-stealer of a toddler wreaking giggle-inflected havoc on the world around her. Dissertations gnawing at any sense of relaxation we might try to cultivate. Friends and family scattered around the world to whom we want to stay connected via phone/Skype/email/visit/telepathy. New relationships we want to nurture over dinners and play dates and weekend adventures. Wanderlust nipping at our slowly-settling-down heels. Not to mention the day-to-day of keeping house. Add in the cultural adjustments and the stresses of an international move (while wrangling the roller coaster of pregnancy hormones), and let’s just say that I have been far more topsy-turvy than usual for this little Tadpole’s life thus far.
But when I reached 41 weeks of hosting and growing this little person, something shifted. (And not just because the to-do list had finally been erased from the kitchen white board.) I had another late baby on my hands, and it was time to give him my full attention. Which really means: Turning off my attention. I started taking long naps. Daily. I finally scheduled a massage and a chiropractor’s visit. I stopped working on the interminable methods chapter. I whiled away hours solving crosswords. I rediscovered HBO movies and Treme. I’m reacquainting myself with yoga. I made some more granola.
And best of all: I finally went walking at el Bosque de Colomos.
I can’t believe that I have been in Guadalajara for exactly six months and only last week did I finally make it to Colomos Park. El Bosque, surrounded by apartment buildings and crazy Mexican thru-ways, is an oasis of forested calm in the midst of city chaos. It is a canyon of feathery fir trees, of lone palms greedily stretching for sun rays, of jogging trails winding up and down hills and over little gulleys. It is a cacophony of bird songs—primeval songs, melodic songs, even pigeon songs. It is a maze of gardens and greenhouses, growing bonsai and cacti and poinsettia…and rabbits. It is wild lantana and walls of bougainvillea. It is horses getting shoed, fat squirrels getting fed, and duck/geese hybrids getting chased by small children (or rather, chasing small children). It is part work-out facility, part family picnic spot, part romantic tryst destination. On the weekends, it is lively, with the sounds of yoga classes and screaming toddlers and Michael Jackson dance parties wafting through the trees. And on weekdays, it is serene.
I didn’t realize how much I had been missing serenity until I finally started walking at Colomos Park.
And today, I found it. A day shy of 42 weeks, entering that extra week of gestation I so desperately begged (and failed to convince) my doctor for back in Madison, walking uphill on sun-dappled trails, a song came onto my iPod that I’d never paid much attention to before but that named what I’d been feeling for months. And that tingly feeling of calm, of centeredness, washed over me. It’s a feeling I haven’t had since moving to Guadalajara, where life has felt perpetually off-kilter (and I have felt perpetually on edge). But today, as I walked my baby up and down hills, (re)finding songs that might be the soundtrack for his world debut, turning the music off just long enough to hear the sounds of the forest itself, I felt like myself again. A first moment of calm in so many months of chaos. And I felt relieved to know that I had finally found my spot here in our new home. I thought about walking my littlest one up and down these paths as we get to know each other in the months to come. I thought about how good a jog in this shade will feel after a chaotic day at school come my return to work. I thought about our family lounging by the duck pond or in the Japanese gardens, the four of us all content to be together and surrounded by this beauty.
I felt relief, finally, to know that when I want it, there is serenity and beauty so close to the maddening swirl of my daily life.
Time can really start to drag when you’re waiting for a baby. Or, it can be a blessing. A time to slow down, regroup, and center. Maybe my babies are late just because I make late babies. Or maybe my babies are late because they know their mama needs a little extra prodding to pause long enough in her life to savor this fleeting moment that is the birth of a new family member. And maybe this little Tadpole, maybe he knows—his mama needed to find a place of peace here before she could be his best mama.
Well, I’ve found it, little one. And we’d really like to meet you now. It’s safe to join us here in your birthplace. Mexico.
While living in Mexico, I joked that speaking Spanish forced me to be far more Zen about life: Since I could only speak in the present tense, I was forced to just live in that present tense.
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