I am standing on a ledge. And I’m about to jump. The thought of the jump is as terrifying as it is exhilarating. I don’t know when it’ll be my turn to jump, and there’s no way to know, all I know is that it is close. The unknown and unpredictability of it all is invigoratingly suspenseful.
Pregnancy is filled with thousands of conversations from friends, and strangers, indulging unsolicited warnings and advice about kids. They tell you about the morning sickness. They warn you about the swollen feet, the back pain, the cravings and the hormonal rollercoaster shifts. They make you believe that you will never sleep again and that you have signed the death certificate of your own identity. They touch your belly without asking and they have an opinion on how much or how little you are eating or exercising. Everything you do is under scrutiny and they’re all just watching and cheering you on as you fumble your way through the ten-month journey.
What no one tells you though is what standing on the edge feels like. I’ve heard that once you are a parent you can never imagine life not being a parent. Your former self is a distant memory and life without your child or children in it seems like the world is missing its most important piece. Perhaps that’s why the adults who have jumped the jump of parenthood don’t even remember to tell you what the ledge feels like. It’s a period that can only be experienced once – when you are a first timer, waiting to understand the mystery of childbirth and parental love.
It is state of limbo. Your life is about to never be the same; intellectually you understand why and how, but emotionally your heart is illiterate and cannot process exactly what is about to happen. As Brandon and I edge in on the final days of our holding period there are a few things we know to be true:
- We know we already love our little Ellie, but we don’t know what this unconditional, undeniable type of love actually feels like yet
- We know we are ecstatic to be parents, but we don’t know how to parent despite the piles of books we have devoured in preparation for her arrival
- We know she will be a beautiful medley of the two of us as one, but we don’t know what it’s like to cradle something that is half of each of us in our arms
- We know we have everything we need and her nursery is beautifully arranged, but we don’t know how to use half of what we have for her, if we even have the right amount of clothes in the right sizes or exactly where in the car the car seat is supposed to go
- We know we have countless nights of sleep deprivation ahead of us, but we don’t know how it will feel to revel in tenderly caring for her and proudly watching her grow as a result of her midnight feedings
- We know she will demand diaper changes and burping sessions, but we don’t know how we will enjoy the conversations we are bound to have discussing her bodily functions and health as we fumble our way through the boxes of Pampers
- We know that our lives will never be the same, but we don’t know how the life of this child will actually deepen and strengthen our love for one another
- We know that Ellie is uniquely and wonderfully made by God, but we don’t know how much she will teach us abut the love of our Father and His great love for us
I liken it to not knowing how to swim, but being midway in the air about to be plunged into the water. The water you see before you as you fly through the air is beautiful – shades of blue so serene that photography couldn’t come close to capturing its majestic rippling. You can see faint traces of the giant tropical fish through the clear waters, a rainbow of living colors, and you want to be surrounded by that beauty – for you know it is more vibrant, more beautiful and more captivating underwater than above water – but you are in the wrong element. You are still in the air and the real beauty happens in the water. You believe that you’ll be able to swim – in fact, you have no real choice at this point – and you know that it’s going to be the most beautiful experience of your life, but you have no clue what it will actually feel like. You are a non-swimmer about to become a swimmer, an outsider looking in, but an outsider who is on the brink of being an insider.
You have no idea when the transition from outsider to insider will happen. It could be minutes from now, days or even weeks. The little life inside of you decides that for you, as you stay suspended in the air of anticipation.
I continue to wait, like someone waiting eagerly at the front door for Publisher’s Clearing House to arrive with a giant check, except my prize is better than any larger-than-life check could ever be. These suspended moments of life are a once in a lifetime experience, reserved for first time parents waiting to be insiders, waiting to understand love in a new way, waiting for their hearts to explode to a new size and new state of being.