I sort of hated having a due date when I was pregnant.
The thing I hated about it was that it was really just a doctor’s best guess. As a natural born planner, a guess wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. For such a monumental life change, I wanted a sure thing.
I spent most of my pregnancy operating under the assumption that Ryan wouldn’t arrive until pretty close to the due date. Then, at 34 weeks, a friend of mine pointed out that she’d had her son at 35 weeks. I ran home to pack a hospital bag, suddenly worried he’d come early.
And then I sat around and waited. And waited. AND WAITED. And the little stinker was 10 days late.
Still, when you’re pregnant, you can usually pinpoint the baby’s arrival to a span of 3-4 weeks. I’m realizing now what a luxury that is.
This time is very different. This time, there is no due date. I have no ultrasounds to share. There’s no growing bump to compare to the first time around.
But all the same, we’re expecting. I’m not going to give birth in nine months, but at some point (hopefully) this year, we will become a family of four.
We will spend the next few months proving ourselves worthy as parents and then one day (in three months? in eight months?), our agency will call us up and they’ll say they’ve found our child. Technically, we’ll foster our child first, for however many months (years?) it takes for his or her case to work its way through the legal system.
Ohhhh, the variables involved in growing your family this way. The variables run circles around my brain.
It’s actually a lot of the same variables you have with a pregnancy. You don’t know the child’s gender or personality or preferences. But with a baby, some of it doesn’t matter right away. Trial and error is your best friend. Screaming baby? Try milk. No? Try rocking. Still no? Change the diaper. Shift your position. Give them a different view. Take off a layer of clothing. And on and on.
When you screw it all up, when you still can’t stop the screaming, it’s fine because babies don’t remember. They might be mad, they might be uncomfortable, but they don’t know enough about the world to blame you for it.
We’re not having a baby, though. We’re requesting a young child, approximately Ryan’s age, give or take a couple years in either direction. And experience tells me that a 3- to 5-year-old knows when you’re screwing it all up.
You’ve got to be a little more on your game with a preschooler. They might hate the color green but you don’t know that, so you give them the green cup and it enunciates a key insecurity in both of you: You’re not the real mom. You’re an impostor. A mom would have known her child hates green but loves red. A mom would have reached automatically for the red cup.
This time, though, I know better than to spend too much time treading in my own worry. It’s a stressful waste of time, one that doesn’t change life’s outcomes.
I worried Ryan would be colicky. He wasn’t. I worried we wouldn’t bond right away. We did. I worried he’d be born with some kind of developmental delay. Nope, all good.
I didn’t worry his immune system would be a pathetic revolving door of germs for the first two years. But it was. So, what’s the point in worrying when I always worry about the wrong things?
Instead, I’m focusing on that which I can control. I can fill out the 1-inch-thick pile of paperwork. I can set up the kid’s room. I can line up babysitters for our adoption training sessions.
And, I can follow Ryan’s lead. Four-year-olds are wise, you know. He doesn’t worry about timelines or what-ifs. His concerns are much simpler yet somehow more profound.
He wants to know whether his brother or sister will watch movies with him; more importantly, he wants to know whether I’ll make two bowls of popcorn so they can each have one.
Two bowls of popcorn. Yes, I can do that.