On (the) Edge
Juliette asked me last night how I was feeling. "Are you excited, nervous, happy, sad, what?" she asked, adding "I'm all of those."
"I'm pretty level, actually," I replied. And, emotionally, I'd say that's pretty spot on. I'm not feeling anything particularly strongly right now--in a lot of ways it hardly seems real that I'm going to have another child in less than twelve hours.
Something's definitely going on with me, though. All day there's been a certain tension in my body. I'm having trouble sitting still, and as I type this, my fingers aren't finding the right keys with my normal accuracy. I even feel a little sick to my stomach. Clearly, the anticipation is affecting me, even if my conscious mind isn't aware of it.
It doesn't make much sense at first glance. I have a child already, I know what I'm getting myself into, more or less. There's no real reason for me to be anxious--I know I can handle this.
The difference, though, is that when Jason was born, it was sudden. We didn't know when, exactly, it would be happening--I was in the middle of a conversation at work when Juliette called me to tell me her water had broken. This time we have a schedule, and the concreteness of it is making the experience feel quite different.
I don't really know how I'm going to get to sleep tonight, but the alarm will be going off in seven and a half hours, so I had better figure it out. Good night, everybody. The next time you hear from me, I'm going to be a dad. Again.
(For my father-in-law [and Esther]: Kaynehora.)
I've been thinking a lot about liminal points lately. It's a concept I first came across in my classical mythology class back in college, having to do with the religious practices of the ancient Greeks. A liminal point, you see, is a point of transition, and for the Greeks these were a big deal. It was at these points of moving from one place to another that, they believed, you were most vulnerable to evil spirits, and so, for example, when setting out on a journey they would stop at the edge of their city to perform protective rituals. And it wasn't just literal transitions like city limits and national borders that were important, but also figurative ones, like the birth of a child or the passing from life to death. Each of these moments had to be properly respected, and proper precautions had to be taken to ensure everything would proceed smoothly.
It's not surprising that liminality would be on my mind these days, considering how much of my life is in flux right now. I'm in the process of changing my career, which both excites and terrifies me, not to mention keeps me so busy that I haven't had much time for personal writing--I've been spending between two and four hours a night working on either planning or post-production every night for the past several weeks.
And then, of course, there's the fact that in less than 60 hours, I'll have a daughter.
I've had over a year to prepare myself for the idea of having another child, counting from when we started trying. I still can't get my head around it. In some ways, it's harder to understand than it was when I was waiting for Jason to be born. Sure, there was a lot I didn't know back then, but it was easier to imagine. Sure, I'd never changed a diaper, myself, but I'd been around babies before, I'd rocked them and gotten them to laugh at me and even held one through the night. I didn't know what it would be like to love and be loved by my own child, but I knew what it was like to love my wife, my family, my dog. (I know it's not the same, the love you feel for and receive from a pet, but, honestly, it's really more a difference of degree than of kind--a huge degree, to be sure, but still.)
Oddly, it's the very fact that I do have experience as a parent that's making it so much more confusing this time. I know how it feels to look down at my sleeping boy and feel so much affection that it feels like I can't breathe, to want nothing more than to climb into bed beside him and hold him and feel the warmth of his breath on my cheek. I can't imagine feeling the same way about anyone else as I do about him--it feels like I'm at my capacity, my arms are completely full and I couldn't possibly stretch them any further to pick up anything else. I know I will love my daughter, but right now I can't understand what that means.
And I know, too, how to do all of the little tasks that are required in order to care for a baby. I know how to change her diaper, how to dress her, bathe her, feed her, burp her. There are a million things that I never had to do before Jason was born that are now completely familiar to me. But that very familiarity makes it that much harder to comprehend just how my life will be different with a second child. I know that things are going to change completely again, but I have no idea how.
And so, faced with the prospect of once again venturing into the unknown, I find myself engaging in my own rituals of liminality. I make lists, pack bags, go over my plans again and again. I check my camera batteries. I write. It helps a little. Soon enough, the liminal point will have passed, and maybe I'll be able to let out this breath I've been holding. I hope so.