The Stillness That Remains / by Cara Stolen

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The house is sticky and hot, filled with the odd aromatic combination of taco soup and blueberry muffins. I spent the morning in the kitchen and the fruits of my labor are laid out on our dining room table. Beside the soup and muffins, the afternoon sun streams through the patio door onto a color-coded list on the open page of my tattered notebook. Meals are written in neat rows, with careful lines through each to signify completion.

As I pace my ‘talking on the phone’ path around our rental house, I survey this scene with pride, and listen as my dear friend describes the grueling details of the first six months of her son’s life: the screaming, the colic, the lack of sleep.

‘I just know I’m going to have a baby like that,’ I tell her, thinking that mentally preparing for it will protect me from disappointment.

My belly tightens and I place my hand just below my right rib to feel his foot stretching against me. It’s hard to believe that my due date is only four weeks away.  

‘Maybe you’re right,’ she says. ‘I know I wasn’t prepared for it.’

Pausing, I grab the laundry basket at the foot of the stairs. A few months ago I took these stairs two at a time. Today, I’m panting when I reach the top. Our conversation turns to the drought rumors, and how unseasonably warm it is for May. As we say our goodbyes, I lower myself into the rocking chair that now sits in the corner of our room and cradle my swollen belly in both hands.

Rocking gently in the chair that my own mom rocked me in, I try to picture myself as a mom. Am I ready? The freezer is full, the tiny clothes are washed and folded, and the car seat has been installed for weeks. Keeping myself busy with physical preparations has served as an excellent distraction from my fear. But with my tasks completed, worry creeps into the stillness that remains. Will I be a good mom? I reach out to finger the lace on the borrowed bassinet and imagine putting our baby to sleep in it. I am so afraid that I will fail at this. I feel the baby shift in my belly, as if to comfort me. Will I be able to make peace with what I cannot control?  

I sink deeper in my chair and whisper softly, ‘ready or not.’