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Forever Pregnant? : The nursery's ready--the curtains are perfect and the crib is set. But where is the baby?

August 30, 1992|ROSE HOROWITZ | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

I had it all figured out.

I'd savor those last few weeks before the birth of our first child. I'd spend the days preparing for maternal bliss, sitting in the nursery rocking chair making last-minute decorations, sorting tiny outfits for Baby S., seeing friends for long lunches. It would be a quiet time of special thoughts, special plans and special treatment.

Fantasy. Total fantasy.

In reality, I had to cope with:

* Chaos to get everything done and work that wouldn't go away.

* No chance to decorate.

* Family and friends who got tired of waiting.

* The flu.

* Intense kicking.

* Reading Dr. Spock in the bath and not being able to hoist myself out.

* Dreaming of impossible-to-find baby curtains and incomplete layettes.

* Nightmares of babies getting hurt.

And those were the better nights.

Welcome to the World of Waiting for Your Baby to Be Born.

*

I knew I'd be big in the last few weeks. But I never dreamed that kids would poke their mothers in the supermarket to look at me or that my brother would say: "You look like a tank." Or that I'd look in the mirror, amazed at the network of veins, and that my husband would say: "You're a human Thomas Guide."

In those last weeks, I found myself working past the date I set for my last writing assignment. Editors didn't stop calling. But my work schedule had to change. The back of my left leg ached all the time. The baby dropped, the doctor said. He wanted me to get off my chair every 20 minutes--which was no problem, considering those frequent trips to the bathroom.

Then came panic.

Four weeks before the due date, and I was still converting my office into a nursery. At night, the baby would kick so wildly that my husband would get up and shoot videos of my stomach. I worried that the baby was ready to pop and we'd have to make a mattress out of the old newspapers.

On the day the furniture was delivered, I was still working in the room. The shower gifts were piled in boxes. The crib was bare. Still only beige blinds on the windows.

And I'm looking for the perfect curtains.

Ikea in Burbank is out of the valance fabric I like; I call friends in New York to check for it there. I make notes to sit outside and relax. Easier said than done. At night, I'm awake counting how many hooded towels we have and how many the books recommend.

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to carry on with my regular life. However, when I walked into a Hollywood cafe, the owner asked, "Are you looking for a doctor?"

When I walked into my exercise class 10 minutes late, the instructor told me I can't take the class. "Those are the rules. You didn't warm up," she says. I go to the car and cry. I can't sit home anymore. I take myself to the movies (stopping first for cookies, of course). "Enjoy those mood swings," my husband says when I call.

And I still can't find my curtains.

*

Three weeks to go. The time I expected to be free.

But that night I wake up with a fever, a cold and sore throat. Forget the shopping for decorations. I'm house-bound. So I make the world come to me. I select baby announcements and help with baby care for the first few weeks, conducting my business from the couch.

I'm trying to keep calm as the days tick past, but the phone doesn't stop ringing. My mother-in-law calls to tell me, "I'm running out of patience." My mother, due to arrive in a few days, calls constantly, imploring, "Keep your legs crossed until we get there."

People leave telephone messages asking, "Are you at the hospital? Is it a boy or a girl?" One friend calls and asks, "Aren't you four or five hours overdue?" And top this: Someone says to my husband, "You mean she hasn't had the baby at all?"

And still no curtains. Ikea on Long Island is also out of the valence.

And I'm still growing. The maternity shirts don't fit anymore. I've switched to my husband's T-shirts.

*

Eureka! During the last week's OB visit, we pass by a little shop and I shriek, "Stop. Pretty cafe curtains!" At last! Curtains with little bears--and the shopkeeper will make the final hems. I spot rolls and rolls of beautiful ribbon.

The next day, I spend an hour choosing trimmings for three baskets. The French shopkeeper keeps showing me lace that I'd need to gather with thread. I look at him blankly. "You don't sew?" he asks. He sells me a glue gun. It seems like a lot to spend on ribbons and a glue gun. But this baby is my first and it'll be worth it--at least for me.

*

I wake up on Saturday--my due date--expectant like there's a surprise birthday party around the corner. But the guest of honor shows no signs of arriving that Passover-Easter weekend. I swim for the first time since becoming pregnant. I cling to the railing as I step into the pool and a little girl in the water gasps, "Oh, my gosh." But that immersion in cold water on a hot day is wonderful, and I feel lighter than I have in weeks.

Despite the overtime, I kept my cool. A friend who went beyond the magic date was not very encouraging: "After the due date, the next six or seven days were hell."

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