She sits across me in the suburban coffee shop, hands cupped around a warm cardboard cup just like mine. Soccer moms with their teams in tow troop through the store, swarms of kids buzzing in and out the door in the morning sunlight.
Her eyes are bright as she talks, but I see the sadness behind her smile, steal a glimpse back into the dark mirror of my own once-waiting.
They’re seeing a new doctor, starting a new treatment, charting cycles and crossing fingers. She’s got a good feeling about this month. Sure, it’s been two long years of trying and she’s creeping closer to forty, but the doctor said her numbers were looking up. And there’s no reason not to be hopeful, right?
Waiting. To have a baby in her arms.
. . .
We’re getting ready for bed in the midnight dark, zipping window blinds down with a snap when I notice that the porch lights are still on across the street. The sleepy home of our quiet neighbors now stands on high alert, beacons shining bright and bold in the black of night.
“What do you think that’s for?” I wonder out loud to my husband. “They never leave the lights on.”
“It’s prom night,” he shrugs as we turn to sleep. “They’re probably waiting up.”
Waiting. To have their baby home safe.
. . .
Parenthood starts with waiting. Nine months at least, sometimes years longer before the due date countdown starts to tick.
But no one told me that pregnancy would be only the beginning of the waiting.
Waiting outside bedroom doors for the baby to stop crying, exhausted after every expert’s advice fails to secure sweet sleep.
Waiting next to the phone for the doctor to call with the test results, heart thumping to hear the news that life will soon ease back to everyday-ok.
Waiting in airport lounges to catch the last flight home, arms aching to get back to the kids and cuddle them close.
Waiting for the baby to wean, the toddler to walk, the preschooler to potty train, the spouse to get home, the fever to break, the teeth to cut through, the school year to start, the summer to arrive.
Some waiting is the natural nervousness of a novice. I look back on the few short years since I became a mother and marvel at how often I made mountains out of mole hills, worrying about milestones they missed or markers that seemed delayed.
Some waiting is the weary work of weathered wisdom. I look around me at parents in all stages of this lifelong calling, waiting for their kids to find a job, to move out, to fall in love with the right person, to follow their own path.
When impatience starts to get the better of me, when I find myself straining forward to see what’s next, when I tire of trying to live in the present, I wrestle with waiting.
But wrestling never wins; it is only when I stop to catch my breath that I realize there is only This. In preparation for That, perhaps. But waiting is about the present, not the future.
It’s the only way I can live right now.
. . .
I lie there in the quiet dark, long after he’s fallen asleep next to me, and I wonder what it will feel like to wait for my boys to come home.
I waited so long for them to arrive, and some days I’m so impatient waiting for them to grow up, and I realize that all this work is a waiting game.
To parent is to wait: to watch, to witness, to wonder what comes next, to want more for your child than what they have today. But to wait is also to be forced to slow down, to relinquish the illusion of control, to put your desires on hold while life makes other plans.
What could be harder than waiting? I wonder in the warmth of my comfortable bed, two blessings of boys tucked in their rooms down the hall, no one I love speeding out on the slippery roads too late tonight.
This life is a relentless pull, asking us to stop when we want to go, making us release when we want to grab tight. We have to wait in the midst of all this back and forth. We never know what’s coming; we waste our time worrying about what never happens.
But when we wait – that is an act of faith.