We're Almost There

She had been crying on and off for the last 100kms. No amount of singing or reassurance or stopping to give her a quick cuddle would inspire her to sleep. It was long past her bedtime.

We were coming up on the last leg of the journey on a country road heading back “home” to my parent’s house—our retreat space. It’s winter. The crying suddenly reached a new peak and so I turned up the music, defeated. This lasted about five kilometers before I couldn’t stand it anymore and pulled over onto the shoulder with a huge sigh. The tires crunched the snow.

There is no interior light in the car and so I couldn’t just look back and see what was happening unless I shone my phone’s flashlight on her, which isn’t exactly safe. Nevertheless, each time I’d done so up until this point in the journey, I’d found her eyes open and frustrated, wanting to be out of the car and for mommy to “baobao 包包” her (hold her).

Now why was she suddenly crying louder?

I chose not to use the flashlight to investigate. Instead, I snapped on the emergency flashers and got out of the driver’s seat, swaying my now overgrown pregnant body the few steps around the car to open her back door.

She’d dropped her soother. It’s a bedtime crutch, I know, but she was already two hours past her scheduled sleep time and has lately been refusing to sleep in her car seat, even though I’ve tried to strategically schedule journeys to coincide with nap or bed times. I riffled around in the backseat until I found it, wedged between the car seat’s base and the upholstery. Victorious.

She quieted immediately then and I kissed her forehead telling her that it wouldn’t be long now. We’d be home in less than fifteen minutes, I cooed. If she could close her eyes now, I’d just carry her to her crib when we got there, I promised. She still looked at me with big, weepy eyes, but I touched her nose with my gloved hand and smiled before closing the door.

Then I stood a moment by the outside of the car in the cold winter darkness. I stared into the sky. A deep breath. My own tears surprised me when they rolled down, hot on my already chilled cheeks. Like night’s blackness, exhaustion descended.

That was November 27th.  I drove those last fifteen minutes knowing I couldn’t travel anymore. I was done. Behind the wheel for longer than an hour and my tailbone and hips complain, my pregnant belly already large enough to graze the steering wheel. And Echo was complaining, too, as per her refusal to sleep (although she did finally fall asleep after that, just in time to pull into the driveway.) And travelling alone, without someone to help you distract your toddler when they’re unhappy—well, it’s hard.

I have had this problem before. I think I can do more than I can and I find myself physically spent before my plans have all been fully realized. Maybe it comes from having been a full-time touring artist for so long, especially throughout my twenties. I had the energy. I over-booked and drove endlessly and never seemed to run out of steam. But now, older and more than 8 months pregnant and also parenting, I have to learn to slow down. I have no choice.

I guiltily cancelled on four different friends, but they were all very understanding. I told them they were welcome to visit me in cottage country (a lot closer than Beijing!) but that I couldn’t go anywhere else now that I was down to the last month of my gestation. My inertia ran out, I explained, and I ground to a halt. My tires crunched in the snow.

I’ve now spent the last ten days sipping tea, building fires, entertaining gracious visitors (who have kindly brought groceries and smiles), and usually spend my afternoons (when Echo naps) staring at the falls that flow behind my parent’s home or reading great writing or simply chipping away at household chores that are hard to do with a toddler underfoot.

It’s a bit lonely, but I’ll choose lonely over exhausted every time.

Now I have only 17 days to go before this baby is supposed to arrive. He’s at full term, I’m told. He could come anytime. Guo Jian arrives in 9 days. It’s the final countdown.

I have started to feel my whole body expand—joints and skin alike. My face has gotten fuller in just these past ten days. My belly is a hazard to all I try to walk around, including inanimate objects like stools and tables. The tipping angle of my waddle increases by the day. So far, no swollen feet, but I think the baby has taken up some extra residence in my ass as well. It’s gotten so wide! What can ya do? I am also way too pregnant for peaceful sleep.

But the environment embodies peaceful, so I’m already ahead. I’ll let the quiet of this place descend on my spirit while these final days fold around us, wrapping us up in their winter warmth.

Just close your eyes. Everything will be okay.

We’re almost there.

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