The week before a performance is always packed with rehearsals. It’s not unusual to have only one or two evenings off during concert week; between piano rehearsals and orchestra rehearsals and however many other rehearsals people can come up with, the rest of your time is pretty much spoken for until the final ovation.

Carnegie HallThe week before a Carnegie Hall performance takes normal concert-week craziness to a whole new level — particularly when that performance involves pulling together two children’s choruses from two different cities, two adult choruses from two different countries, and a double orchestra from a third country, all of whom are only in the same city as each other for a few days each. This translates to three to six hours of rehearsal and/or performance every day, starting tomorrow and running almost nonstop through next Friday morning, when we’ll wake up and realize that it all actually happened.

This can get a bit tiring even if you’re not eight months pregnant.

Mayhem is ready. She’s raring to go and has developed quite an affection for the Mahler 8th, if her gymnastics during Monday’s rehearsal are anything to go by. And I’m ready too, I suppose, although I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m slightly dreading the schedule this week. I’ll be 34 weeks tomorrow and am starting to notice the first hints of the third-trimester slowdown: everything feels just a bit heavier and creakier, stiffer and slower than it felt yesterday or the day before. This is probably the last week that I’ll be able to manage a performance marathon. Fortunately, it’s the last week that I’ll have to.

It’s even stranger to think ahead to the following week. It’s hard to imagine the calm to come, once I’m no longer on the hook for semiweekly rehearsals or other singing obligations. I’ll officially be on maternity leave from my non-day-job. Imagine the naps! The loafing! The nesting! Suddenly my evenings will be mine again, to do with as I please.

Well, every evening except Wednesday, which is still booked up with Bradley childbirth class.

For two months we’ve been dutifully attending class, playing along, nodding sagely and suppressing our irreverent giggles whenever the instructor proffered another bit of abject misinformation. (My favorite: at birth, your bag of waters contains five gallons of amniotic fluid. Five. GALLONS.) But I’d have to say that, three quarters of the way through the class, Bradley has disappointed us. We still haven’t learned any breathing-during-labor techniques — does Bradley even teach any? — nor have we been enlightened by any magical pain-management suggestions, other than frequent changes of position and mentally “getting in the zone.” (Whatever that means. I plan to sing a few bars of “Erbarme dich” during each contraction. YMMV.)

We’re not committed to a birth without drugs, without monitoring, without “interventions.” We’re not really committed to anything, birthwise. If I had my druthers I’d prefer a birth that did not require any stitches afterward; but really, the only commitment we’ve made at this point is that & and I will be doing this together, in lockstep, every second of the way. And even if that requires major surgery, so long as he’s there (and our baby comes out healthy), I’ll take it.

Still, I like the idea of warming up to labor, especially the part where I get to stay at home for as much of it as I can handle. At home I have good food and plenty to drink and comfy furniture, entertaining pets and a jacuzzi and &’s stockpile of funny movies, and none of these things are likely to follow me to the hospital. So I’d rather wait to go there until potential boredom is no longer my biggest problem.

But all of this is hypothetical. I’ve been reading books, Googling, taking Bradley classes, watching dozens of Birth Day reruns, hoping that something would help me feel just a little more prepared. No luck. The experience of childbirth remains impossibly opaque, inconceivable, a total black box to me. I understand the physiology of dilation and effacement and contractions and so on, but the actual act — and what it must feel like, with or without chemical assistance — is beyond my imagination. I want to practice for this, too. I don’t know how I can go into this performance without at least some rehearsal.

One way or another, all this will come to pass, and I’ll have no idea how. But maybe that’s the good news.

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