When you’re this pregnant, every minute itches. It’s like waiting for Christmas without knowing what day it is. The sheer potentiality of your situation impresses even the most casual observer: Look at that pregnant lady! She’s gonna blow — any second now! You can hardly walk down a street without imagining the sound of a drumroll, following you like a subtitle.

It doesn’t seem possible that the human body can sustain this state: your blood vessels are thrumming, your hands and feet swollen like puppy paws, your skin and even your bones stretched farther than you imagined they could. Your abdomen resembles a watermelon in size and shape, but is closer in texture to a bag of rocks and twigs. And someone is somehow managing to headbutt your bladder and kick your solar plexus at the same time. You’re a sausage of the astounding, stuffed so full of miracles that you’re truly ready to burst.

It’s all I can think about.

I’ve stopped wondering and now am more or less convinced: it’s time for this baby to come. No more waffling, no more bewailing the impending end of our Charmed Storybook Yuppie Lives. We’re ready. Our hospital bag is packed, our freezer is full, our house is clean, our affairs are in order. We have a decorated nursery, a remodeled bathroom, parental leave plans in place and a clutch of grandmothers in waiting. We have a Boppy, a Bumbo, a breastpump and bottles, and a bouncy seat. We have a federal holiday tomorrow and three days until Mayhem’s due date. What’s left? Nothing but a cymbal crash, at some unspecified point in the near future.

All of my vitals, and Mayhem’s, got a thumbs-up at this week’s OB appointment. Since Sunday I’ve been able to walk again, apparently because Mayhem has finally quit pinching my nerves and hunkered down into my pelvis for the long haul. As nice a development as this is, it means little for my own forward progress: I am no more dilated or effaced than I’ve been for the past two weeks. And since everything looks so great, nobody feels any pressing need to do anything about it. “We’ll probably schedule an induction at your 41-week appointment,” the doctor said, “if you go that long.”

“What can I do in the meantime?” I asked.

“Just watch for signs of labor,” she replied.

The problem is, I wouldn’t recognize signs of labor if they mugged me in broad daylight. What does a contraction feel like? There are more odd sensations coming from my midsection than I have the vocabulary to describe. Some of these may be contractions. Most likely are not. On one hand, I’ve been having bursts of “nesty-domesty” fussiness, where I suddenly, with all my might, NEED to do laundry or go grocery shopping. On the other hand, the urges fizzle just as quickly: I’m on deck to bring two casseroles to Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, and have not yet begun prep work on either.

I’m on such high alert that right now, anything could be a sign of labor. When you’re this keyed, every bit of noise sounds like a signal — until so many of them pile up on top of each other that all you hear is the noise.

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