Deliverance is nigh! (What have I gotten myself into?)

Today, I woke up, took the requisite 10 minutes to launch my manatee-shaped self off the side of the bed, and stumbled into the bathroom to put in my contacts. Before I could see straight, I received a jolt of an entirely different kind of clarity.

“T minus 7 days,” a voice in my head intoned ominously.

Today I am writing my weekly entry in the baby blog, as I do every Sunday. At this time next week, if my due date is anything to go by, I will not be posting an update on my pregnancy. I will be at the hospital, participating in the miracle of childbirth — a beautiful and blessed event which, from most accounts, tends to be a little less like “Touched by an Angel” and a little more like Linda Blair’s role in “The Exorcist.” (Chris, I apologize in advance for any cursing, vomiting or head-spinning that may occur. The baby made me do it.)

My labor bags have been packed for a few weeks, and zipped up at the foot of our bed — two copies of my birth plan lying neatly atop an unconscionable amount of gear — for a few days. The carseat has been strapped snugly in the back of the Nissan for a week and a half. The changing table was delivered, at long last, on Tuesday. And as of a few days ago, I have ceased to wear my beloved white capri pants in public lest my waters break in the grocery store.

Dr. Goncalves informed me Wednesday that, rather than waiting until I am two full weeks overdue, he will not let me go past the 19th without inducing. Which means I have, at most, 18 days to savor these last moments of discomfort and immobility. The baby has run out of space and isn’t moving as much, and is getting so huge she may crack my ribs asunder and pop out my midsection, a la “Alien,” even before those 18 days have elapsed. Chris says he will be surprised if I make it to my due date, although he seems skeptical of my claims that she will come bursting forth from my abdomen absent a C-section.

In short, everything is ready for the birth. Maybe even me.

Not ready enough, mind you, to keep my legs shaved in preparation for the inevitable day when they will be poking out from an undignified hospital gown (hey, shaving’s hard work when you can’t see or reach past your belly). Not ready enough to actually put the labor bags in the car. And definitely not ready enough to take the Castor oil Chris gave me as a gag gift for my birthday.

In fact, as uncomfortable as I am and as impossible as it seems that the baby can remain in these cramped quarters for a second longer, I am hard-pressed to accept the possibility that next week, I won’t be writing about the joys of rib pain or edema or Braxton Hicks. It is difficult to grasp that, by next week, I could be writing about the joys of holding a newborn in my arms (although, in keeping with my whiny nature, I assuredly would also be touching on the joys of attaching a ravenous barracuda to your most sensitive parts, and, of course, the infamous squirt bottle).

Right now, it’s difficult to think that, no matter how long it feels like it’s been, I can’t be pregnant forever.

And as absolutely horrifying as the idea is of bringing an utterly helpless little being into the world and being solely responsible (according to Freud) for her every future psychological scar — not to mention the only slighty less-scary prospect of labor and delivery compounded with the realization that, as a first-time mom, I have no idea what to expect despite having read “What to Expect” about 10 times over — there is definitely a big part of me that can’t wait.

No more back pain. No more rib pain. No more feeling like the baby’s about to crack my pelvis and fall out. No more edema. No more ill-timed contractions. No more peeing five times a night. No more difficulty rolling over in my sleep. No more being kicked violently awake. No more using Chris as leverage to pull myself off the couch.

No more wondering what the baby’s doing or what facial expression she’s making. No more wistfulness that Chris isn’t experiencing the same thing I am (the cool baby movements, of course, not all the misery!). No more obsessive worrying over the state of the wee one’s placenta and umbilical cord.

I’m fully aware that I will never again get any sleep and that my days will be measured out in poopy diapers, colic episodes, and outfits ruined by spit-up. I realize that I will, in all likelihood, not be able to shower or eat or — heaven forbid — read a book that does not deal with pokey little puppies or little engines that could. This scares me.

But I’ve known since I was about 18 months old, and carefully tucking my assortment of “babies” into the pint-size crib my parents had given me, that my life would not be complete without the opportunity to have a few real tiny adorable humans to take care of. Despite my (very) prolonged state of disbelief that this is actually happening, and despite my extreme trepidation — perhaps even panic — at the prospect of such an important and immutable event, I am so excited at the opportunity to hold my very own child.

Whether she comes right on time next week, holds on until my mom comes out on the 19th, or makes her arrival tomorrow morning, I am sure that, sometime between early labor and the pushing stage, I will realize that this is real and I will, indeed, NOT be pregnant forever. Certainly not for another month, and maybe not even for another week. And, sometime after our daughter is born, I will realize that this is the one baby — the baby for whom I’ve waited so long — who I won’t eventually have to hand back to her mother. In order to take her home, I won’t need to hide her in my purse and make a break for the door, as I’ve half-jokingly contemplated doing with a few particularly sweet handbag-size newborns. Because when I leave, she’s supposed to come with me. When I place her in her crib, I will know that instead of some other couple taking her out the next morning, Chris and I will do the honors, because I’m no longer just renting.

The imminence of motherhood is both frightening and wonderful at once. With my due date in just one week, it will be impossible not to start each day with the words “T minus…”. And with just two-and-a-half weeks left at most, I feel torn between an urgent need to savor as much quality time as possible with Chris and the anticipation of being handed a sweet, scrunchy-faced bundle of little girl. How funny, after all these years of waiting and these months of wanting the baby “Out! Now!” that my last days as a human whale should be spent in this miasma of ambivalence and disbelief instead of in the determined, unequivocal state of readiness I had always expected.

But, regardless of my last-minute jitters, the countdown continues. Even if I’m pregnant a week from today, and (not outside the realm of possibility) two weeks from today, at some point it’s going to be “T minus one last little push” and, much like our little daughter, I will be forcibly ushered into a new world.

Coming soon: The week 39 belly pics.

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