Circa 1988: I have my first experience with seriously procrastinated homework and end up doing my math problems by flashlight long after I’m supposed to be asleep.

June 1996: I decide to audition for high school graduation speaker and find myself writing my speech during 6th period journalism, about 20 minutes before the try-outs.

March 2003: Determined to graduate with Honors from BYU but hopelessly far behind on my Great Works requirements, I marathon through about 12 hours in the Lee Library basement computer lab, “reminding” myself (via Wikipedia) of the plots, characters, themes, and criticism of about 50 novels, plays, operas, and films.

June 2005: Fifteen minutes away from defending my master’s thesis, I copy and paste a hodge-podge of relevant quotations, dates, and events into a handout to give to my committee—the handout that is supposed to serve as the overall outline for my presentation. The handout may be (but probably isn’t) spell-checked before I print it off and sprint down the hall to my advisor’s office.

February 17, 2009: At 39.9 weeks pregnant, I turn my back on the disorganized nursery, dirty dishes, and unanswered mail and decide that this is the perfect time to recommence my blogging activity.

Actually, blogging is a slightly better choice than taking a nap, which I was seriously considering around 11:15 this morning. Yes, Baby Sloan is due tomorrow, and I find myself in a very familiar situation: a major event is about to happen, and I’ve managed to procrastinate preparing until it’s laughably late. Here’s my list of what I thought I’d do prior to her arrival:

  1. Check out, read, and subject my husband to book reports of What To Expect When You’re Expecting, vols. 1-29; Hypnobirthing for Dummies; Common Childhood Illnesses: An Herbal Approach; and Sensible Sleeping for First-time Parents (okay, I may have made up some of those titles).
  2. Sew curtains for the nursery–and make a matching baby quilt with the remnants (please note that this would first require me to learn how to sew and purchase a sewing machine).
  3. Finish scrap-booking the pictures from: (a) my college graduation trip to Italy; (b) my graduate school years; (c) my high school-teaching years; (d) our dating, engagement, and wedding; and (e) our first year of marriage. I mean, we’re going to be taking LOTS of pictures of Baby Sloan, right? So it stands to reason that I should be caught up on all of my other pictures, right?
  4. Price-compare between Food Lion and Sam’s Club to determine if a SC membership will pay for itself in the cost of diapers.
  5. Read Les Miserables. Partly because I said that I had when I turned in my Great Works portfolio.
  6. Clean the apartment from top to bottom, including the baseboards in the nursery and the gross mildew stains in the shower.
  7. Make dentist appointments.
  8. Do my February visiting teaching.
  9. Figure out how to use a front pack, sling, and baby wrap. And take an Infant CPR class while I’m at it.
  10. Etc.

So my question is–can I cram for childbirth in the same way I crammed for an AP exam or thesis defense? School taught me that every important thing can be studied for, written, or submitted between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6:43 a.m. on the due date. That approach wasn’t always successful–I haven’t taken a math class since high school, and I wasn’t LCHS’s graduation speaker. But hey, it got me through a couple of degrees and into some decent jobs. And, I’m embarrassed to admit, the Honors Program actually asked if they could put my Great Works Portfolio on file as a model of what they were looking for (oh, the guilt).

Childbirth and parenting, though, seem like creatures of a different stripe. Perhaps one oughtn’t to procrastinate preparing for parenting. After all, the responsibility of bringing a child into the world is orders of degrees more important than the responsibility of turning in your homework. Surely for this most important of mortal experiences, I would give a bit more of my time, focus, and energy than would be ordinarily due to a 5-paragraph essay. If our preparation for something reflects its value to us, I fear that my lack of preparation for Baby Sloan’s arrival suggests that I’m not properly valuing this event, this epoch, this child. Oh, the guilt.

On the other hand, perhaps one can’t actually cram for parenting. Perhaps even Hypnobirthing for Dummies won’t prepare me for what will actually happen to my body within the next week or so. But if that’s the case, my entire paradigm for obtaining knowledge and preparing for big events is undermined.

I was writing about just these issues in a family letter a few weeks ago, and I got this response from my 85-year-old grandmother:

Naomi, I am quite amused about all the things that you are doing about having a baby–classes, books information, etc.  When I had children, they just came in a perfectly natural way.  As  matter of fact, if I had read anything about having twins, I probably would have had a heart attack.  Anyway, just remember the Lord knows what women have to go through, so just trust in him.  love Grandma”

Perhaps she’s right. Prior to baptism, I read The Book of Mormon. Prior to marriage, I read Purity and Passion (Just kidding. No really, I didn’t–I promise). But prior to childbirth, perhaps there’s nothing really to read, nothing really to cram, no body of knowledge to master which will prepare me to pass childbirth with flying colors. That’s not to say that I’m not glad to know what “bloody show,” “latent first phase,” and “episiotemy” mean–especially if those are the words that doctors start throwing around when I’m in the middle of a major contraction. But as my grandmother reminded me, women have been giving birth far longer than Barnes and Noble has been stocking a “Maternity and Childbirth” shelf.

So what will I do with the rest of my day-before-the-due-date? Well, that nap still does sound mighty good.