I have a particular weakness for books about France and French ways of life. Before I ever even tried to conceive, I read French Kids Eat Everything, intrigued by this lack of fussiness. I loved Julia Child’s My Life in France. And so, pregnant and looking for something sort of light and fun, I picked up Bringing Up Bébé.
One of the bits that stayed with me the most is a subtlety in language, in translation. The French don’t ask if you’re “expecting.” They ask if you’re “waiting” for a baby. These could almost be taken as synonyms, and we could tangle ourselves up in semantics; I mean, if I’m expecting someone, I’m clearly waiting for them. But there are a lot of connotations implicit to both words, and the more time I’ve had to wait, the more I’ve given myself over to considering them.
I posted a photo on Instagram a month or so ago, of a dish of three eggs, and I merely said, “Anticipation.”
A follower asked if I was anticipating them for breakfast or for hatching. This struck me as funny – it hadn’t occurred to me that I could be waiting for them to hatch. I was waiting for them to lose some of their chill, to come to room temperature. I also grated zucchini and waited for that to release some of its moisture in the colander in the sink. But in such a bigger way, I was waiting for a hatching, of sorts. Still am.
I have an app on my phone, an extension of the classic book What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I can open it on any given day and see a video of what developmental phase my baby is in that week. I can read blog posts about everything from maternity photo fashion ideas to leaky breasts to gestational diabetes. I’m given a road map of pregnancy landmarks – I’ll experience this or that, I’ll need to consider this idea or these products – and so I construct a system of expectations. This sort of thing is good for planners, people who like the details and schedules and ideas. But implicit in the word “expect” is the danger that expectations can grow a bit too big, a bit unrealistic.
I am prone to unrealistic, outsized expectations. I’m an overachiever, and I believe that by the sheer force of my will, I should be able to make things happen because I want them to be so.
The wonderful community of moms that I’ve connected with since arriving in Maryland have done a good job of reminding me that the weeks following birth are about survival. And yet, I know this will be my particular challenge: I have higher expectations than mere survival, and it will take work, every day, again and again, to lower those unrealistic expectations.
This, in my mind, is what it means to expect. It’s a story I’ve told myself, a scene I’ve drawn in my head. When I sit down to write, I have often turned the scene over in my head for weeks, imagining dialogue and different points of view, polished and primed. I’ve done the same, for better or worse, with my expectations, until I have a smoothed, finished oar to push myself along with.
Waiting is different. It comes with its own challenges, sure, but I know that eggs left on the counter will lose their chill. I know water will drip from shreds of zucchini. I just have to wait. I don’t babysit the eggs, or load them up with my hopes and dreams. I don’t invest my future happiness or my identity into the zucchini. I wait with a simple faith in the end result. This, to me, is the vast difference between waiting and expecting; to wait is simple. It requires patience, but it is quiet and distractible, even passive and relaxing, at times. To expect requires action and thought and so, so much from us.
And so I try to remind myself: perhaps, instead, we just wait. And as I’ve waited – indeed, in these final days (DAYS, I said – gasp!) of waiting for this baby boy to arrive – I can only pass the time. Keep my expectations low. Or try to. Because you see, though I think the waiting is the best way, I am an expectant person. So instead of merely waiting, I expect. I anticipate. I bake zucchini bread.
I see this as a useful activity: we love zucchini bread. If I have to be super pregnant during the height of summer, I may as well take advantage of the bounty of fresh zucchini. And I see it as a way of attending to mine and Amanda’s future need for comfort. I imagine us, after we come home from the hospital, our little guy settling into the house with us, our lives shifting around us, Otis cautiously sniffing him. And I know that zucchini bread, toasted and buttered, or just sliced off and eaten out of hand, will provide us with comfort. It’s a comfort I expect we’ll need.
This recipe makes two loaves, freezes like a dream, and defrosts with a freshness, a softness, a delightful, crumbly, crusty top that makes you think it was baked fresh for you that day.
Maura’s Zucchini Bread
I’ve named this for my friend Maura, the person who introduced me to it, passed along the recipe, and therefore set me free from sticky loaves prone to quick spots of mold. So basically, she changed my world.
Yield: 2 9×5″ loaves
2 ¼ cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
3 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups grated zucchini
Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease 2 9×5 inch loaf pans.
Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Set aside.
Mix sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla on medium speed for 3-4 minutes. Turn mixer to low and slowly add dry ingredients, scraping bowl as needed. Stir in zucchini. Pour batter into greased loaf pans and bake for 50-60 minutes until a tester comes out clean.