|Me+Baby at 20 Weeks|
This is basically the only pregnant picture of me that exists. At least the only belly shot. And it's sort of a pathetic belly shot anyway, right? I mean, I told you I'm not really showing. And wow, looking at it really confirms that fact that I'm just looking chubby. But hey, someday I'll be glad we took it. Perhaps. Right?
I had Sam take this right before my 20 week ultrasound, the one where they found my shortened cervix and sent me straight to bed rest, do not pass go; do not collect two hundred dollars. I worked from home that morning, finished up a memo summarizing a meeting, sent it out, and we had lunch on our way to the appointment. And part of what amuses me endlessly about this picture is that I'm actually not holding onto the baby at all. Did you know this? That babies ride much lower for most of the pregnancy? That if I actually held onto what is baby, you would think I was obscene? So here I am, clutching my smushed internal organs, laughing at the thought.
And I keep thinking lately about location, about how absolutely natural and absolutely absurd it seems that I am carrying this baby inside of me, that she's growing right here, in me. Last night I dreamed Sam and I were having twins, only I was carrying one and he was carrying the other. Though this was odd, part of me was relieved that at least one of us was carrying a baby in a body that wasn't doing all sorts of things to jeopardize the pregnancy. Here's the most depressing thought I have about this whole thing, the hardest one for me to think (and then I'll lighten up! honest!), the one that occurred to me forcefully and devastatingly while I was alone in a hospital room at 4 in the morning, waiting for a procedure that was supposed to (maybe, possibly) help keep the pregnancy. Here is the thought: by all accounts, the baby herself is just fine; healthy, strong, lovely. If she doesn't make it, it will be my body that kills her. And suddenly this seemed sort of savage what I had done, that I had created this life and through no fault of her own and against my own will, my body might end this life before it had really begun. That was a dark morning alone in a hospital room. Sitting there, waiting for Sam, praying and crying, I thought again what I've thought a few other times since I got pregnant, about how odd it seems that the only possible location for this to happen is in my body, or in the body of a woman, anyway. Thousands of years of science, and we haven't come up with a better location. I imagine her sometimes growing in the body of, say, a very responsible goat, or a really exquisitely beautiful box, and I think, why me? Why here? I've felt so inadequate to the task, and this was before I was deemed truly "incompetent."
And then I think (and this is where I lighten up, I hope), this must, apparently, be the best possible space. Now I'm running into mysterious territory, the part I can't begin to explain, but there's something about this system (this growing of babies in the bodies of women) that feels right, that does make a sort of sense. I can't tell you why, and I'm afraid I would get reductive and insipid if I tried, but there have been times when I've actually thought about Sam carrying the baby instead of me, or really thought about what it would mean if she were growing in a pretty box--about what that might be like--and I've realized it wouldn't make any sense at all. There's something about this experience of carrying her that taps into me, an essential me, a part of me that has always expected her and been preparing for her. Scientifically this is so, yes? But it's increasingly clear that it's so much more than science. I recline on my couch, for hours upon hours, switching between my iPad and the television, pretending I know how to crochet, answering text messages and emails as to my well-being, and staring out the window, battling an ever-encroaching soul-crushing boredom, and I can feel her flip and flop inside of me, and part of me doesn't know what to make of it, and the other part of me says, thank you, thank you, for reminding me why I'm here, for tying me to the world, to this living room, to your tiny beginning life.
You know what it's like? It's like a long-distance relationship. The strangest sort of long-distance relationship, since she's constantly with me, literally inside of me, physically closer than anyone has ever been in my life. But she's also millions of miles away. We send these missives to her, and she sends missives to us. Sam leans down and tells her what French parents tell their children instead of "chill out": attend (ah-tahn), which means "wait," and is deeply appropriate, considering how badly we need for her to stay put. And I play her this song on repeat and rub my belly, and sometimes I read her Emily Dickinson, but mostly I'm afraid to connect with her, for fear she'll vanish. And at night, while I sit and sit, she tells me she's still there: I feel her moving like a tiny fish.
For all the stress of this pregnancy, for how concerned I get that I'll lose it, that we'll never meet her, it also feels like I'm on the cusp of falling in love, like I'm in a relationship with someone I haven't met yet, and that soon she'll move to town, and the three of us will be collectively in love forever and ever. Oh, I hope it's so.