6 weeks old.

I should be sleeping. I should always being sleeping, apparently, and I’m tired of this command/objective/goal hanging over me every time the boy drifts off into his gorgeous slumber. (Nothing quieter than a house in which a baby is sleeping.) It’s true that the failure to nap can leave me ragged and here I am writing about it again but I’m also just tired of the whole thing. It’s all anyone ever warned me about, and it’s the first question people ask, and aren’t there other things to talk about, be warned about, strive for?

I’ve had a low lying unease these last few days, and I think now it’s because the brand-newness is wearing off and I’m hearing the slight whir of routine. I don’t want the dazzle to go but it’s already going and I hate it. Yesterday I cared for the boy all day. I mothered. I fed and rocked and burped and walked and smiled, even, but it was more like work than like discovery and I know, I do know, this is fine and what’s going to happen some days but I’m still sad to be leaving those first early weeks. They were a shock yes, but they were also tremendously exciting. Every damn thing was a monumental achievement. Now the boy is crying more, and I do what I can, and I walk to the park, and I shift from shoulder to arm, but it’s not necessarily a thrill and sometimes (often) I’m not sure what to do and I have to remind myself of the simple fact that babies cry sometimes without us knowing why,

There’s a shift happening. We’re waiting for this growth spurt everyone talks about. B. thinks we’re on the edge of it. I don’t know. The boy eats and sleeps. And also, there’s my body.  The initial recovery is coming to a close. I’ve pretty much stopped bleeding which means that my uterus is back to it’s former size. It means I can swim again, think about running, exercise, sex.

Sex.

Also, sex.

Ok. Sex. But what do I do about my milk-filled breasts? I don’t want to wear a boring black nursing bra while doing it for the first time since, but what’s to stop this personal sprinkler system of mine from being switched on? And what if it’s not as good? What will I feel? What will he? And also, a hesitation I don’t know how to name…how to welcome anything in when the last major activity there was the boy’s head and sensations that left my brain scrambling for, and not finding, anything in the pain to grasp onto.

I’m just not always so good at transitions. I’m a little scared and a little sad. I want the technicolor. I want the way it was when B. running his hand through my hair was intense, ultimate bliss. Fulfillment in itself. Everything in every day was so much there was nothing more to want. I liked being the version of myself that didn’t ask for more from a day. I want to keep her.

Week 23

In the last twelve hours, I have become significantly more pregnant. It began while we were watching TV last night–we have a whole new world of options because a friend gave us her Hulu log in–and it’s funny because I’ve barely watched any of the shows that I hear talked about and now they’re all at my fingertips. I haven’t meant not to watch. Often it’s been a matter of limited resources. Of money for one, not wanting to pay, but mostly of time. These last two years, I’ve been so tired when I get home from work I’ve had about three hours of wakefulness and of the potential evening activities–eating dinner, talking to B., having sex with B., watching TV, showering–something had to go.

But also true is that nothing holds my attention. Again, I don’t want this to be true, but these shows, especially all these critically acclaimed giants, seem like the same plot with different costumes. And that plot always manages to center on a flawed, but charismatic, white man engaging with his inner uber-traditional masculine (and capitalist) self against a back drop of sacrificing, or naked, or murdered female bodies. The only series I’ve watched to completion in the last five years was Battlestar Galactica. Do you know that David Byrne and St. Vincent song? The first verse goes like this:

I used to think that I should watch TV
I used to think that it was good for me
Wanted to know what folks were thinking
To understand the land I live in
And I would lose myself, and it would set me free

That’s me, only present tense. I still think I should be watching TV. I do think it will set me free. I do want to know what folks are thinking. So I keep trying.

Anyway, last night, by the end of the first episode of the first season of Scandal (is anyone else annoyed that the kryptonite for this badass woman’s spidey sense is a man who is sleeping with at least two other women?) my belly had become half a planet. All day I’d been like a kangaroo, hopping around with my babe tucked neatly inside of me, and then suddenly, they’re kissing on the edge of the oval office and I’m an overturned turtle.

This morning it was worse. My leggings were too tight, and my long underwear had a tag designed to annoy the shit out of me, and my tunic shirt made me look the hippie mom character in a sitcom whose quirky politics are represented by her brightly, patterned leggings. Which mine are.

I handled all this by changing into a different pair of leggings; the ones I would wear every day if I thought no one would notice. As it is, I do wear them for days in a row if I know the only who’s going to see me on each of those days is B.. And even to him, I said, “You know I’m wearing tights under these so they don’t get totally dirty.” Not that that’s even all the way true. He, of course, just shrugged. “Whatever baby.”

The problem being that I look so very pregnant in everything I put on.

Last night it stopped making sense that I was pregnant. In my brain, I was just me, the same familiar me, same types of thoughts, same personality, but I couldn’t connect to the body below. My back was tingling and the skin of my belly taut, and when I tried to sit up from my sunken couch, I needed to push first and then roll, and it was awkward and weird and foreign. My body very much not my own

Movies I will not be watching: Rosemary’s Baby, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Alien.

I would like to say that my body and brain have been reunited with my outfit change into my favorite leggings, but so far, I’m still itchy and fidgety and discontent. And irritable. Also, restless. Probably one of those days where it’s a good thing that I work with a gaggle of energetic teens because in a very short while I won’t have the time or mental space to pay attention to myself.

I would like there to a right shirt to fix it, a right breakfast, maybe if I go get a muffin, maybe if I wear hoops. I don’t know.

And as a final complaint, the fruit and vegetable sizing system has completely broken down. This week the babe is said to be a mango, but last week it was supposed to be a spaghetti squash, and spaghetti squash are bigger than mangoes. And also, two weeks ago, it was a banana. Because of the length. Not the girth. No comment.

For now, it’s time for me to get this body of mine in motion; to bundle it up, take it work, and see if over the course of the day we can make up.

Week 21

For the first time since I was secretly trying to starve and exercise myself into another body, the general public are commenting on my body. The consensus is that I’m “carrying well.” As in, I’m not getting a lot of weight. This is also a sign that I’m having a boy since the girls curse you with weight gain. Although, the girls are also said to curse you with nausea, so my tortuous first trimester means a girl, while the “blessing” of carrying small means a boy.

From two New Yorker articles I’ve read in the last month:

“[Angela] Merkel has lost weight–bedridden last winter after fracturing her pelvis in a cross-country-skiing accident, she gave up sausage sandwiches for chopped carrots and took off twenty pounds.”

“In photographs, Cheryl Strayed looks like a big bodied woman.”

Merkel is the German Chancellor, and the same piece refers to her as “the most powerful woman in the world.” Strayed is an award winning, best-selling author. Amid the countless articles and profiles I read of notable males, there are very few that mention body size and if they do, the subject is usually Bill Clinton, commenting on his post heart surgery veganism, or Chris Christie, whose weight is almost an asset, some kind of shine to it–as if it is a symbol of his individualism, his defiance. Can you imagine a woman of his size being taken seriously as a potential presidential candidate? Can you imagine her being taken seriously at the post office?

Last night I watched The Wolf of Wall Street. The first wife was a super hot brunette with curly hair. Obviously, she was left for the super hot blonde with straight hair.

But this is all painfully obvious and so familiar to me, as I imagine it is to every woman who might read this, that it is totally boring. Boring to think about, boring to write about, barely worth talking about. Feminism, the notion of it, was not something I had given any real energy to in years, but this fall my school began doing work around sexism and gender identity. And also, I was pregnant. Turns out being pregnant and talking about sexism is a surefire way to ignite long dormant anger. The students were really the ones who did me in. Because they are young and female and they are very angry. New to the experience of objectification, they can remember more clearly than I being 8 and 9 and 10 and 11. They are closer to that time before breasts (for some of us) and puberty, years when we were mostly free from the constant gaze, the constant fusing of our identities to our physical appearance. They are just recently coming out of the shift into sexual beings and the new way they are treated pisses them off. They call out the perpetual disrespects leveled at women that I had stopped paying serious attention to years ago. And of course, at the same time, no matter how brilliant and bold and defiant they are, they are tortured by the expectations…comparing their thighs and breasts and hips and arms to the computer polished images of the female form that bombard us.

From a fashion blog, “It’s not that I idealize skinny-ness, it’s just that I am entranced by the aesthetic of the skeleton. I am drawn to the beauty of bones.”

I read that five years ago. Haven’t forgotten it yet. Nor that little whisper of agreement, like Gollum convincing Smeagol, “Yes, yes, that is pretty, the clothes flow, how nice and long and lean.”

Last night during The Wolf of Wall Street naked women swarmed the screen like schools of fish. And they were fucked in more ways than I usually see in one movie; their bodies on desks and beds and floors and airplanes and cars. Their bodies their bodies their bodies. White. Pale. Public hair ripped off, leaving bare little-girl vaginas, hip bones jutting, asses often flat actually, little muscle tone, just thin. A pregnant character nagging her husband, no longer the desired sex object, replaced by others, by hookers, her body unaltered except for the prosthetic bump beneath her tight dress, her body after the baby showing no signs of pregnancy, or nursing, simply back to her stunning self, but still replaced by other women as the desired one. The woman in the house, with the baby, spending the husband’s money, no longer putting out.

And yes, you could ask, what else would I expect from this particular movie? The point of the plot is the depravity and debauchery and so on. But this is not so much a critique of this one movie because what I just described is true of countless movies. You all know it. It is the perpetual narrative of the transformation of the beauty, the one sought, the one desired, into the one taken for granted, the nagging wife; the timeless triad of virgin, wife, whore.

Really, I’m writing about the movie because last night I forgot to be angry. I forgot to critique. I was too tired. Just wanted to absorb and not think. So mostly what I thought, without realizing it, the words simply seeping into my consciousness, was this:  My body will never look like that. Of course, my body was never going to look like that, but I could always hold the delusion in reserve. No longer. Some of these changes are going to be permanent. These veins and bones and skin are never going to be quite what they were.

I battle future stretch marks with tubs of shea butter. I fear post-nursing breasts as flat and useless as popped water balloons. I anticipate those months after the baby is born when my abdomen sags and flaps. I anticipate hating it. I see myself grabbing that extra skin in my hands. I see myself feeling ugly.

B. says my body is luxurious.

One of the things that kept me from acknowledging that I had an eating disorder was that I assumed I was simply too much of a feminist. Also, that what I was doing seemed normal. Everyone cleanses, reduces, refuses, runs. I didn’t look sick. I just looked smaller. I just looked like a New Yorker.

My grandmother spent years eating only one banana for lunch. In her last months, ill and in pain, she mourned the loss of her waist.

How mundane to be a woman writing about body image. How commonplace and ubiquitous. How repetitive. In the movie the early scene of a man snorting coke out of a woman’s white, naked ass gave me a little shock and thrill–Caught my attention. By the end of the three hours, the vaginas were only background. Scenery. And boring scenery. I want to be wary of the dulling of my senses. I think we should all be. The flash of a woman’s naked form should always excite. And the equating of her worth to that form should always enrage.

I don’t say thank you when the women appraise me body, nod approvingly at my size, give what they believe to be compliments. Because I can’t afford to agree with them. I have to believe there’s no such thing as there being too much of me, just as I’m piecing together that it’s not possible to be too much of a feminist.

Week 19

I’m growing. I’m ravenous before every meal. Which actually feels kind of amazing. I feel very…vital. Every meal I sit down to is like the meal that comes after being in the ocean. This is post-surfing hunger. I get an email every Tuesday that tells me about the week of pregnancy I’m about to begin. It tells me the size of my baby according to fruits and vegetables (a kumquat, a turnip, way back when it was a sesame seed), it tells me what the baby can do now, what it looks like, and it gives me hints as to what might be happening in my body during this given week. At the bottom, it gives me a task. I try really really hard to not read the task. From the ones I’ve accidentally read, by now I should have found a pediatrician and I believe this week I’m supposed to be mapping out childcare. Yeah.

Two and a half years ago I took a full-time job, and what I said then was that I wanted to have a job because I wanted to know I could still earn money if I broke my leg. But I was lying. What I meant was that I wanted maternity leave. I didn’t want a baby yet. But I wanted to know if I wanted a baby, and nothing about my previous lifestyle or manner of earning seemed suitable to it. My mother, though, always disagreed with me when I said I didn’t have enough money for a child. “That’s bullshit,” she’d say, “when you want one, you’ll want one no matter what.”

I’m discovering she was both right and wrong. When I applied for this job, B. and I had decided that if I didn’t get it, we would move back to Mexico for six months where we could live cheap enough for me to finish my book. I was convinced that if I was going to be a starving artist, I should at least be more of an artist. I always felt hectic then, always rushed, a day never gave up enough hours to me, every day was one I was failing a little bit. And while that likely had as much to do with my brain as my work, I didn’t know that then. All I knew was that something needed to change drastically, and so when they offered me this job I took it.

For the first time I was working the same schedule as everyone else. Monday-Friday. 8-4. I began to live “a stable life.”

Some of it has been glorious. My money comes at consistent intervals. I get paid vacations. I get paid when I stay home sick. My coworkers are wonderful. The job I am doing is worthwhile. It doesn’t take me ten minutes to explain “what I do.” And I get paid maternity leave. By the end of the first year I was ready to get pregnant. But B. wasn’t. So we waited. Life things happened. We traveled to Turkey. Had adventures.

But I also spent most mornings of that second year, last year, convincing myself that it was absolutely normal to feel a weight settling on me every morning while I threw on clothes after my sunrise writing hours. I began to believe that there was no other way for me to earn money; that this was a good job, a good job, a good job, and any dissatisfaction was for me to dissolve, to process away in long talks until I got sick of hearing my own voice saying the same sentences over and over again. Last winter was a darker time than I realized it was then. I was scared more than I admitted. Sadder. Tired. And all of it made somehow worse by the fact that I adore my coworkers, and believe in the purpose and ethics of what we do. I love working with these youth. I believe in our work. But.

But this last summer, every day of August was like me pulling on a rope with a tremendous weight on the other end; hand over hand, an inevitable task that I had no power to set down. Every morning I meditated and set a daily intention:  Be present. Don’t count down.

I found out I was pregnant six days before the start of the new school year. It was not unplanned (I think I’ve mentioned this) but it was still shockingly instantaneous.

And suddenly, my mother is right. Now I don’t care about money. I don’t care about stability. I don’t care about planning. Even from within the swirling hours of near constant nausea of the first trimester, I saw only goodness when I looked forward. The optimism is startling. I’ve never lived in so much calm for so many days and weeks in a row. All the things I thought B. and I had to have in our lives in order to be parents are being thrown into question. I don’t know what my employment will look like next year; same for B. . I don’t know where the money or time will come. Even where we live…we’re questioning everything. And I’m not worried. It’s insane really. But I like it. A lot.

According to the Week 19 email, the babe is the size of an heirloom tomato, and can most likely hear. It’s arms and legs are in their right proportions. I think it has thicker skin too, or a special coating on it’s skin, I forget. The email also notes that the next few weeks are going to be a time of rapid growth for both me and the babe. I was informed that though I may think the changes have been dramatic so far (and I do; I have a bump!), I haven’t seen anything yet. And I can feel how that’s true. It’s a little terrifying. I sense how dramatically my body is being worked on. My deep hunger. My muscles aching and my bones shifting. Everything has been set in motion, and the pace is picking up.

Week 15

I had my first glowing day this week. I also finally told the the students at school, and the full release from that secret has been huge for me. My whole body has relaxed and I can wear whatever I want, and being rid of that tension is incredible. It helps that the outpouring of excitement from the kids is the sweetest, funniest, best thing ever. They can’t get enough; want to talk about it all day long, and ask any old thing that comes into their mind.

“What will you name it if it’s a hermaphrodite?”

“Imagine if the baby came out with your exact tattoos.”

Students I don’t well, all genders and ages, have found a moment to congratulate me. Plus, it turns out that half of the high school knew already anyway. My little bump seems to have been spotted way earlier than I realized.

I am loving my new shape.

The other night as I was changing out of my robe, B. passing by saw and stopped. It was evening. The lamps were doing their golden glow. Before I could re-clothe B. came over and ran his hands over my new belly, and my fragile breasts, this new expansion of me, and us, and he was grinning. There was delight, and such happiness in his face. And I remember those other days when he, fearful and helpless, watched me carving myself down; when he tried to stop me from running in the cold, or injured, and I brushed him aside, and went and was gone for hours. And I remember how I ran my hands over the sharp planes of my hips and how he did not do the same, would not admire them with me. That person is a part of me too; she’s still in there, but the joy of my body now…even my skin feels stronger and softer. I’m grateful I get to have this–this body, this time, because it is more, better, sweeter than anything I could have known to ask for.

Week 13

Last night my brother-in-law told me a sickly hilarious story about abortion and I was so grateful that he’s the kind of person that doesn’t hesitate to tell a pregnant lady a story about abortion and that I get to have him in my life. I’m guessing there’s more than a few who wouldn’t even say the word in front of me and it was a rush of relief and fresh air to not be treated like this delicate vase, this sacred cow, and just like me who happens to have a baby inside of her. I have a theory that a friend of mine has been out of touch because I know she’s really freaked out about ebola right now and I’m guessing that she doesn’t want to bring it up with me. I could be wrong, but we’ve known each other a long time. And I love this lady, and I love how thoughtful and traditional and right in her ways she is, but it was also really really wonderful to be laughing at this sick story last night.

There is a subtle thing that happens, and in my circles it is pretty subtle, that has my worth and value changing, being defined by this new being inside of me. The existence of the baby making me more precious, more holy, more…everything. As I read somewhere, a pregnant woman should only gaze upon lovely things, hear lovely sounds, breath sweetly scented air. And on the one hand, yes. I’m into that. In those first weeks, I wanted to be hailed as a goddess of creativity. I wanted rose petals and gentle touch and gentle everything. I wanted the world to stop asking things of me, to allow me to pause and devote all of myself to this fertile business of growing.

But my value increasing because of this baby can also very quietly become this baby’s value supplanting my own. I saw it around Week 8 when B. and my friend looked at me, “You’re still riding your bike?”.

I love this new being. I love carrying it tucked safely inside of me as I move around the world. I will fight for this critter and protect this critter, yes, absolutely. But I am not going to give myself over to it. I am still me. We are joined right now, linked, but we are not one and the same, this baby and I, and the value of neither of us is determined by the other. And here’s the thing that there is such a taboo against saying it’s hard to write: should the unthinkable happen, and something happen to this life I love so fiercely (and I know I can’t imagine how that wound would feel, except to be sure that it would be deep and lasting) I would nevertheless continue, my life would continue, and so would pleasure and pain and joy and adventure.

Right now, in this moment, I will give everything to this babe I can, without giving it everything. Without giving it me.

Week 12

My jeans didn’t close today and really that’s fine although of course I’m watching my arms and legs and face, trying to see if they’re getting fat. Am I really still doing this? What in the world will it take for me to free of these nasty, insidious fears of fat. Fuck I fucking hate it. I’m saying now I like the release from a flat stomach. I had one for like 6 months and that was when I was mildly anorexic. I say mildly because not everyone could tell; this is New York after all. I got a lot of compliments. But I was in full body obsession fears food control, the whole damn thing. That’s another story, and yes, I’m sure it will come out here because I’m pregnant and my whole body is changing. My nipples are changing. They’re becoming mom nipples. I remember looking at my mother’s breasts and wondering why hers were so different than my own, and now I know: they literally are changed by pregnancy. The areolas get darker and larger. Is this an evolutionary bull’s eye for the baby? I read something about it but now I can’t remember. So I kind of like that I’m never going to have a chance at a flat stomach again. It’s just off the table. But I think about toned arms a lot. I think toned arms make a woman look smaller and of course I’ve never really had toned arms. Am I going to have a mom-body? I’m going to have a mom-body.

I saw this girl last night, she doesn’t know me, she’s the daughter of a former professor and I’m guessing she’s 15 now, and she has become this gorgeous young beauty…and it’s more than the looks, it’s that particular moment of time. My mother says we all, boys and girls, experience this blossoming. That we are like buds opening in spring, desired by all, the bees buzzing, but also so delicate and fresh. She says it’s our society’s responsibility to protect these young, gorgeous ones in our midst. This girl was on her phone, the street lamps were orange but her skin was lit and glowing, newly minted as Hemingway once said, and I knew that whatever my beauty becomes I will never be that again. The closest I’ll ever come to it is when my child does their own blossoming. I am in this moment of feeling time work on me. Literally. But also yes, I am saying goodbye, once and for all, to my own girlhood. I hope to do it with some grace, but of course I mourn the loss too. The movement of time sometimes breaks my heart with it’s bittersweet edge. This is the bridge, these months, I am crossing into the new land. And I suppose any long journey makes it mark on the body; a passage in the oldest sense of the word. The difference being that this time my body itself is the passage: I’m not taking it anywhere. It’s taking me.