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

I heard the heartbeat, not last week, I think it was the week before. I was on my couch, and the midwife next to me, B. sitting on the floor and our cat on the other couch. She didn’t react when out of the echoing, whooshing sounds of my uterus came the rapid patter of this new person’s new heart. I shouted and B.’s face opened in surprise and the midwife laughed at us. I kept laughing which came super loud out of the Doppler machine, so that she had to keep lifting the wand off my belly. She moved the wand over to play us my pulse and it was slow and gurgly and heavy in contrast to the light hurrying of this new heart. Adult hearts beat around 80, and this new one beats between 110 to 160. It was steady and fluttering and, I have to say it, adorable. I won’t be needing to take anymore pregnancy tests. (I only took one after the first positive, but I really wanted to keep taking more. I just kept wondering if I was really and actually pregnant. It’s official now. I am.) But the other best part was how spacious it sounded in there; looking down at my belly did not match the echoing sounds playing out of that machine. It sounded like I had a cave inside of me, with water and wind flowing in and out, and the midwife told me that that is what the baby is hearing and my body, my belly, my core became this lovely place to be. This new little person has no idea what a small space it’s occupying; to it, I’m an entire universe.

Whoa, those last words just settled on me like a balm. I do this thing, have this knack for taking any plenty and making it feel like scarcity. And for me, it’s always time. I always want more time. I woke up today looking at the week to come and already it feels parceled out, a checklist I’m going to live out one item at a time with no space for anything beyond the daily tasks of living. And then the days become a locked in tunnel, all sense of possibility leached out. And when I’m thinking like that, it becomes the month, and then it’s the season, and then it’s the year, and then in my mind, the baby is born and I didn’t have any time to myself, any time to prepare.

“When are we going to get diapers?” I asked B. over dinner last night. “And, like, a bottle?”

“We have time,” he told me.

I’m trying to feel like we do. I keep on telling myself this baby is going to come a few weeks late, as if those weeks are the ones in which all the tasks will get done and also I’ll finish my book. That week of hearing the heartbeat I felt the horizon open to me–like everything was all possibility–and I want that back. It’s only Monday. Maybe there’s another way to look at what seems like a very small space and discover just how much is hidden inside it.

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.

A note on timing and process and my first major insight into the concept of parenting.

We’re about to jump far ahead in pregnancy time. When I began this blog, I was writing up entries I had handwritten in real time, and so there’s been a lag between the posts and the day count and where I’ve literally been in the pregnancy.

I’ve decided that I want to bring blog and life together, and so we are fast forwarding together. Because of the way pregnant counting works, day 15 was something like Week 6. I am now, at this actual moment in Week 11.

There was writing that happened in those weeks between, but also there were a few weeks that were kind of lost to me, when maintaining a holding pattern was about all I could do. Carrying my body through the day was about all I could do.

And then about two weeks ago, there was a shift. Not in the physical. I’m nauseous the majority of every day, and tired, and that just goes on and on. But there was another form of lightening. That first month of knowing felt like I was being just constantly overstimulated every moment of every day; like a confetti storm, and then suddenly, it just all calmed. The wind stilled. The air cleared. And other feelings could come in. Like happiness. Like optimism. Like excitement.

It’s a funny moment. Never before could I have imagined feeling this sick all the time and being happy at the same time. But I am. The thing being hard is not the same as the thing being miserable. I’m even joyful. And so I’m beginning to see…all those situations when I look at parents, and gape at the impossibility of what they’re doing, I just assumed that the hard-ness of it also meant that it sucked. But I see now that perhaps this is the secret crux of it that I at least could not imagine until now: that parenting realigns the patterns, that there truly is nothing like it, and that what appears shitty might not actually be. I’m guessing that there are going to be impossible moments, and that I will feel awful and overwhelmed again, many times, but also I like this moment. Everything feels wide open and full of possibility, and if I can be happy today, hours into a day that I’ve felt like throwing up in since I woke up, then who knows in what other situations I might discover these hidden caves of joy.

Day 15

It’s a beautiful Sunday and last night I went to bed in a horrible mood and did not wake up much better. Had to tell B. I needed to be alone for most of the day. I can’t be around him right now, which happens, every now and then, and really he’s done nothing. I just…last night it felt hard. I was talking about how I’d been snappy with some of the kids at work, and he said something about not just at work, and it really fucking got to me. All of me feels so outside of my control. I’m hungry and then I’m full and then I’m nauseous. I’m sleeping and then restless. Moody and, apparently, snappy.

I thought I was going to be so happy to be pregnant. I thought I was going to radiate joy and light and so far it’s been mostly hard. There’s joy there: I feel like I have to keep explaining this to the future child who could somehow read this, but I think this might need to be my space to write any thing I want. Be as selfish as I want.

It’s also really easy to be super self-centered right now. There’s a way in which nothing seems as interesting as the science project of my body. I find myself giving away very personal information without even thinking about it. Last night I was explaining to my friend’s husband how my period cycles normally worked, and mentioning that I didn’t want an internal sonogram. Pretty sure that’s more detail than he ever needed. I wonder if I’m legitimately becoming a crazy person. Suddenly the day alone doesn’t seem like such an amazing idea. Although also…maybe I don’t need to be inflicting myself on anyone for a few more hours.

I want these posts to exist out there—some flecks in the internet sea—because I can’t imagine I’m the only woman who’s ever felt and thought these things. It would be a comfort to me to stumble onto this.

Time to get out in the world though. I don’t need to interact, but this house just got too quiet.

Day 12

One hour and thirty minutes awake no nausea! Praise God!

I went to an herb store a few days ago to find a magic cure for the queasiness. (There is no one magic cure. Even the seabands are fallible.) One of the women behind the counter was about a decade younger than me, and she said, “You know, a little toke of weed in the morning might work wonders.” Which may be true, but that’s not a thing that’s an option for me anymore, and stopped being one long before I got pregnant. But then the other woman behind the counter, who was older than me and had been pregnant and was one of those women who makes me believe that it’s possible to have a baby and still be cool in life, started talking to me about scent; how we associate these super smelling powers of pregnancy with horrible smells, especially in the city (and let me tell you sometimes this whole f-ing city just smells like garbage), but that also my new super power makes good smells better. Ahh, now this was a revelation. She poured some lemon verbena in a bag and held it out to me, and sure enough, bliss. I left with that bag, a bag of dried fennel, and a small glass jar of organic lavender shea butter. The woman swore by it; said she had no stretch marks.

I listened to her advice and yesterday got myself to the Botanical Gardens. At first I was only going to stay an hour; still making plans in a day like I’m not pregnant, like it’s a doable thing to pop over to the gardens, and then jump onto my bike to make it to the 4:00 yoga class, and then swing by the grocery store, shop and cook up a quick dinner. Yeah. Instead, I spent the first hour sleeping on the grass in the sun. Even then I almost raced off to yoga, but then my body’s new, much more assertive voice told me to stop being ridiculous and to go to the rose garden. Which I did.

I hadn’t known the roses would still be blooming. They were not in their full, flamboyant June glory. Their edges were tipped with brown, some hanging heavy off their branches, on their way out, shedding petals and blooms for the fall. I had come in June, walked with the crowds while holding a paper, pink parasol and celebrating my step-father’s birthday. Everyone was wearing their bright skirts and shades, shedding our winter skins for the summer that was now very close, nudging and weaving for chances to get close to the flowers. That was a parade of a day. This September sunday was much gentler, just a few of us visiting in the off season, coming by to see the quiet of the exiting.

I began to smell them, stepping in close, nose into the flowers, checking for bees. All of them were scented. Some smelled just like plant, and things growing; some were traced with scent, leftovers. I was still hazy from my sleep. The sun felt good. I reached the end of the row, and passed into an area of tall grasses, lilies, non-rose flowers, and then suddenly I was stopped by the most glorious of all smells. I paced in front of the area, reaching for a hidden rose in the midst, but it wasn’t that. I don’t know what to call it in fact, don’t know which plaque matched which flower in that tangle, but the scent was from this tiny vertical row, yellow-ish, cream-ish. I stayed, inhaling, walking away and back for the pleasure of returning to it. And finally the solid rock of “getting through the day” that I’d been walking around in cracked. My chest opened.  I cried. And felt fully myself for the first time in a week. Maybe longer.

I stayed until closing time; all the air a pleasure. The water lilies were in flashy bloom, and every one of them seemed to carry a good name for a daughter. On my way out, I walked one edge of the Japanese garden, sent into raptures by the pine, taking long slow breathes, indeed my own new drug to fill up on. A plant that looked like sage, with purple blossoms, turned my palms into rosemary scented wonders.

At the statues that mark the exit, I turned, gave a silent thanks, and then I did get on my bike, but wasn’t zipping anywhere. I just cruised the downward slope toward home, queasy as hell, and totally at ease.

Day 11

I can’t remember anything today. Can’t hold a thought in my head; it’s comical really–it appears and is gone. I mean it’s happening mid-sentence even. The words just trail off. I feel like I’m the one packed in fluid. Thank God for seabands. I was all prepared to have to explain my odd new bracelets to the students, but then they didn’t ask a thing. Also, all I need (well, considering what is feasible) are some fifteen minute naps. They actually do a lot. I’m convinced that all my co-workers know. Also, this is how I react to kids on the street: with horror. I’m staring at all kids, at all ages, wondering why we’re bringing this on ourselves while somehow remaining totally committed to my own spark. How long am I going to be in shock? I get off on the novelty of it, and am also aware that I have to be careful to not be totally self-involved because honestly this is all I can think about. When I’ve been with friends, I’ve had to give myself literal instructions. Stop talking about the pregnancy now. Ask how they’re doing. Ask about work. It’s hard for other people’s concerns and details to pierce this haze I’m in. The nausea doesn’t help. But even while I’m thinking these reminders to not be completely unaware of other people and their lives, I’m also wondering where all the texts are–I swear to God when someone gets pregnant next I’m sending them flowers. I want B. to get me flowers. He’s doing great, so much better, but he’s caught up in this change too. He’s terrified, or not terrified–just overwhelmed and without the hormonal cushioning that has me in this soft state, unconcerned about the future. Sure, the house is on my mind a bit, his mom, school, all of it, but nothing can pierce this gentle confidence that it’s all going to come out just fine. Is this the great simplification? Perhaps so much of me is being rationed to my core that there’s little left for other worries. Except for my writing. There’s a little left for that. Have to stop now. Nausea coming. Have to eat.

Day 9

I’m so nauseous I can’t think. I bought Seabands today; I think they’re starting to work. I read on one site that some doctors think that it’s only a placebo effect that makes them work. Yeah? Well, so fucking what? If it helps, it helps. I hate doctors today and did I mention I hate the phrase “morning sickness.” I hate the phrase morning sickness.

B. is still back though, with me. I get it too; his retreat and what scared him. It can all be overwhelming; I’m really scared of us becoming a version of business life partners. Often in the last week it felt like that: both of us tired and discussing and divvying up the life tasks. And this baby still only a notion.

I have to remind myself that we’ve always found our own ways to do all these things. There is no prescription. We’ll figure this out too. It doesn’t mean the end of all adventure.

Also, this is always what happens to us if we don’t have sex. If I could just have a moment of stillness, a pause, in this roiling, tumbling nausea, I would jump his bones in an instant. If this goes on unabated for too much longer I think I might go a little crazy.