My friend K.T.–whose baby shower I traveled to San Francisco to attend–is enormously, adorably pregnant. She’s a small thing, delicately boned and narrow, and now she is leading with her so-round belly, so high up under her ribcage. She looks a little like she leaned back to catch a medicine ball that was hurled at her unexpectedly, only the incredibly cute version of that. She is lovely and calm and utterly content, which is unsurprising since K.T. has always been such a laid-back, mellow person, but now she’s glowing with it, sparkling with it, rosy with it, and it’s very beautiful.
It is also hard to not reach out all the time and pat her sweet belly, which rocks and shakes and rolls with every twist of Baby’s awake time. The baby goes for hours, napping, and then suddenly she is bright-eyed and interested in the world and K.T.’s stomach boils and burbles and it’s the funniest thing, how startled K.T. is, how weirdly alive her belly becomes in a completely incomprehensible way–I mean, really, there’s a human in there? Below that stretched-thin layer of skin? That’s all that’s keeping it from the rest of the world? You might as well keep a ferret in a latex balloon! What’s keeping that kid from busting out? No, seriously.
These are not things a mom-to-be wants to hear; mostly I have kept them
to myself, but it is hard, because it is amazing and wonderful to me,
this crazy biology thing, this cooking up a body does (OF ANOTHER BODY!
Whoa.), this hard work K.T. is putting in on this very difficult
project. I want to exclaim about it a lot, the craziness and the
wonderfulness and the difficulty. I want to ask all the questions and
talk about everything that’s happening–what is this doing to your body
and how does it feel and how do you feel in the world, and how does the
world feel to you and how does it treat you and can I kick the ass of
anything that dares to hurt a single hair on your head? It is amazing,
also, those protective instincts that kick in. No, I will carry that
and no, you can’t lift that and I will get my own drink and you sit
there and can I give you a piggy back ride to the bathroom? K.T. is a
very independent woman, so mostly, I have tried to keep that to myself
It makes me wonder, also, if I could do what she’s doing–would I fall
to pieces? Would I panic all the time? Could I handle the strenuousness
of it? It is pretty strenuous, this pregnancy thing, and exhausting and
there are no breaks and there is no shortcut or easy way out. It’s
kind of like a marathon only with less–well, I was going to say
sweating, but there’s a lot of sweating. And muscle aches. And knee
injuries and headaches and weird carb cravings and the sense that this
was maybe a foolish thing to have ever even considered thinking about
doing. But I imagine that the sense of accomplishment is about the
same, at the end. Maybe it’s even just the tad bit more poignant.
My whole life, I’ve been ambivalent about having them myself–babies, I
mean. Pregnancy has always seemed painful and endless and miserable;
birth, painful and endless and miserable and fucks your body up
something fierce, and then at the end of it, the endless
responsibility–for their happiness and their well-being and their not
turning into serial killers–until you are dead. That is a lot of
responsibility! That is a mountain of it! That is hard work and
frankly, it scares the shit out of me. Not to mention the fact that not
only is it completely likely that I will do every bit of it wrong and
screw the kid up irreparably, producing Hitler 2–Holocaust Boogaloo,
the child will already have been doomed before its first declaration of
martial law because it will be fat (genetics), near-sighted (genetics),
depressive (genetics), be prone to bad skin and have thin hair
(genetics). Is that any way to start a life, with the deck stacked
against you? How can I knowingly do that to a child? I mean, seriously.
That’s unfair to everyone. Especially Europe.
But here’s the thing–I do not like being told what to do. No, not even
a little bit. And soon enough, biology’s going to take away my choice
and there won’t be a choice and I don’t like that at all. And I’ve met
this guy I’m hanging around with and it is like a punch in the gut,
every time I see him hold a tiny baby and he would be such a good dad,
even if I were a failure of a mother, and I’m pretty fond of his genes.
And I have to wonder. And what if I did an okay job? And, most
importantly, lately, look at how beautiful, how wonderful, how filled
with joy this can be. Maybe I won’t pull it off with the same grace and
serenity as K.T. does, but talking to her about this whole nutty
business, watching her with her niece, listening to her and her
sweetheart discuss the future with such hope and happiness and
clear-eyed, rational optimism, I think that maybe it could be possible
that maybe I could possibly do this too. And then I have a panic attack.