As my center of gravity changes and I grow closer to my due date, the pregnancy becomes less about me and more about this hypothetical child in my uterus. People ask fewer questions about how I’m doing and tend to focus instead on the promise of new life. Meanwhile the kid is still attached to my innards, thus I am slow to conceptualize her as her own entity. She’s my stomach. She’s a medley of gases. She’s responsible for weird vaginal phenomena that I won’t get into here. She’s movement and rhythm and an infusion of hormones that give me a Zen-like serenity about things that would normally cause depression and anxiety. She has a name, but only because I felt bad about calling her “the kid” all the time. Presumably she has a face, but I haven’t really seen it. She has fans. Her daddy is a big supporter. Her grandmothers both seem psyched to meet her. I encourage other people to lay hands on my belly because I need reassurance that the kid is not a figment of my imagination and that she will one day tunnel out into the real world by the grossest means necessary. But she never kicks people when she’s supposed to. Right now she is just mine.
Sometimes I think of my stomach as a Magic 8-Ball. While the kid is still in utero and living closest to the God spark, I feel that she might hold the answers to all my cosmic questions. “Can we afford to raise you in New York City?” One kick means “It is decidedly so.” Stillness means “Don’t count on it.” Treating my unborn child like an oracular toy seems to be my sole concession to acknowledging the miracle of all this pregnancy stuff. “Are you for real?” I whisper. “Are you magic?” She leans on my bladder and I dash to the bathroom. “Reply hazy try again.”
She’s given me pica. I’ve always been a nail-biter, but my habit is currently worse than it’s ever been. I have a premonition that I’ll lose the desire to bite as soon as she’s born. Right now my body craves fingernails. Perhaps I should be more careful about blaming the baby for things that are probably not her fault. M and I are both pretty self-critical, so it’s been fun for us to have a scapegoat when we fuck up. He bangs his knee on the corner of the bed frame for the third time in an hour. “Damn baby!” he says. I decide to sit in the window and eat a pint of ice cream instead of getting a job. “Thanks for nothing, kid!”
Do I “love” my unborn baby? Loving her right now is a difficult lesson in loving myself because we’re still so connected. Loving her right now is a study in risk because she’s still cooking and things could still go wrong. Loving her right now seems extremely wacky because I can’t even see her and the pregnancy websites keep describing her as various vegetable formations. And yet I do love this mysterious creation, this eggplant, this cabbage, this organic divinity sprung up from the garden of unprotected sex. Soon she’ll be a full-grown squash, and then I’ll really be head over heels.
At first we thought she was a boy. That was a relief. Boys tend to coast by on being boys and they don’t have to worry so much about their looks. I feel like an inexcusably shallow person when I find myself hoping that the kid is cute. If she’s not cute, it’s going to be a much harder road for her to travel, starting from the moment the obstetrician tosses her on the scale without so much as a “Looking good, babe!” and ending when she dies surrounded by legions of friends and family whom she’s attracted through her amazing, compensatory personality. Mostly I just want her to be cute so her daddy M, a professional photographer, will be able to exploit her as a child model and he won’t have to creep out other parents by asking them for baby loans. The other night I had a dream in which I brought the kid home from the hospital and I was the only one enamored with her. No one wanted to give her hugs and kisses. No one offered to hold her and tell her what chubby cheeks she had. They treated her with all the negative attention they would accord a troll. And yet I thought she was the most adorable human in the world. So I’m confident now that there’s no such thing as objective beauty when it comes to your own children. Everyone I know will just have to suffer alongside the abominable baby photos I will insist on Super Gluing to their refrigerators.
I’ve been trying to live the pregnancy from moment to moment and not fantasize about the future, but M routinely gets swept away by some image of himself holding his little girl for the first time or taking her to ballet lessons and then he gets so emotional that he has to go call his mom. Meanwhile I’m farting in the bed, prostrate with heartburn, wondering when it will be time to eat again. M is online shopping for ballet slippers and I am cursing the fact I have to pee for the tenth time since dinner. Out of self-preservation or hormonal overdosing or whatever, I tend to curtail my imagination and just respond to what my senses are telling me. They suggest that my body isn’t mine right now, but they also can’t yet drum up an image of who’s running the show. So I’m just waiting to see what’s in store for us on the 4th of July. “Outlook good,” says the 8-Ball.