I Am a Watched Pot
“WHERE IS BABY?”
This is the text I get, several times a day now, from all over the country. Sometimes it pops up on a Facebook window. Sometimes it’s just a subject line of an empty email.
“WHERE IS BABY?”
As if I’ve hidden the child somewhere, confused Christmas for Easter and hidden this ripened egg under a rock in a field. Like I’m lying to them all and I’m waiting until Baby’s First Tooth before I spill any details.
My own mother asked today with sadness, “Will you tell me when you’re going to the hospital? … or do I just find out after the baby’s here?”
I know they are all asking out of love and excitement. It just cracks me up that it has been reduced to–
“WHERE IS BABY?”
Baby is still incubating, heavy enough now that my stomach rests on my legs when I’m sitting, making me feel like an exhausted bus driver.
Did you know you can have contractions for days and days and days that mimic labor but don’t turn into labor? Not these cute Braxton-Hicks things you hear about sometime, little “practice contractions” that can pop up at any point during your pregnancy. These are minute-long, full-on cramping, every ten minutes contractions that just stick around for ten or twelve hours until you finally fall asleep? Then they wake you up every few hours when a particularly strong one happens, and then the next day you just have them all day again? All the while your friends are texting–
“WHERE IS BABY?”
And you know exactly where Baby is, because your body has been trying to push the baby out since Thanksgiving.
This is just one of the things on my very long list titled: Things People Don’t Tell You About Being Pregnant Until You’re Pregnant, Which Is Just Way Too Fucking Late, If You Ask Me.
This list of mine isn’t for the ones who have had babies. It isn’t for the ones even actively thinking about having children. It’s a list (well, and let’s be honest: eventually a book proposal) that I think should also be taught to women when they are still girls. This is the list that should be brought into health classes. I want to waddle into high schools, plop down in front of a classroom, let this belly of mine roll out toward my knees and then I’m going to open with “Mucus Plug. There’s two words you should know right now before you start having sex.”
The number one question I’ve been asked in these past couple weeks of constant contractions is
WHERE IS BABY?
but the other question is, “What does it feel like?”
And that’s amazing to me, because we watch fictionalized births every day on television and in movies, and the reason we ask “What does it feel like?” is because we know that’s probably not true, what we see depicted in love stories and horror films. And there’s the thing where “every woman is different” and some people feel nothing and some people feel everything and some people are just fucking liars.
I’ve been answering this question the best (read: truthfully) that I can. “It feels like I’m getting all of my periods I didn’t get this year all at once, and at the same time a baby is desperately trying to shoot out of my butt.”
That’s what it feels like, every ten minutes or so, for somewhere between six to twelve hours a day, for most of the days in the past couple of weeks. All of my periods, followed by a butt baby. Over and over again, without a solid pattern, without getting closer or worse, until I fall asleep because I’m exhausted.
Having a contraction feels like:
I’m sitting on a yoga ball, stretching and bouncing, reading a book, and then the burning starts and it radiates through my lower belly as my stomach seizes and hardens to bowling ball strength and I lift my head as I turn primal, I turn into Maya Angelou and I HOWL AT THE WOODS, THE WINDOWS, THE FOREST.
THE WOMB CALLS THE HEAVENS
I WAIT AS I BREATHE
O CHILD OF MINE!
O BLOOD THROUGH THIS FETALHOUSE
WHY IS THIS
MY CURSE YOUR CURSE THIS WORLD THIS WOMB THIS–
And then the contraction ends and I push the button on my contraction app and go back to reading my book.
It is incredible to me that when I sit with three friends who aren’t pregnant who are asking me what it’s like, that all I’m doing is teaching them things they didn’t know that I didn’t know either before getting pregnant. That four women can be all way above twenty-five years old and not know the kinds of things that happen to us when every single one of us is here because someone went through this for us. Why don’t we all know what happens to people when they get pregnant? Why am I teaching people the words “bloody show” or have to explain that my sighs when they’re talking aren’t because they’re boring me, but because my blood volume is so high it feels like I’m back in Machu Picchu?
Why is pregnancy such a combination of mystical and disgusting that we choose to not talk about it? You can’t get pregnant from learning about it. Can you? I’m not sure anymore. Because I didn’t know until I was pregnant that there was a chance my stomach muscles would separate. I would’ve like to have been informed beforehand. There were sixteen pages of “Here are all the ways you might get hurt or die” that I had to read through before I could skydive. I had to watch videos and sign consent forms to sit in a helicopter for twenty minutes. I had to have two forms of insurance to play roller derby. But at no point did a doctor or a teacher or a fellow woman stop to say, “Hey, listen. Before you get pregnant, you should know that it could cause you to lose feeling in both legs for months every time you try to sleep. Your feet could grow and they’ll never go back to the size they once were. You might get massive nosebleeds that make you think you have brain cancer, but you don’t — you’re just pregnant. It’s why you can’t stop crying and get panic attacks when you’re in a passenger seat on the highway.”
I just got another text.
This one only says “????”
I appreciate the anonymity of the use of the term “baby,” because I’m not wanting to write about this child in any way that violates its privacy, so it makes it easier when I write here about being pregnant. And I’m trying not to feel like I’m letting these friends down, but part of me can’t help think how odd it is that everyone’s anxiously awaiting the moment that my life suddenly becomes incredibly painful and bloody for hours.
“WHERE IS BABY?
Why don’t I hear your screams from here? Open those legs, woman and release the child!”
Even the doctor at this point is like, “I’ve got some drugs to get this thing going.” And I’m like, “Oh, yeah? Does someone have some Christmas plans?”
The baby’s digging my accommodations. Everything’s still going fine, according to tests. I’ll just keep powering through my to-do list while I bounce on my yoga ball and–
THERE. THERE AND OUT THERE AND EVERYWHERE
THIS BELLY THIS BEAST
TAKE THESE MUSCLES THIS BONE
WHY CAN I FEEL A TINY BABY HAND AT THE TOP OF MY THIGH?
THAT IS CREEPY.
I MISS BOOZE.
I AM A WATCHED POT
WHO WEARS TWO WRISTGUARDS TO BED.