I need you to know that I have been working on keeping my Fan Face in check. The other day, Nick from Project Runway/Under the Gunn passed me on the street and said hello to the baby and I acted like he was a face I didn’t recognize. An elevator door opened to reveal Maya Rudolph standing right in front of me and — you guys — the fact that I did not immediately launch into an impression of her impression of Oprah shows you how much I’ve grown as a person who periodically goes outside.
But this is a story from before I had labelled my Fan Face. Back when it was so obvious my husband would just look away and go, “Damn, Ribon. You look like you’re taking a photograph of Marcia Gay Harden with your retinas. Either work on that, or go talk to her before we get on the plane. It’s getting creepy. …oh, you’re going to go talk to her? I’m going to go over here and not know you, then.”
Marcia was very sweet, even though she had an understandably protective lean decidedly away from me. I normally never go up to someone, but Marcia had talked to my acting class back when I was in college, and I wanted to thank her because it really stuck with me, and many of my friends from that year. Plus I was pregnant at the time, and that state of being apparently turned my “give a shit” meter all the way off.
That missing self-check mode made for all kinds of new experiences during the months I was pregnant. One that immediately comes to mind, one I just can’t seem to let go, involves another airport encounter.
Being pregnant makes you have to pee. All the time, a lot. This is probably not news to you. But it can make something as mundane as getting through airport security turn into a stakes-are-very-high situation inside your body. One time I was struggling through security check before a red-eye flight to New York, keeping my mind focused on the first finish line: the ladies room inside the United Lounge. There had been some delays, some traffic, some longer-than-expected lines, and by the time I reached the bathroom door, I was hunched over, inching my way to the stall.
I peed with great relief. I remember this. I remember a feeling of accomplishment that almost made me sleepy.
Afterward, while I was washing my hands, a woman stepped out of another stall. After a quick glance in the mirror, I thought, “That looks like Retta. But, Retta if she were not in makeup and wanting to sleep during this upcoming redeye.”
I tried not to Fan Face. After all, we were in a bathroom. Let the lady have her time.
Just after take-off I rushed to the airplane bathroom, as it had been almost a full forty-five minutes since I’d been allowed to pee. On the way back I saw that the woman I thought was Retta was sitting in the aisle in front of me. But now she was tucked in all cozy and asleep. Couldn’t be one hundred percent sure, sure as hell wasn’t going to ask her, nor inspect further.
After the flight, maybe-Retta was sitting near us, waiting on a taxi or shuttle or something. This is when I realized I knew the best way to find out if that was, in fact, Retta on my flight. Twitter. If she was on a plane to New York, surely she would have mentioned it.
Turns out Retta had tweeted just before her flight.
“Damn, lady in the United stall next to me. Why the orgasmic experience? #personaltime #keepmeoutofit”
So, you know, it’s not always just my face that ruins things.
“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.
How’s everybody enjoying their holiday season? Already had a few teary fights and regrets? Having a lot of life-altering meditations and heart-to-hearts? Thinking about your life and what has happened to it? Determined to be able to see your feet again by this time next year? I hear ya, friend. I lift my non-alcoholic beer to you in solidarity.
I’m entering the final stretch of a very long period of time that has been my Visibly Pregnant season. It is exhausting — not just because of how pregnant I am — but because it has brought out in full force the You Should Be’s.
[AUDIO NOTE: I performed this piece this past weekend at Anna David's True Tales of Lust and Love (also starring Melissa Villasenor, Morgan Walsh, and Claire Titelman.) I highly recommend listening to this tale in all its mortifying glory -- it's better with the sound of an audience screech-laughing in horror. Here's the link to the recording of the show. (On iTunes here in the 11/12 show.) I'm the third story.]
[WARNING: This story is not for the squeamish.]
So I’m super pregnant. And with that comes all these horrible things. Like, I can’t feel my fingertips – haven’t been able to in weeks. It’s carpal tunnel, it apparently happens to pregnant women, and it’s shitty. My gums bleed when I brush my teeth, I’ve lost all the hair on my arms, I am down to one position in bed where I can sleep without my legs going numb, I’ve got this cold I’m not allowed to take anything for other than hot baths and pity parties, and there’s a parasite that lives inside of me that absorbs all of my nutrients. Or as my El Salvadorian housekeeper likes to say: “Your baby is stealing your beauty.”
I have a friend who’s entering her ninth month of pregnancy. I saw her the other night and commented on how beautiful her hair has become. She informed me that when you get pregnant, the hormone that makes your hair fall out (100 strands a day or so) stops being produced, so you stop losing your hair. So she’s got crazy-thick, gorgeous hair.
The catch: after the baby’s born, she’ll lose her hair four times faster than she used to. Babies steal your hair. That’s fucked up.