I went to my doctor this morning and I am exactly nine months pregnant. According to the ultra-sound machine, the baby weighs 6 lbs 6 oz. The “baby.” It’s still hard for me to refer to it as a “baby,” but at this point, his heart is beating steadily and he’s big enough to live on his own. If they went in and took him out right now, and some moments I wish they would, the chances are very good he’d live. That’s about as close to being a “baby” as an entity can be.
And yet…I still can’t believe it. Even though I look at the monitor and see moving pictures of all the working parts, I seem unable to grasp the reality that all of that is happening inside my body. I mostly feel like I’m watching the Discovery Channel.
My disconnection to the fetus feels familiar though. I felt the same way with Gabriel. Even before the infertility years, I had trouble believing I could really have a baby. So I never gushed the “Gabriel-cam” either. It is the part of me that clings to the belief that dreams don’t come true. The part of me that doesn’t want to be a “sucker.”
If there is one thing being married and having a son has taught me about myself, it’s what a conflicted person I am. By the time I fell in love with Tod, I wanted a family more than I wanted to be a richer person and a thinner person combined. Now that I have the two of them to come home to, what makes me most uncomfortable in my life is my love and attachment to them. I miss them, there are moments when something one of them says or does sneaks up on me. They have the power to affect my day. Ick.
This seems to be a pattern of mine. When I find something I desire, I want it desperately. Then when I get it, I find the acquisition or achievement completely unnerving. “Longing” it appears, is what keeps me afloat; it is my life preserver. When there is nothing to long for I worry that I will drown.
You wouldn’t think that an innocent family camping trip would re-teach me this lesson, but it did.
Gabriel and Tod left yesterday afternoon to go on a school camping trip for the weekend. Given my pregancy, I felt it better to pass on this outing and let them have some father-son time. Plus, I never get to be in the house alone for forty hours, which seemed like too much crazy, single-gal fun to pass up. Or it did until they started packing and I realized that part of me was worried that Tod would not keep Gabriel safe.
” What? What do you mean I don’t trust you and it’s hurtful?” I respond when Tod called me on how controlling and confrontational I was being about his preparation for the trip.
“That’s ridiculous,” I said, sounding eerily like my mother, “Of course I trust you.”
And yet all I did is ride him for three days about every item he packed. Last night I behaved like a lit match in a gas tank over a dried fruit and nut mixture he bought from Costco.
“Did you not look at the label?” I shrieked, as if he had just walked Gabriel in to two-way traffic. “There is Yellow dye #6 in these, and sulfur dioxide!”
In my mind, this lack of attention to detail about the food Gabriel would be eating, was the exact evidence I needed that camping was just a series of accidents waiting to happen. Next, I caught Tod rolling up a polyester indoor sleeping bag! HELLO?!! A polyester anything on a camping trip? I’m no Ewell Gibbons, but even I know you can’t have synthetic fibers anywhere near flames.
“That sleeping bag is highly flammable.” I said, as tensely as I would if I found another woman’s cell number repeatedly listed on his phone bill.
“I think he’ll be fine.”
“Mom, the sleeping bag goes in the TENT, not by the CAMPFIRE!!” Gabriel added. I could almost here the “Duh!” that would end a sentence like that in ten years, or five.
A few minutes later we moved on to the kitchen,
“We don’t need to pack peanut butter,” Tod said as was I placing it in the cooler. Rejecting peanut for his son? When peanut butter is only one of the three protein sources I can get Gabriel to eat now that chicken nuggets are off the table.
The other night he bit in to one and hit some kind of ligament or muscle or something and that was the end of that, In terms of muscle building nutrition, that leaves cheese sticks, scrambled eggs and…peanut butter.
“Fine, don’t take the peanut butter. He can eat chips and marshmallows all weekend!”
“You really need to chill, man, take a deep breath, he’s going to be fine,” Tod said.
I wasn’t aware I married a surfer, but I couldn’t argue with his advice. Chances are, they were both going to be fine.
So what was all the hysteria about? Now that they are driving up the coast, with the peanut butter I snuck into the cooler, I am beginning to see my reactions, okay over-reactions, for what they were. Fear, fear and more fear. The obvious one is that something bad will happen to my son. This nagging feeling I have that if I was there, sitting on top of him for the whole camping trip, for example, I could be certain that he would be safe. He would also never see the stars at night or the sunrise in the morning since my girth would block his vision completely. But I could be certain that he would never burn his fingers if I never let him roast a marshmallow by the fire. Or get a mosquito bite if I kept him in the car all weekend. Better still, if he crawled right back in my womb, although crowded at the moment, I could make sure he never got a scrape, rejected by a friend or left me. This is the bigger fear of course. That he won’t miss me at all. The fear that with every inch he grows he gets closer to going on bigger trips and then leaving home altogether.
How and when did I become such a sap? No wonder I waited so long to have a family, who wants to feel this vulnerable? Which brings up the third and most provocative fear. It seems to be growing exponentially as my due date draws closer. My fear that something will be wrong with this baby and I will have ruined our lovely, small, sweet family because I couldn’t leave “well enough” alone. Because “well enough” is never enough for me. So I pushed and fought to have this second baby and somewhere I will be punished for it. That there will be a consequence for wanting something so badly and getting it. A hidden cost none of us can see yet. This is the big fear housing all the little fears that compels me to scream about synthetic fibers, and an absence of peanut butter.
On the way to school on the morning of the trip, the “baby” was not kicking me.
“He must be sleeping,” I said to Gabriel in the backseat. Or dead, I thought.
“Oh,” he said, pulling apart a cheese stick.
“You know when Olivia’s mommy was pregnant with Benjamin she would eat chocolate and drink coffee to get the baby kicking.”
“Really, Mommy? Why Mommy?”
“Because the sugar and the caffeine make the baby kick a lot.”
“Really Mommy. That’s so cool!” he said laughing.
“Do it MOMMY, DO IT!!! Eat some chocolate, MOMMY!! DO IT!”
“I don’t think so Gabriel.”
“Why Mommy WHY???”
“Well it’s probably not that good for him.”
I put some extra sunscreen on him when we got to school and hugged him good bye.
“Mocha Frappuccino, please,” I asked the barrista after the fifteen minutes it took to get to the front of the line.
“Should I make that a decaf?” she asked, looking at my stomach.
“No. Thank you. I’m checking to see if my baby is alive.” I said and laughed.
“Oh,” she said and quickly looked at the register. “Light frappe, no whip” she yelled and moved on to the next customer.
Dani is a writer/performer/mother who lives in Los Angeles. She produces the hit show “Afterbirth,” which you can learn more about by visiting her website at Dani Klein.