By Maggie Lamond Simone
“Do you know what you’re having?” the salesman asked helpfully. “Sometimes that’ll make your decision for you.” I was looking somewhat doubtfully at a pink snowsuit, wondering how we reached the millennium without having addressed this color issue.
“It doesn’t matter,” I replied. “I don’t like pink. I don’t like it on girls, I don’t like it on boys, I don’t even like it on flamingos, where it actually belongs. Nor am I particularly fond of blue, come to think of it. And I may as well confess that yellow and mint green don’t really do it for me either. I just want a teeny white snowsuit.
“Until this child can provide thoughtful feedback (with supporting arguments in a double-spaced brief) on the merits of pastels, then I believe the choice is mine, and I choose white. I don’t understand why I can’t find it. Are the color people afraid I’m going to drop the poor thing in the snow and lose it until spring?”
He skulked off, apparently deciding that he could not, in fact, help me. Well, that was certainly smooth, I thought. I’m completely lost in this unknown territory, and I just dissed the first person to offer guidance and support. Weeeeee! Good for me! On to the next department!
“Do you know what you’re having?” chirped the irritatingly perky woman in bedding. “That will help you pick a theme for the nursery! We have Winnie the Pooh, Barbie, and of course all of the Disney characters!” There were about a zillion to choose from. This-is-the-fun-part, this-is-the-fun-part, I silently chanted.
“Do you have any plain animals?” I asked, “I like animals. I watch the Discovery Channel. I’d like a blanket with animals on it. An elephant, a lion, maybe a bear. Normal animals, such as you’d find in the woods. Can we do that?”
“Well, of course,” she stammered, “but, er, what if it’s a girl?”
I was reminded of the Little League World Series announcer who said, “And next up is little Johnny Doe, whose mother is a dentist!” The emphasis was a dead giveaway that the guy was over ninety, and so I let it pass with merely a chuckle. This woman, however, was younger than me. A chuckle was not going to make me feel better.
“Oh my God,” I cried. “You’re right! What was I thinking? Imagine – a girl surrounded by such masculine images! What a moron I am! We certainly wouldn’t want her to grow up to be a – gasp – vet!”
And off she went. I was beginning to notice a distinct scarcity of fresh salespeople. Jeez, I thought – talk about no sense of humor! This is how I handle stress! Come back!
There was, thankfully, a nice young man who told me about breast pumps and the advantages of nursing and the paraphernalia involved. I admit I was somewhat uncomfortable discussing such an intimate part of my anatomy with him, until his complete disinterest in me as a woman convinced me that it stopped being an intimate part the day I got pregnant. But then, total strangers rub my stomach. I should realize that intimacy isn’t what it used to be.
I am realizing, finally, that nothing will be again. This really is just the beginning – the car seat, stroller, crib, bassinet, diapers, little tiny bathtubs and washcloths and booties and those one-piece things with the snaps. . . but what a blast it’s been so far. It’s a whole new world, one that I am, at last, unbelievably thrilled to be invited into.
And every time I get frustrated or scared, I just stop for a few minutes and feel this little thing squirming and dancing and playing with its feet and kicking me for leaning too close to the sink. And I laughingly remember what everyone asks – “Do you know what you’re having?”
Of course I do. I’m having a baby.
If there is one thing I know about childbirth, it’s this: It will happen. Somehow. If you’re pregnant and due, the baby will come out. It’s a physical impossibility to be pregnant with the same child for the rest of your life.
Of course, if you’re having a normal pregnancy, you don’t know when it will come. That’s not up to you. You can’t will it out. You can’t bargain with it. You can’t reason with it. You can’t bribe it. It will come out eventually, when it’s ready. This is what I know.
Unfortunately I tend to forget it when faced with the inevitable inquiry, “Haven’t you had that baby yet?” It’s a harmless enough question to the average Joe, but to the nine-months-pregnant woman it comes out as, “What the heck’s the matter with you? What are you doing wrong? Have that baby, for Pete’s sake!”
It’s almost as painful as hearing, “Did you have your baby yet?” a month after giving birth. Almost. Not quite.
Anyhoo, if I were to do this again, I’d probably ask the doctor to lie about my due date, even to me. I would ask her to say that it’s actually past when it really is, and then even if I went late, everyone – including me – would still believe I was early. End of dilemma.
Why does the last month seem so long? It’s as if time. . . simply. . . stops. By this point I’ve almost completely lost sight of the miracle at the end of the tunnel. My last appointment went something like this: “I don’t care if I’m only 37 weeks. I’m 170 lbs. Induce me.”
Ah, well. It’s pregnant women like me who give pregnant women everywhere a bad rep, I know. And I know that people ask us The Question out of concern, and of course we’re grateful.
I also know, however, that I’m very hormonal with way too much time on my hands this week, and have therefore taken the liberty of providing some possible responses to the inevitable inquiry for future generations of pregnant women everywhere. The question, of course, is “Are you still here?”
- “Yes, and apparently so are you. Now what can we do about that?”
- “Well, there’s a funny story there. Turns out I’m not really pregnant after all. I just wanted to see what it was like to weigh more than my husband.”
- “You know how it is. The baby and I are still bonding. . . apparently with some sort of permanent adhesive.”
- “No, I’m a figment of your imagination. Weeeeee! Look at me! I’m a pink elephant!”
- “Yes. And you’re still irritating. The difference is, someday I’m going to give birth.”
- “No, actually you’ve reached my answering machine. Please leave a message after I – er, the – beep.”
- “Rumor has it the baby’s heard about my culinary prowess. It’s hiding.”
It’s ironic, really, because I have such mixed emotions about the whole thing. Sometimes I lie in bed thinking, Please let me go into labor. Please let me go into labor. Please let me go into labor. I want to see the baby, and to get on with life. There was a moment a couple weeks ago when I thought I was in labor and all I could think was, no. No. No. No. No. Not today. No. No. Please. No.
So I guess I know two things about childbirth. First, I know it’ll happen. And second, whenever it does. . . I know I won’t be ready.
I think it’s time to introduce you to my son. And from all of his squirming and chatting and fussing, I get the distinct impression he’s ready to meet you. Or he has gas. Sometimes I can’t tell.
Regardless, before we make these elaborate introductions, I’d like to make a few simple observations about the whole “baby” experience, now that I’ve actually had it. So pull up a bouncy seat and gather ‘round, kids. Mommy Maggie has the floor.
I will begin by confessing that he is so absolutely beautiful, I spend most waking moments just trying to memorize his face. He has this clear-eyed, innocent look which leads me to suspect that I will deny him nothing. It leads me, as well, to the inescapable conclusion that he was worth it.
Worth what, you ask? Well, that is certainly an interesting and worthwhile question; moms, maybe you can help me out here. How’s this: He was worth nine months of body-damaging pregnancy, constant worry about his health, and the mental trauma associated with a complete lifestyle change – oh, and THE MOST EXCRUCIATING PAIN I HAVE EVER ENDURED.
That about sum it up, d’ya think?
Yep, suffice it to say that calling it “labor” is like saying the Sistine Chapel has “pretty pictures.” I still can’t believe people experience that kind of pain and live. Either my threshold is somewhat lower than I had anticipated, or women who know are afraid the truth would result in the end of the world – which, incidentally, it would. Must be that post-natal amnesia syndrome, which I personally don’t envision happening absent a blow to the head.
Besides, I don’t want to forget, not any of it. Not the nurse who attached my hospital bracelet, to whom I offered my home to plunge her scissors into my chest, or the one who actually recorded the profanities I invented during contractions, or the first words I heard after the birth of my child, the doctor’s consolation to my husband – “Don’t worry; it’ll go down,” talking about his head. I’m assuming.
That said, how can I now explain the miracle of him? How can I describe his little button face, or how he purses his lips into a tiny Cheerio when he’s thinking really hard? I simply can’t, any more than I can convey the look on his face when we met for the first time. It either said, “Hey! Nice to meet you!” or “Egad! What’s up with the hair?!” My response, I fear, lacked a similar passion. “Hi. OK, can I sleep now?”
But I’ve gotten better, I think. I mean, look what I’ve learned already! For instance, spit-up, sans obstacles, can actually travel several feet. “Leak-proof” diapers aren’t. Poop, of the proper color and consistency, can actually be a source of joy and celebration. And sleep, contrary to popular belief, does not come naturally to all infants.
But then comes the magical day when you start to differentiate his “Hey, I’m starving here!” cry from his “Could you put a more stupid outfit on me?” cry. And he smiles his first real smile (read: “unaccompanied by gas”). And one day he’s looking up at you and his head doesn’t flop against your chest, and you realize your little man is growing up. Way too fast.
I don’t know where this journey will take us from here, but I do know that I never again want to face life without this little person by my side. I’ll always try to do the right things, but even when I make mistakes, he’ll forgive me because he knows, somehow, that I love him more than life itself. And I know, somehow, that he loves me back.
So here he is. World, I give to you my son. And my son, I give to you . . . the world.
Maggie Lamond Simone, author of From Beer to Maternity, is a national award-winning columnist and author. Her humor and observational essays have appeared for seven years in Family Times, an award-winning monthly parenting magazine and for nine years in The Advertiser, a weekly newspaper. Her columns also appeared in the Sunday edition of the Syracuse Herald American (cir. 250,000) from 1995 through 2001. Her essays are included in Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Resolution (2008), Chicken Soup for the New Mom’s Soul (2007), and Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause (2007).