Already Swimming Home
I'm having a baby next summer. It still feels funny to write that down, or say it out loud to people, or even really think it. Yeah, I’m having a baby. You know, like a real-live-human-being-baby. (At least, I hope that’s what’s in there. No need to go all Game of Thrones with my first.)
I call him/her Little Fish. At one of my first OB appointments, the doctor pressed the doppler-thing that detects a heartbeat against my belly and said, “Hear that? It’s swimming around.” I was shocked. I expected at 11 weeks for it to still be sound asleep, you know, all serene, in a little blanket, just like in all the pictures you see on FB after someone gives birth. Swimming? I listened as she moved the doppler around some more. It sounded like a whoosh-whoosh, or the ocean waves through a fuzzy radio connection. Whatever it was, it was real. I could imagine this funny half-being coming into life pretty clearly. This tiny thing; size of a snail, a shrimp, already moving around. Already swimming.
At first, I didn’t feel like myself at all. Pregnancy hits you like a mac truck of hormones, and leaves you lurching in the dust. I decided to take the test not because I thought I’d missed my period, but because I couldn’t stop crying. In the bathroom at work, driving home from the grocery store, folding laundry, eating Chinese food with my husband. “This is the worst PMS ever!” I heard myself moan. (I took 3 tests eventually to confirm I wasn’t going crazy.)
And so, I was pregnant. That was that. But it wasn’t. I didn’t feel at home in this new reality I’d landed. I felt like I landed on the moon without an oxygen mask. What the hell is this? It was like a bizarre, secret sickness had descended on me that I couldn’t define or talk to anyone about. Everything repulsed me. The way the gym smelled at the after school program where I worked made my face drain. Public bathrooms, children, and salmon all were a little too much. All I wanted was bagels and blobs of cream cheese, seltzer and milk, Law-and-Order. I went to Boston for a workshop, and threw up in my brother’s girlfriends toilet. My boobs grew to to the size of bowling balls. My heart fluttered and my face flushed. It freaked me out. I wondered if this was even what I wanted.
There was more. Despite the hangups, (the hormones, the distinct feeling that life would never be the same) there was an underlying sense of this other thing happening. My body, as weird as it was becoming, felt like it was being pulled down into the Earth, into some deeper state of connection and integration that I still can’t quite put into words yet. I wanted to hang on for those first few weeks almost to see if I could make it through.
“Helloo… ” I find myself saying out loud to Little Fish, swimming in outer space. Perhaps it’s the most at home s/he will ever feel. “Are you in there? Who arrrrrrrree you??” (No answer, yet.)
To say the least, it’s a strange, fraught, overwhelming process bringing another human into the world. On the one hand, I can’t wait to meet Little Fish. But I don’t want it to go too quickly. There’s the sense of having gotten aboard a moving train that will only start moving faster, and yet each day, I find myself wanting to hold onto this state of in-between a little longer. This transient state of being inhabited by this new life that’s a little like dying, of not knowing if Little Fish is a boy or a girl, of what my life is going to look like in a year, or who I’m going to become when this person finally arrives. I have no idea the answers to any of those things right now, and it’s amazing.
I woke up a couple weeks ago, knowing the first trimester had finally ended, and I felt totally present in being completely not at home with all the changes happening. It was all still nebulous and weird, but all twinged with joy: I was excited, and calm, and hungry, and sad, and brimming- and all that everything was OK. I didn’t have the urge to do anything or be anywhere else. I rubbed my belly, and made some tea. I am at home, just exactly as it is.
Yesterday at work, my friend (who is also pregnant) looked up how big our babies were in terms of fruits and vegetables on her phone. “You’re an apple!” she cried, and then she laughed. “And I’m a cauliflower.” Yes! We felt genuinely giddy, like girl scouts, or scientists discovering something for the first time. It’s all so… everything. An apple, a cauliflower. “I’m an apple?” I asked again. Yeah, I’m an apple. For now. For this week. Last week I was a lemon, and next week, according the the App, I’ll be an avocado. Whatever. It’s perfect. It’s fish and fruit and bagels. It’s beauty, terror, lost, alive, and finding our way home when it feels like we never will again. Let’s do this.