make room for baby
The first few months passed in much the same way they usually do for me when I’m expecting—in total misery. Ginger ale, saltines—did I mention I felt terrible?
I took my tests, except for amniocentesis. Declining this test drives most in the medical community insane along with a lot of other people who can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to take advantage of every test there is, especially one that can give so much information to reassure you. And especially if you are 157 years old like I was, they can’t stand that you won’t take the test. Except for Dr. James, who respected my feelings when I said I didn’t like the small risk of miscarriage involved and that I didn’t necessarily need to know the info it would give. Baby number four was on its way, and that was that. After all, our five-year-old had already announced it on the front porch.
He told me about a combination of three noninvasive tests that would give me about 85 percent of the info that an amnio would. Good enough for me. They looked at the baby’s neck on the sonogram and my blood and some other things. When a high-risk specialist came up to my husband and told him there was nothing to worry about, we were so relieved. We already loved our baby so much and wanted her (him?) to be healthy.
Finally, just in time for Christmas, my first trimester hangover lifted. I felt so much better, I happily ate my way through the holidays and gained a festive eight pounds. Only forty-two left to go!
With the scales balancing on my end, we turned our attention to the baby’s post-womb environment—our house. We’d given away most of the baby things but still had a crib. Friends brought a high chair and rocker. My home office—the one that used to be a nursery, then was a bedroom for one of the boys, until we doubled him up with his brother—was morphing back into a nursery. Good thing we never took down the cow-jumping-over-the-moon border.
With my office gone, I’d work from a laptop in my bedroom or in the kitchen or whenever time and my children and the new baby and the dog and the cat would allow. Assuming I could still see my lap.
One day, as the months passed and the impending baby seemed ever more impending, I was writing and my husband was crashing around in the background—sighing heavily and tossing stuff out of our closet and muttering under his breath that our (smallish) house just wasn’t big enough for our (largish) family.
It’s a four-bedroom bungalow, a Sears house built in the 1920s. You could literally order the house from the Sears catalog, and for a couple of grand they’d come to your lot and put your house together. Then you could sit down on the floor of your new Sears house and open your Sears catalog and order some Sears furniture to furnish your Sears house so you wouldn’t have to sit on the floor. It’s not a huge Sears house, but basically it has room for everyone and everything—even stuff you don’t get from Sears.
The kids and I stared at their dad and wondered what he was expecting to happen to the size of our house between that moment and the arrival of our baby in a few short months. We’d gone through this before with our tiny apartment in the city. But our house was fine. Besides, how much room does a little baby take up? Babies are little. There’s always room for another baby—kind of like Jell-O.
That was another thing: we didn’t know what we were having. Even though there were ample opportunities to find out, we decided to be surprised. We were getting used to surprises. I’d been evaluated at the hair salon, the grocery store, and at our town hall while signing up for Little League. Some people wanted to feel my belly, others just looked, some had me turn around. The consensus? It was about fifty-fifty.
You’re all in front—that’s a boy.
Your face isn’t puffy—boy.
Your belly’s not pointy enough—girl.
Your wedding ring still fits—boy.
You already have two boys so—it’s a girl.
I didn’t let anyone dangle a ring on a string over my belly this time. I didn’t really care what it was as long as it was a baby, a healthy baby. My long-suffering ten-year-old daughter would either get the little sister she was hoping for or she would get a third little brother and remain the princess in our house. She would always have her own room. Meanwhile, I sat there typing with my stomach stuck to the top of my thighs and, for a break, flipped through the spring magazines:
Banish Belly Bulge!
Bikini Fit in 6 Weeks!
Fight Flab with French Soup Diet!
The belly-banishing, bikini-fitting, and flab-fighting would have to wait. Friends encouraged me to eat and put on weight because, well, I could. “Have a piece of birthday cake. Go for it. You have an excuse. You can lose it later.”
You look great!
I could hardly tell you were pregnant!
This is what the women said. For the most part, they were really sweet. Well, there was the time I showed up for my twenty-fifth high school reunion a month before my due date. Not exactly the ideal condition for making a fantastic impression after a quarter-century absence. Who thinks, “I want to be huge and wearing something comfortable—elastic-waist, giant-panel pants”?
Everyone was nice and marveled at my continued fertility. Except for Susie Denk, who came running across the reception room, dressed to the nines, wineglass in hand, and said to me (without a hello), “You’re too old! What are you doing? You are too old!” That was pretty much the extent of our conversation. As far as high school reunion conversations go, she had a point. She was just having some fun with an old friend. A really “old” friend. We’d both had our daughters around the same time almost a dozen years earlier. But she’d had the sense and decorum to stop.
Men had their own reactions to my (largish) appearance:
Whoa, you got big!
Hey, look at you! You’re ready to pop!
One nice dad said, “You look fine, like you swallowed a beach ball.”
“Yeah,” my husband added, “you look like a woman who swallowed a woman who swallowed a beach ball.”
This was why I didn’t help him with the closets. In fact, when he wasn’t looking, I crammed a few more things in there.
The kids couldn’t wait for the tot to arrive, although they were getting a kick out of feeling the baby kick and watching the surface of my ever larger stomach roll with movement. They were understanding about my limited capabilities, fetching and carrying and saying, “Mommy can’t carry that!”
Sweet concern, left-handed compliments, and rushed home renovations aside, I was looking forward to three days of hospital rest, painkillers included. It would be a happy Mother’s Day.
Copyright © 2007 by Susan Konig. All rights reserved.