Thar she grows?

9 05 2012

Here, for your viewing pleasure, camera-and-mirror pictures of the growth in action:

Front view: mostly normal, if slightly hippy (but you could be kind and blame the baggy sweats, like I do)

Sideways-ish, wherein the chub can be seen as unequivocally “bump” in nature.

So far, this pregnancy project qualifies as decidedly surreal. It’s not helped, I suppose, by all of the people on the internet who announced before I did, posted bump pictures before I did, and now have babies. They seems real, these babies on the internet. The unpredictable thumpity resistance from the inside of my lower belly when I lean over the keys in a way that cuts into some tiny person’s limited space and irritates her, requiring kicking, does not. I have had weird body things before: gas bubbles, bruises, joints out of joint, ways of a body feeling inexplicably not-like-itself, and this is just another one. Watching her dart around on the sonogram screen was cool, but it was cool in the same way watching millions of other things dart around on screens for my entire life has been cool. At the screening, I still couldn’t feel the moving. Now that I can feel the moving, there’s nothing to see. So the two still don’t really connect, to me: there was this fascinating little black-and-white science film while a nice woman with spangly earrings told stories about her exasperating teenage daughter and poked me in the belly with a round-ended stick, and now there’s a weird thumping that could be a baby, I guess. Or a tapeworm. Or yesterday’s burrito.

So, really, it’s just a series of logistics puzzles. How am I going to accomplish “x” today–does it involve going out in public and thus needing clothes I can’t fit into, & do I have time to go to the Salvation Army to try to find something that does? Does it involve moving furniture I’m not allowed to move, lifting things I’m not allowed to lift, or otherwise wishing to pit myself against heavy objects? Does it involve standing on step-stools and ladders, which gets me glared sternly at and thus has to be put off as a task to add to Matt’s list? Does it involve balancing laundry baskets at arm’s length (because the turn has always been too tight for baskets-on-hips, and it’s become uncomfortable to try to hold them against the belly instead) down the narrow tunnel of our uneven, worn-wood basement stairs (which feels far more precarious, every time I do it, than climbing onto any ladder or step-stool we own)? What am I going to eat today–does it involve forbidden cheeses, forbidden tea-herbs, carefully measuring weekly allotments of certain fish, or all of the lovely fresh fruits and veggies likely to cause heartburn? What kinds of travel can we plan–does it involve trying to be in the car for many hours during months when I’ve been promised I won’t be able to last a half-hour without having to stop for what my (due soon herself) English sister-in-law Julie charmingly calls a “wee”? Does it involve sleeping on the ground in a tent with a 4-year-old kicking me in the tapeworm, and if so, by whatever-month-that-happens, will my back let me get up in the morning?

And, of course, projected-future logistics: how are we going to pay for the [a, b, and c] that we’ll need soon? How are we going to pay for the [d, e, and f] that we’ll need soon thereafter? How are we going to pay for college, while we’re still paying off Matt’s student loans, let alone how are we going to pay to send another kid to college when Caleb’s custody agreement says Matt has to pay for half of wherever he goes, which means we don’t really have any say in dividing what few pennies we have fairly among what kids we have to give them to? How are we going to afford to finish the attic in the next couple of years, so we can have another room, which we’re going to need to do if we want to grow her a sibling who’s actually here all of the time, which I want, for ten thousand reasons most easily embodied by a thought experiment:

Imagine you have a really cool, smart, funny older brother around to play with after school four days a week (until he gets old enough to have a lot of homework, and then he says to go away because you’re bugging him), but you have to spend EVERY WEEKEND of your entire life, and every holiday, and every road trip, and every vacation, with only your boring old parents (who are sad because your brother isn’t allowed to come). Wow would that suck.

These are the things I start thinking about at 4 in the morning, and go around and around in my head at until Matt wakes up sighing because he wishes I would smile in the mornings. I want to, I really do, but college. And the attic. And the roof that will need re-done in the next year or two, and the driveway we meant to have re-done last year but couldn’t afford it, and the court fees it might take to get Caleb into preschool in the Fall. Plus, holy crap, the endless dead-end mazes I wander into trying to work out how we’re going to manage with one car in a neighborhood that has a mediocre walkability score if you’re mugging-proof but otherwise has none at all… That’s a whole long tangent of that I’m not even going to start on right now, because nobody has that much attention span this late in the afternoon. And it would be more fun, anyway, to do it with maps.

I want this whole process to be fun. I really, really do. And in little flashes it is: it’s fun talking baby names. It’s fun scouring yard sales for used stuff and walking away with steals–last weekend, we scored a $200 stroller + snap-out carseat/carrier + 2 cars worth of snap-in carseat bases (one to keep in our car and one for me to have at home in case I can persuade a friend to come pick us up and take us out somewhere) + a rain-cover for the whole stroller + an Eddie Bauer fleece jacket for the carrier, with a little velcro face-flap, for strolling or going to and from cars in the snow for $45.50, alongside a $2 activity-mat with dangling stuffed creatures and a $2 Boppy. One of the women I tutored last semester gave me a bath-hammock and a baby-room transformer: a tall stand that can have feet, wheels, or rocking-bars topped with a detachable, multi-directional folding bassinet (it can fold up halfway, to make a strap-in seat for a kid to be propped up in to look around the room, or fold up all the way to become small and easily portable, and it also has a fold-halfway-across shade–with more hooks for dangling stuffed creatures)–and when the bassinet is detached, the rest converts into a changing table. This much, at least, is pleasing. I love the gift-and-yardsale economy of baby-things, and not just because we’re broke. It really appeals to the anti-consumer in me, re-using things that the Great Sales Machine wants to convince us that every baby needs its very own, brand-new version of, to grow out of in under 2 years (and sometimes in only a handful of weeks). Kid’s going to be a re-use or recycle toddler who wears a lot of boy-clothes, because we have a lot of toddler boy-clothes, and little jeans and t-shirts are little jeans and t-shirts. No matter what the media tries to tell her (and especially not at under-5 in a house where we rarely watch television and almost never commercials), whoever she is, she will not be born allergic to trucks, baseballs, and dinosaurs.

Typing this, to circle back from logistics to the surreal, has inspired kicking, but there’s no gauge for differentiation between approval and protest, really, and even if there were a gauge, the answer to any protests she might lodge is going to be the same for a long, long time, so she’d better get used to it: “that’s what we’ve got, kid, and we’re poor, so that’s what you’re having.” I don’t lack empathy–I hated that line from my mother. I will be able to say “I understand that that’s frustrating sometimes” with a straight face. And yet I grew up not only un-damaged by a lifetime spent wearing K-Mart knock-offs instead of blue-label Keds (however I might have railed about my warped sense of “fairness” at the time) but so at home in the economic sense of it that I deliberately made career choices that I knew would “trap” me forever in this kind of financial reasoning: “It’s a $12 label, stuck on $5 worth of shoe-canvas. If you want the label that badly, go get a job. Or a magic-marker.”

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