Against my obstetrician’s advice, I gained a substantial amount of weight during my pregnancy and by substantial, I mean 55 pounds. Mister Baby weighs under eight pounds at birth so I don’t look much different once he’s out. The Pater, on the other hand, seems to disappear. Each afternoon he comes to the hospital, he looks thinner and more gaunt, his eyes protrude from sunken cheeks. But while I notice it, I don’t have the capacity to worry about anything else but the tiny squalling baby in the neonatal ICU with a chest tube trailing from his tiny torso.
He is the biggest and loudest baby in the unit. I can barely look at the premies, with heartbreaking legs the size of my pinkie flanked by life monitoring machines constantly burping, ringing permanent alarm. When I am released home, all of my energy goes into hauling my swollen, c-sectioned carcass to and from the hospital on foot three to four times a day. I am rocked by the news that my best friend is in a Prague hospital near death, her body slowly being paralyzed by botulism.
I eventually have the courage to clamber onto the scale and the Pater got on after me. We are like a fairy tale couple: Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater could eat no fat, His wife could eat no lean. The Pater weighed what I used to weigh, and while I had already lost 25 pounds, I had swelled to his former weight.
In that deep Brooklyn winter of snowstorms and freezing temperatures, The Pater was my supply chain to the isolated island I inhabited but still I begged him to go to the doctor. “I’m fine,” he said, when he vibrated when I hugged him. “Go to the doctor,” I said, when his shoulder blades were more out of his skin than in. “I’m fine,” he said. “Go to the doctor, for my birthday present,” I pleaded when he threw up one morning.
My brother and my uncle are in town and we meet for dinner. My chubby brother recoils when he puts his hand on The Pater’s jutting shoulder. The Pater guzzles water throughout dinner. My uncle and I put my brother in a cab and as we say goodbye, I turn to the sound of gushing fluid. The Pater, with Mister Baby strapped to his chest, is doubled over throwing up his dinner.
“How’s he feeling this morning?” my uncle asks when he calls to check in early the next day. “He looks terrible.”
“I’m not going to hear the end of this from your family if I don’t go to the doctor, am I?” he asks when I get off the phone.
“Nope,” I agree.
A month later, he does make an appointment with the doctor. “Great,” I say. “Well, it’s your birthday,” he says.
“Well for your birthday, I’ll go to the gynecologist!” I slam down the phone. What happened to the diamond ring after giving birth?