Friday, September 16, 2011

Great Expectations (January 2005)

I love being pregnant once I am showing and past the “dangerously close to fat” phase as my darling friend opined on seeing me in a bikini. “Say that to my face,” I retorted, gesturing to my pornographic cleavage.

My cleavage did garner a lot of attention which seemed to mirror racial stereotypes. Many a white man would look at my pretty, glowing face propped up by my enormous breasts with interest until his eyes traveled down. Upon seeing the bump, his face would flush baby girl pink. On the other hand, black and Hispanic men were not put off by the fact that I was with another man’s child, rather it was seen as evidence that I was goer.

“You need a birth plan,” says the birth coach. This is pronounced with the same inherent judgment as a friend might say: “You used a condom, right?” if you slept with an intravenous drug user. So I devise a plan to listen to a John Le Carré book on tape while bouncing on my Pilates ball and making lasagna. When I’m fully dilated, I will walk the three blocks to the hospital and give birth on all fours in the birthing center while the Pater massages my back. I will eschew all medical intervention that is designed to deny a woman her natural right to birth her baby.

Our abbreviated course in the Bradley method instills us with a fear of Pitocin and distain for epidurals. The birthing warrior teaches us all the techniques that the Pater will oversee as coach, advocate, doula and keeper of interventionist medicine at bay. We watch videos of homebirths and witness a freshly born German baby crawl up his mother’s belly, latch on to one breast while keeping a wary eye on the other. The only time medical intervention is considered acceptable is if the life of the baby was at risk “But you know your body best.”

For this reason, I made the unorthodox move of switching obstetricians at 5 months. I wanted at least the option of the birthing center down the street but since the midwives were all booked I got Dr. Whatchamacall. I couldn’t believe The Pater hadn’t clocked this verbal tick of hers to call everything, including the womb and baby, whatchamacall. Of course, he cottoned on about 3 seconds before she walked into the exam room and loudly said: “Whatchamacall!”

After work winds up on Christmas Eve I still have three weeks before it’s due to wallow in being pregnant. At Christmas dinner, all that can be seen in the photos are my knee caps, the rest of my lap is baby. I love being enormous, I love the baby moving around and around and around in me. The cold weather doesn’t bother me; I am a portable oven. My idea of nesting seems to consist of soaking up as much me time as possible. In lieu of a physical space for the baby I prepare a mental nest, layering self-indulgence on top of self-indulgence.

My due date is the culmination of this self-centered bliss. Aided by free samples of a chocolate-coffee concoction at Starbucks, I set down on paper, for the first time, the events of the night I was raped over ten years ago. I have only recounted this to the police and in court and I have long considered the ability to write it down, facing each scene in sequence, in its full detail, every smell put somewhere else other than inside me as the final act of expulsion or integration.

The next morning, the Pater and I stroll down the street to the weekly checkup confident that it will be routine and we will be told to call when the contractions start. The nurse technician applies the goo and starts scanning while we look on the screen with pride and wonder. She scans again, and then again. “I’ll be right back,” she says. She returns with another pretty young woman with a dark ponytail and they scan me again. The second woman turns to me, “I’m Dr. P and we’re going to have to induce you immediately. You don’t have any amniotic fluid so we need to get the baby out.” “Where’s Dr. Whatchamacall?” I shout, immediately hysterical. “I thought you kept producing amniotic fluid?” I ask her when they have tracked her down. “Why can’t I drink a bunch of water and we’ll check again.” “I’m sorry but we have to induce now.” “Well, I’m not ready.” We convince her to let us go home four blocks away to pack a bag. “What if we don’t come back?” “I’ll track you down if you’re not back in an hour,” she threatens.

We go home, we pack a bag, have lunch, make phone calls. “There’s nothing we can do,” the Pater tries to cheer me up. “Oh yes there is!” and we have a glass of wine and make love with much pitosin producing pulling on the nipples. “Pull harder!” I shout. This produces predictable results but no contractions so it’s back to the hospital.

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