33 Weeks Pregnant. I don’t have the basketball under the shirt look – more like the puffalump pillow the 80’s made famous for being easy to say and hard to spell. Each night when I roll over I have to remind my body of the steps it takes, like one would if they were doing algebraic equations. But instead of PEMDAS (Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally), I’ve use PEMDEWB (Please Excuse My Dear Extended Whale Belly).
P: Pillow - wrap arms and legs around it
E: Extend free arm to gain momentum for rolling
M: Make sure in extending free arm you don’t knock humidifier top off
D: Dip your chin
E: Evacuate right side sleep position by swinging full body
W: While hugging/clutching pillow like koala, try to flop to left side
B: Blanket lift while flop or become tangled like tuna in net
I will begin with the ways the Belly, which is neither me nor future baby, but some kind of fascinating opaque 4th grade diorama window everyone is drawn to, has led to people’s common sense being struck from their brains. For the Belly is powerful. It can make a logical, kind person suddenly irrational and an idiot.
1) I was at an anti-racism conference this weekend with Chicago ROAR (they’re amazing) and someone asked how I was doing. But not really how “I” was doing because they said it to the Belly, not me. When I responded that I’m physically doing pretty well but that my biggest anxiety was how I’d balance work and home life –falready anticipating the mom guilt for when I go back to work. She responded, “Oh my gosh I went back when my kid was 7 weeks and YES it’s awful – the guilt never goes away! You feel terrible if you were home all day because of what needs done at work, and you feel terrible at work wondering about your kid!”
Thanks. Thanks so much for hearing someone say ‘anxiety’ and making sure they stayed filled with it.
2) Recently someone at work spoke to the Belly, and asked it when it would be letting what’s inside get outside. I spoke for it and said about 7 more weeks and that I think the baby’s going to be rather big. She said, “It doesn’t matter what size they are – my daughter was 6 pounds and I still almost died. No, literally. I gave birth and then right afterward my placenta disintegrated inside me and wouldn’t come out and I was bleeding everywhere. I had a blood transfusion and almost died. It’s all good though.”
Thanks. Thanks for making any size baby fraught with the fear that I could also bleed to death.
3) Finally, another woman at this weekend conference asked the Belly if breast feeding would happen, adding, “I know it’s none of my business.” I should’ve said, “yes you’re damn right it isn’t,” but how could I when she’d spoken to the Belly and not to me? I said, “I’m gonna try it.” She proceeded to tell me that this was the best choice, God’s choice in fact, and that she breast fed till she asked her daughter when she’d like to stop. And her daughter SPOKE back to her (because she was a kid with teeth and full sentences) and said, on her 5th birthday.
Um. No. No words.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also share the ways the Belly has been striking in a positive way too. Here are some!
1) I went back and forth with a mother whose son was a lead role in Les Mis at ChiArts and now all the sudden three days before the show closed he had a conflict on the final matinee. She came to opening night and cornered me in the auditorium (my coat still on) to say that she wasn’t given an advanced notice of the Matinee time (she had) and that she didn’t know if her son could make it. I smiled and said, “He needs to make it” and “Enjoy the show.” Eyes were rolled. AFTER the show, coatless Belly waddled up to the mother and she smiled at Belly and asked if the baby had dropped yet, and I said, “No,” and she said, “Well you’re doing the right thing to be out and about! My niece is just sitting at home on the couch and I’ll bet that baby never comes!” Her son made it to the final show.
2) The Belly made me laugh out loud when I was driving to work. I realized that my car singing to the Selah Gospel Choir CD’s from past concert practices had gotten more difficult because breathing is hard when Belly invades lungs. But when I caught myself in the rearview mirror I realized that my voice had gone down to about a 4/100 while singing along, but my face had gone to 100/100. This. Was very funny.
3) The Belly has drawn many young children to speak directly into it like a tin can phone. They don’t need a response to keep the one-sided dialogue mostly including phrases like “Hi! You can come out now!” to which I gasp and mumble a message down in my gut that “No, in face it is not time yet.” I was able to include 4 Kipp Chicago kids (the charter network I taught with in LA for five years) in our recent ChiArts musical Les Mis and the young Gavroche doubles had twin five-year-old siblings who attended EVERY tech and show – probably seeing the thing a total of 10 plus times or more. The boy twin Nevin, asked Belly the day before when it would open up. Explaining time to kids this age is like getting my dad to eat salad that doesn’t have those sesame crunchy things on it. Never gonna happen.
I told Nevin “Two more months! First Valentines day has to come, then St. Patrick’s day, then the baby!”
The next day Nevin scowled at the Belly and said, “Why he not come out yet.”
“It’s not time yet Nevin because –“
“I thought you said two minutes.”
“No, I said, two months.”
“So?” Nevin shook his head and walked away.
3) Last one. The women’s march happened the same day as one of our shows. Belly makes me more emotionally available for some reason and I gave a rousing pep talk to the Les Mis cast about revolution and uniting and marching and fighting for what we believe in.
I think they liked it. They came running up that night telling me, “Isn’t it so great that Paige (double cast Enjolras – the “do you hear the people sing” guy) who is a girl is doing the role tonight and leading the student revolution in the show?!”
Yeah. Super cool.
PS: Okay, last last one. My mom and Rick Murphy. They’ve been the only two people to give wonderful hope to the Belly. Rick’s relaying that this is “truly magic” and my mom telling me “it’s going to be okay. You were meant for this job. The work/baby thing will figure itself out. Not to worry.”
PPS: I love Rick Murphy. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE woman that belongs to the other Belly that begat me to make my own : )