Bruce grabbed a couple of tubes of toothpaste from a cardboard display that said they were on sale for $1.99. But when we got to the cash register, the sale price failed to come up. Even after walking the young manager over to the display, she didn’t have the authority to override the price at which the item was scanning.
“That’s the trouble with retail these days,” Bruce said as we walked out of the store. “They hire all these young people, and then they don’t give them any discretion.”
As we headed toward the car, I was suddenly overcome by a wave of nausea. I contemplated getting in the car and putting down the window, but it felt more urgent than that. I moved quickly to the edge of the parking lot and began vomiting into a snow bank. When I caught my breath, I saw how ugly the vomit looked on the snow, and I shuffled over a couple of feet to a spot where the snow had melted and ground was exposed, and I began to vomit there.
It was the third time I’d thrown up in two weeks. As I stood there ejecting the contents of my stomach, which contained little more than water and Tums, I thought of all the women who over the last few months had looked at me enviously and said, “Oh, I loved being pregnant. Enjoy this time.”
Enjoy this time? Which part? The unrelenting nausea in the first several months that limited my diet to saltines, ginger ale and cheddar goldfish? The skanky taste I’ve had in my mouth for eight months? Or perhaps it’s the fiery acid I’ve had for half a year. I eat about half a dozen Tums every day and sleep with my torso elevated on a foam rubber wedge because if it’s prone, the acid will sit in my esophagus all night and inflame it, giving me heartburn the next day that is unbearable. But my belly is so large now, I wake up every morning with just my head on the foam because the weight of my stomach has pulled my body down to the bottom of a wedge the way gravity pulls a child down a playground slide.
Since I’ve been pregnant, I cry at commercials, I forget what I’m saying mid-sentence, and the other day, I meticulously placed toilet paper on a toilet seat in a public bathroom and as I put down the last piece, I began to urinate, forgetting to first turn around and stand over the bowl.
I get so tired walking up stairs, I grab on to the banister with one and then the other hand and then hoist myself upward. When I go into New York, I used to avoid touching anything. Now, I reach out for everything, grasping onto subway poles, stair rails, tile walls, anything to avoid losing my balance.
My body has never been so ugly. My belly button, which was always an “innie”, now protrudes outward like a turkey thermometer indicating the bird is done. I have little brown spots that resemble age spots along the right side of my face. My lower legs and feet have been swollen for so long, I don’t even look for my ankles anymore. I have so many varicose veins in one spot on my leg, Bruce asked me how I got the bruise.
Twice now, I’ve gotten a rash on my hand for several days that looks like scabies. I don’t know if I was bitten by a bug in the night and my incessant scratching made it flare up, or if I have some rare pregnancy-related rash, so I asked the nearest medical person I could find: the technician giving me an ultrasound. She inspected my hand and made a face of disgust.
“I don’t know what that is, but I do know it has absolutely nothing to do with your pregnancy,” she said.
And if I thought the first trimester was hard, the third has been worse. For months, people remarked at how small I looked. I’ve made up for it in the last two weeks. I’ve ballooned. When I bend down to get something from a lower shelf of the refrigerator, I want to pay someone to come over and help lift me back up. My knees are sore from the weight – it doesn’t help that the body apparently produces a hormone in the third trimester to loosen up the ligaments for delivery. My breathing is so labored, I sound like a fat man who’s just climbed a flight of stairs. And I make this noise every couple of minutes that’s part burp, part hiccup, that sounds like a 10-year old who’s had too much coca cola.
A friend of mine tried to take some maternity photos of me yesterday, similar to those Demi Moore shot for Vanity Fair, but my belly was so grotesquely large, she couldn’t seem to get a photo in which it didn’t look utterly absurd.
“Can you use one arm and hand to cover your breasts, and put your other arm underneath your belly?” she asked. She’d looked at the Vanity Fair spread before coming over. Apparently, having the arm outline the bottom of the belly made it look less freakish.
“I’m trying,” I said.
“But the arm covering your breasts, I can still see your nipples. We want these to be G-rated,” she said.
Either Demi Moore had really small breasts or really large hands, but this ‘cover the breasts with a forearm and a hand’ thing was just not working for me. I was spilling out all over.
And yet as the whole difficult journey comes to an end this week, I’m starting to feel nostalgic. I’ve enjoyed the attention. One friend now comes with me to pick up my bi-weekly delivery of organic produce because the food basket is too heavy for me to lift. When I went to a restaurant recently with another friend, and we were forced to park a few blocks away, she had me wait by the car so she could first make sure the restaurant was open before having me walk all the way over there.
I went to a party last weekend, and the hostess made me a brownie sundae while two other women found a seat for me. One sat me down in a folding chair and the other one carried over a second chair for my feet because I said my legs had swelled.
We went out to dinner at a diner the other night, and the waitress was fawning over me, wanting to know when I was due, the gender of the baby, telling me to eat however much turkey and stuffing and ice cream I wanted. The baby needs his nutrients, she said. When she brought the bill, I pulled my American Express card out of my pocket and accidently dropped it on the floor. Both she and Bruce said, “I’ll get it,” and bent down to pick it up.
Whenever we leave the house, Bruce holds onto my arm so I don’t slip on the snow. He doesn’t let me carry anything, not even the newspaper. He carries the laundry up and down the basement stairs, and if I need anything from the kitchen during dinner, like salt, he says, “Sit. I’ll get it.”
I don’t know if I’ll ever be so pampered again. It’s a pampering perhaps reserved for the handicapped, but I’ve gotten quite used to it. I’ve gone soft. Things I used to be able to do are suddenly difficult on my own. I now wait at the top of the porch steps for Bruce’s hand, like a child might wait for his parent’s hand before crossing the street. I don’t even like leaving the house without Bruce because I fear I may encounter something too heavy to lift, or if I’m driving, my belly will restrict me so much, I won’t be able to turn my head to see if there’s another car occupying the space before I change lanes.
This pregnancy business has actually given me a sense of entitlement such that when people don’t stand up to give me their seat or inquire how I’m feeling, I want to kick them in the shins and say, “Can you not see I’m with child?”
“People aren’t giving you your props for being pregnant, are they?” Bruce said one day, as I complained about a momentary lapse in the attention.
“No, they’re not,” I said, pouting.
It’s not just the pampering. People are constantly telling me how young I look and that I’m positively glowing. “Pregnancy really suits you. You look like a teenager!” I’m told. A lot. I fear once I give birth, all the life force will be sucked out of me, and I’ll be left depleted, a shriveled balloon. And I tell people so every time they compliment me.
“Oh, just take the compliment,” Bruce finally said recently.
I also haven’t gained much weight — about 20 lbs. — and yet the baby is relatively large, an indication that he’s been feeding off of me. Not only have I gained little in my face, but my arms and legs are thinner than they were before I was pregnant. It’s like having a tapeworm or a parasite. But for the ludicrously large belly, I feel downright bony, like Halle Berry.
We had an amniocentesis last week to determine whether the baby was ready to come out, via a c-section, because there’s a risk that if I go into labor, the location of my placenta will cause excessive bleeding –something the doctors want to avoid. But the amnio showed the lungs weren’t developed enough, and so we’re now waiting until this coming Thursday to deliver the baby. The news meant I would remain pregnant for just a little bit longer. I was relieved. I realized I’m not quite ready to give up my special status.
As Bruce and I walked out of the house this afternoon to go to the drugstore, he said, “Remind me when we get back that I have to change the kitty litter.”
Oh, I’ve enjoyed this time.