dr. grisham beams when he looks up from my chart. "i've never been happier to see you," he says warmly. today his glasses frames are small and scarlet; he looks exhausted, but i am his star pupil, the easiest biophysical profile to round off a stretch of long clinic hours.
i am 35 and a half weeks, but my uterus doesn't quite seem to know it. "you might be hiding this baby sideways," dr. grisham remarks while struggling to measure my belly. it continues to flatten out while i'm horizontal, dr. hughes' enduring legacy of a magic trick. "your fundal height is lagging behind, but that could be because of your surgery."
fundal height is a term, like so many others, that has superseded papa john's coupon and dogs posing like humans in my google search results. it's one of a thousand iterations of measurements logged in the course of pregnancy, measured from the top of my uterus to an area further south that makes me rather relieved to still be clad in cute underwear at this point.
it doesn't feel like my uterus is any smaller than it should be. it has finally managed to balloon up to my ribs, compacting my stomach into a thimble that exists purely for the collection of acid. last night i achieved my ultimate nightmare- forced to sleep sitting up to fend off the imminent threat of choking on reflux. several times a day, the burn crawls up my esophagus, threatening to become a whole thing. several more times a day, i promise myself that i will immediately switch to an exclusively yogurt diet for the next month.
instead, i bake and eat two dozen chocolate chip cookies.
i have now gained 25 lbs, which is still on the conservative end- but there are some days when i look at my thighs and feel panic creeping up my chest, faster and more volatile than the worst episode of esophageal reflux. when i step on the scale at dr. grisham's office, i wipe my mind blank like i've been placed under the imperius curse. you will lose the baby weight, i tell myself sternly. you will always lose the weight. it has become a daily mantra.
and i think about sitting down to exercise the pressure of this off my chest, this heavy subject of pregnancy and body image. but then it metamorphosizes in my mind to a more nebulous fear that i can't quite wrap a narrative around. will i ever get my body back? becomes will i ever get my life back? so i try to find the right words, the most elegant ones to express four years and ten thousand dollars and half a million deficit calories and these 180 degrees between 24 and 28 but it feels so insurmountable to explain and even more so in the context of pregnancy- a time in my life that draws a definitive line between my ego and my responsibility. and in the exact same headspace of high-strung narcissism there's a chiding reminder that will probably become my mom voice- this isn't about you, mimi.
so then i decide not to delve in, not to keep exploring how wretched and baseless my fears get. i try not to envision myself with brows unfilled and bereft of lashes, dead-eyed with sleep deprivation and uncomfortably lumpy in an ill-fitting cardigan, showing up to the office in flip flops, saying lol this is motherhood i guess idk someone please kill me. i talk to ian about division of labor, draw up a night schedule, slowly shift away work responsibilities like i'll ever really be able to unbury myself from the avalanche that awaits me.
"we have to make sure we talk about everything," i say for the 400th time while reading an article about how to babyproof a marriage.
"we do talk about everything," ian says happily, still scrolling through pictures of dogs on instagram.
but in a month our conversations about personal accountability, burgers, and black twitter are going to be stalled in favor of a running dialogue focused on diapers and webmd fearmongering. ian feels fully prepared for this, but i worry that i will no longer retain the mental capacity for cool jokes. where other couples tend to their marriages with reminders to keep it sexy, i make mental notes to keep it funny.
fineness. funniness. fucking up some commas. these are three of the four quadrants on my personal coat of arms. the last one has yet to be filled in, lagging behind like my uterine growth probably. it'll likely germinate into something about being a good parent. one who has her priorities fully sorted. a responsible, conscientious mother who, for example, does not reschedule her labor & delivery tour in order to play more coin pusher games at dave and buster's.
in unrelated news, my tour has been pushed back to next thursday. i still haven't packed a hospital bag, because i enjoy living on the edge. my amniotic fluid, which has been consistently low, has made another sharp decrease this week- which likely means more exposure to cool glasses frames during this last month. if it drops another two centimeters, i'll be seeing the maternity ward sooner than originally anticipated.
i am less nervous about this potential turn of events because james' biophysical profiles have been so routinely outstanding. the minute dr. grisham's ultrasound wand makes contact, we visualize perfect breathing movements.
"i love you, little baby" he says gratefully as james flexes his lungs and scores 8/8 immediately.
i'm getting pretty fond of this kid too.