For nine months, you give up alcohol. No beer. No wine. No margaritas. You give up coffee. And caffeinated tea. And brie. And sushi. And you microwave your lunchmeat, and you limit your tuna intake, and one night, your husband innocently brings home Indian food, which promptly gets tossed into the trashcan as you warn him from the bathroom, “If I even have to think about smelling chicken tikka masala again in the next nine months…”
You watch as your stomach inflates. Your jeans grow tighter and tighter. You watch a video about how to use a rubber-band so that they’ll fit again. This is absurd, and also puts you at risk for accidental indecent exposure. You spend an absurd amount of money on maternity clothes just so that you can feel slightly attractive again.
You give up any sort of skincare product with “unnatural” ingredients, and overnight your face grows acne the likes of which you haven’t seen since you were sixteen and in a constant state of disbelief that Joey Potter would even begin to waver between Dawson and Pacey. Pacey, Joey. The answer is always Pacey. You realize that all of the effective ingredients in facial products are the unnatural ones.
You try to exercise throughout the pregnancy, but you watch in dismay as you go from running 9 minute miles…to 12 minute miles…to 15 minutes miles that you don’t run at all, but jog so slowly that you look like a sad combination between the local senior citizen mall-walkers and Ethan Frome. Other pregnant women call this “wogging,” which just adds insult to injury.
For nine months, you get in bed to go to sleep. You get up to pee. You can’t sleep. You try your left side, because babycenter.com and thebump.com and What to Expect When You’re Expecting have instilled in you a deep belief that if you, in fact, roll over onto your back while sleeping during pregnancy, chances are you will give birth to a chimpanzee. Or a serial killer. Or a serial killer chimp. Your left side falls asleep. You switch to your right side, which, for some reason that the books and websites never explain, isn’t as good as the left side—but at least you aren’t sleeping on your back! GOOD GOD, NOT THE BACK!!! Your right side falls asleep. You get up to pee. You get back in bed. You get up to pee. You get back in bed. You wonder what labor will be like. You get up to pee. You get back in bed. You get up to pee. You think, “Fuck it”—and finally sleep on your back. That hour of sleep is glorious. You get up to pee.
Your ankles swell. You live in maternity leggings. An old man at the grocery store informs you that you’re “ready to pop,” and you consider lobbing a cantaloupe at the back of his skull. You and your husband spend your last eight Saturdays as a couple stretched out on the floor of a stranger’s living room, practicing labor squats and breathing through contractions and holding ice cubes in your hands—because yeah, that’s what labor is going to feel like—an ice cube in the hand.
You count down the months to your due date. And then you count down the days. And then you count down the hours.
And then your due date passes. You are “past due.” Expired. If you were a bottle of milk, you’d be passed back and forth, sniffed dubiously. Do you think it’s okay to drink? I don’t know—do you think it’s okay?
Your doctor threatens induction. You eat spicy meals, and take long walks, and try to ignore the phone calls and e-mails and facebook messages all asking the same thing: “Is that baby here yet?!?” You resist the urge to write back, “Yes! Didn’t I tell you? I had the baby already! Now leave me alone.”
You convince your husband to have sex with you as one last ditch effort—and it’s a good thing, because you won’t be riding that ride at the amusement park again for a long, long time. And, luckily, this does the trick. There are contractions. Water breaking. There is a frantic drive to the hospital, and there are screams and moans. There is blood, and there is vomit, and there is poop. It is all somehow exactly and nothing like what you expected.
Your body literally breaks. Literally.
And then, there is a baby.
And then, there is exhaustion.
But then, four months later, there is this:
…and somehow, it all—all of it—is worth it.