Great Expectations

Great Expectations

From Chicken Soup for the Expectant Mother's Soul

Great Expectations

The first thing we decided when we found out I was pregnant was to wait until the third month before we told anyone.

Ten minutes later, I was combing through my address book, calling everyone from our Realtor to my sixth-grade teacher.

“What do you mean you’re worried about the change in your lifestyle?” several friends with kids said smugly. “What makes you think you’ll have a life?”

I knew they were wrong. I’d be different; I am organized. I read all the books.

“Being pregnant is the easiest part,” my mother-in-law said cheerfully during my bouts of morning sickness.

When I could pick my head up out of the sink, I reveled in the attention of my husband. He fussed if I so much as sneezed. “Stop it,” he’d say. “You’re cutting off the baby’s oxygen.” He developed a new habit of looking down my throat and saying clever things like, “Hello in there.”

Life and work continued, except that I now had an excuse not to eat sushi. One night we went to a dinner reception. No one asked what I did for a living, though several people did ask what it was my husband did. I fled to the ladies’ room, where a strange woman accosted me in order to share the intimate and horrifying details of her fifty-seven hour labor, concluding with relish, “so finally I told the doctor ‘Give me the knife, I’ll do it myself’.”

At least these people had noticed. Not like the rest of the commuting world. No one on the train wanted to make eye contact; after all, you can’t offer a seat to a pregnant woman if she’s invisible. One day a blind man got on the crosstown bus, and the person next to me tapped me to get up and give him my seat. Which I did. From this I concluded that men were genetically unable to give up seats. This theory was confirmed one rainy rush hour, when I hailed a cab, and a man in a pinstripe suit shoved me aside. “You wanted women’s lib, now you got it,” he snarled.

Urging me to relax, my considerate husband rented a movie he thought I’d like. Or he’d like. I squirmed through the entire screening of Alien. But I didn’t say anything. After all, this was the same man who every night put aside Barron’s to read Goodnight Moon out loud to my belly.

Around this time, my husband also developed the insatiable urge to buy high-priced electronic gadgets. One night he brought home a camcorder and spent forty-six minutes photographing my abdomen. Getting into the spirit of things, I brought home an ultrasound picture of the baby. “But it looks like a herring,” he said. I asked the doctor for another. This time my unborn child looked like Jimmy Durante.

I read more books. The toilet-training travails of my friends became fascinating. I debated the merits of Super Pampers with the same friend with whom I used to discuss Proust. She took me out shopping to a mall, where total strangers touched my belly like some religious totem. We bought shoes; although I wore an eight, the nine was so comfortable that my friend urged me to take the ten.

I waddled into my eighth month. My doctor chose this time to inform me that she would be taking a two-week vacation that started a week before my due date. My usually calm husband began preparing labor contingency plans that involved beepers, cellular phones and highway detours that would challenge a SWAT team.

We took Lamaze. I read more books. The coach quizzed us. I quizzed the class. “What is Bellini?” I asked. “A champagne and peach cocktail?” someone said. “No, a Russian dish served with caviar and sour cream,” said another. “I have it!” said another woman. “An upscale line of baby furniture that won’t deliver on time.”

In my ninth month, my father decided it was the height of hilarity to ask repeatedly, “You’re sure it’s not twins?” On Tuesdays everyone told me I was carrying a girl. On Thursdays everyone told me I was carrying a boy. I put away the books; my attention span had been reduced to the length of the average television commercial. I learned in my Lamaze class that effleurage is not a type of floral perfume. The same night, my husband gleefully announced to the class that the first thing I planned to do after I went into labor was to shave my legs.

Ah, labor. “It’s like gas,” my aunt said. “Menstrual cramps,” said my mother. “Nothing to it.”

They lied.

I forgot how to breathe. My husband with the high-priced dual-action stopwatch fell asleep timing contractions. My doctor never came back from Paris. The backup doctor I’d never met before was three years younger than I, just starting private practice that very night. He offered Demerol. Being offered Demerol for labor is like being offered aspirin after you’ve just been run over by a freight train. About the time I started pushing, a medical student wandered in. “I know this isn’t the best time,” she said vaguely. “I have to take a medical history.”

I pushed and panted. “Your pelvis is too small,” said the doctor.

“With these hips?” I asked, incredulous.

The anesthesiologist prepped me for a cesarean. “As long as we’re all here, how about a liposuction, too?” I asked.

Finally they handed me a swaddled lump who looked uncannily like E.T. The nurses were still counting clamps and sponges. A metal ring was missing. Pandemonium in the operating room.

“Get an x-ray plate up here. I don’t want to have to open her up again,” the doctor said crossly.

“Me neither,” I said. “Couldn’t you just roll me through the airport metal detector?”

Five days later, we brought home our son. Waiting for us were assorted grandparents, flower baskets and the hospital bill. They charged us for the x ray. (No ring was found.)

Reading prepared me for much of this . . . except how passionately I would fall in love with my child. Nor did it tell me this crucial fact: sex is like riding a bicycle. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been, it comes back to you.

Liane Kupferberg Carter

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