First Comes Love

The buzz of your beard trimmer before we go to bed isthe closest I come to cricket song. The kind that kept me up at night when at eleven and twelve and thirteen years old I didn't dream of someday sharing my bed with an (extra)ordinary man, but an elf.

We read together, stealing half hours from sleep as I once bribed my mother, promising just one more chapter before lights out. This is a chapter in our own lives coming to a close: your breath white noise I follow soundlessly to sleep; our baby squirming in my belly between us when we try to make love, before us in every future we might occupy. Until your whiskers shake out sparse and gray, and I haven't the bone strength to make babies anymore.


There are few spectacles more ridiculous at the community Y than a pregnant woman doing hand stands in the pool. Tread-tottering, I come up spluttering, my eight-months-gone belly over turning me before I can turn this baby. Aquatic acrobatics are only the latest in a wild list of things I've been willing lately to try. Balanced precariously on the edge of the couch earlier this week, I felt the blood rushing to my head and baby's lodged somehow more firmly under my ribs. Hips lifted on a stack of pillows, my shoulders grinding into the carpet, I wondered if I could read a book balanced on my breasts at this angle. An ice pack pressed against the top of my tummy as long as I can stand it; an iPod tucked into the elastic edge of my panties underneath my belly, crooning Fleet Foxes and Carolina Chocolate Drops. Come closer, baby.

It's not that I'm afraid of a c-section (my only option at the hospital, ass-backwards as my baby), which isn't to say I'm not. Because I am, big time. But it's more than my desire to avoid unnecessary surgery; I've realized that I want to labor. I want to work for it, want the euphoria that follows twelve hours (or much, much more) of the hardest and best work I'll ever have the privilege to do. I've surrounded myself with She-Ra midwives and doulas, the support of the best husband in the known universe, read a whole hell of a lot, all in hopes of being stronger than I've ever known myself to be. Despite being told over and over again that my birth would never go just as I planned, I psyched myself into a place where I thought that could mean I might eventually need an epidural, or baby would become distressed and I would need an emergency c-section. But the thought of scheduling a c-section before labor begins on its own? Picking baby's birthday? Depresses the fuck out of me.

I would and will do anything to cradle this healthy guy or gal in my arms. Still, we've got time. 25 percent of babies are breech at 32 weeks, only 3 percent at term. Let's conform just this one time, little one.

Crying Wolf

The steering wheel sweat-slipped across my palms. I followed the printed directions to the hospital with my eyes and the manic directives of my heart with everything else, wondering if what I felt in my belly was a thump or the road or my head playing tricks. In my prenatal care sessions we stand together in a circle and hold hands, we repeat after the midwives and the social workers when they tell us to: I love my body, I love my baby. But that wasn't what I told myself in the car on the way to triage after a day without a discernible kick or roll or five-fingered-punch. The word I used instead of love was trust. Trust is what I tell myself I need if I'm going to be a mother. Hell, to be a human. I'm real good at putting my faith in other people, but I wouldn't say I feel like I'm the most reliable, that my heart and head aren't in the business of betraying me and everybody else. My blood pumps an unpredictable bridge between choruses; my nerves cry wolf.

This baby is taking after mama, intentionally or not. The fetal monitor had hardly hit my stomach before the hum-thump of his or her little heart tidal-tugged a smile on to my lips, tears from my eyes. After the requisite twenty minutes without a single contraction, the nurse said she had enough, but left the monitor on all the same. We'd tuned in to a good channel. Why turn it off?

When the midwife waved her magic wand and brought baby up on the ultrasound, she wasn't surprised I hadn't felt much in the way of movement. Baby sat cross legged like a little Buddha in my pelvis, head snug under my ribs. I'm glad at least one of us is totally zen.

But I'm thinking of a quote my aunt shared with me recently, "Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever your heart go walking outside your body." I'm learning to be okay with that. I'm trying to trust this little person to take better care of it than I have.

A Little Less Conversation

My husband talks through my belly button, flared like the wide, wrong end of a megaphone. "Kick twice if you can hear me," he says. The baby does not oblige.

For weeks we've known our little one can hear us, can respond to music or sudden noises or the murmurings of conversation. I've tried playing clumsy Jenny Lewis and Bob Dylan, guitar hum-strumming against my belly, singing Johnny Cash or saccharine sweet classics when I'm lying in bed. Nothing. I apologize when I shout at reckless (or not reckless enough) drivers on the expressway, knowing I'm flooding my baby's ears as well as his or her little body with manic mama hormones.

M doesn't ease into it, though he's had the only response resembling success. With one hand he props his cell phone against my stomach, the other pressed to catch a kick as Cake crackles forth. They're followed quickly by Weezer, Beck, The Beatles and The Beastie Boys, shuffled through in a desperate attempt to wake or rock or roll the baby. The first notes seemed to be something of a surprise if the swift pressure I felt was any indication, but there was nothing like a rousing flip of approval and baby hasn't budged for repeat performances.

I'm not surprised that I want to communicate, want to work out some sort of elaborate hand signal or secret song we can share before we've met, properly. Baby is dreaming or doing already and I want in. And my husband, who has only the still (growing) expanse of his wife to contemplate, always hurried in too late for the infrequent and unprompted dance party, has just as much reason to want for a little conversation.

Maybe the baby is just a better listener. Or maybe we aren't speaking the same language yet.