My Word, Honey, You're Enormous

The movies and television have spoiled our ideas about pregnancy. As far as most people seem to be concerned, there are three main parts to a pregnancy: morning sickness, being huge, and delivery. Morning sickness lasts from maybe the first ten minutes of the film to as much as half an hour. Being huge takes up the bulk of the time--maybe an hour or so. And delivery is fifteen minutes. These times are just about absolute. No baby deviates from them. Even Rosemary's baby followed this schedule, and he was the spawn of Satan.
  But the fact is, pregnancy lasts nine long months, and during most of that time the woman is not huge. All of this is made up for, however, by the last two months, during which the mother gets stunningly enormous--and more enormouser by the hour.
  This worries some women--well, a lot of women. They don't like the idea of being huge even for a good cause like baby-having. Personally, I think pregnancy is a particularly beautiful kind of huge. And it's not just me--many men I know simply love pregnant women. Maybe it's because finally, for sure, we have some proof that women have sex. A pregnant woman very clearly has had sex, and that means that very probably a man has had sex with her, and it's nice to know that somewhere, at least one man is having sex. Then again, maybe the sight of a woman with child speaks to something deep within us. Personally, I think some of it is hormonal--I think pregnant women give off pheromones that say, ``Protect me. Be nice to me. Give me your seat on the subway.'' Not that everyone is affected by this; according to Dawn, she was offered a seat on the train exactly three times: Once by an old man with a cane; once by another woman; and once by our friend Dave we happened to meet on the way to work. Only in the third case did Dawn accept the offer.
  The big belly invites quite a bit of unwelcome attention, too, it seems. Everywhere Dawn went she was accosted by perfect and not-so-perfect strangers who would rub her stomach. It drove her crazy.
  ``Why do these people keep touching me?'' she would wail. And then I would patiently try to explain to her my theory on the matter, which is that these people aren't simply rubbing a woman's tummy; they are actually expressing their awe at the mystery of creation, worshiping the Divine Mother as incarnated in Dawn at this moment. She should receive these rubbings as they are intended: as tribute to the Goddess she is now representing. The oldest piece of art known to science, I tell her, is the Venus of Willendorf, a limestone sculpture found in southern Austria which is approximately 30,000 years old. It depicts a woman, heavy-breasted and pregnant. This burgeoning belly is the wellspring of all life, the center of a profound mystery, the magical place where we all begin. And anyway, pregnant bellies just cry out to be touched.
  Dawn doesn't get it. She's not very mystical. I tend to think she's too close to the miracle to see it for what it is.

And the miracle keeps getting bigger and bigger. But to Dawn's credit, she's gained very little non-baby weight, if any at all. She is exactly on target for how much she should have gained--about twenty pounds or so. Several baby manuals have breakdowns of how much of that weight is what--how much actual baby, how much placenta, and so on. From Dawn, however, I've managed to work out these weights myself. The baby weighs approximately eight pounds. The placenta weighs ten pounds. The aminotic fluid weighs eighteen pounds and the increased blood volume of the mother weighs another twenty pounds. Thirty pounds are increased water weight and twenty-five pounds are foods the mother ate but hasn't digested yet. These one hundred and eleven extra pounds are all centered in the mother's head.
  Dawn thinks she's gargantuan. She isn't. She's perfectly pregnant. In fact, from the back and even from the very front she doesn't look at all pregnant. From the side, of course, it looks like she's added, if not another estate, at least a guest house. But I think she's done very well. I fully expected that Dawn would become an ocean liner when she got pregnant, and it turns out she is probably in better shape now than before. Instead, I've gained weight. Although, come to think of it, I've been doing that since we met.
  But I can't tell her that she looks great. She still thinks she's fat. It doesn't help that her mother calls her ``Chubs''. And it also doesn't help that some of her larger stretch pants, which she has been able to wear instead of maternity wear for the last seven months or so, are now too small for her to get into. And it certainly doesn't help either her self-image or her chances of being voted Best Dressed Woman With Child that she's been borrowing my shirts. And pants. And boxer shorts, when the mood strikes her.
  I have to say the best part about Dawn's pregnant belly was her navel. It slowly got less and less deep, until near the end of the last trimester it was almost perfectly flat. But it didn't pop out, as we expected it might. Instead, it just became smooth. Except when she laughed, when it would pop in and out with her chuckles--boink-boink. This made me laugh, which made her laugh even more, which made her navel pop in and out even faster--boink-boink-boink--which made it worse. Pretty soon we'd both be hysterical in bed, which isn't bad unless you really ought to be sleeping.
  For some reason, this navel behavior, above and beyond anything else having to do with this pregnancy, embarrassed Dawn. Whenever I mentioned it to someone else, she would give me the Look--the Look says, ``I know where you live and while you sleep, I can shave your eyebrows off.''

Of course, the reason why Dawn's belly got so big was the baby on the inside. Unfortunately--or perhaps fortunately--she did not expand at the same rate as the baby, so the poor kid ran out of room. The baby eventually even ran out of space for punching and kicking and had to settle for rolling, twisting movements, which were really quite remarkable, because rather than feeling like a small kangaroo with a pair of boxing gloves it felt like there really was a baby in Dawn's womb. We could actually feel the baby's body and determine which way they were laying. And, for a while, the baby would slide to one side of Dawn's body or the other, depending on which side she was laying on.
  But the most interesting thing was when, at about five-thirty in the morning, I found myself awake, so I rolled over and held my hand against Dawn's stomach. I felt the baby awake and moving around, even while Dawn was asleep. That the baby could do such a thing--be awake while Dawn stayed sleeping--was surprising. This baby really is an independent person, I realized. This baby is not going to be part of me or part of Dawn, but an entirely autonomous creature with their own likes and dislikes and personality--and sleeping habits.
  I fell asleep like that, while the baby kept kicking.

Besides living large, there are other discomforts which appear--or, in some cases, reappear--towards the end of the pregnancy. For one thing, Dawn went back to urinating about two hundred and fifty times an hour. She was going so often she stopped closing the door. I was thinking of installing a revolving door to save on wear and tear of the knob. She also mapped out every last toilet between home and work and visited every one twice a day--once going and once coming back.
  Another discomfort arrived with the eighth month--the baby dropped. For some reason, the technical term for this is ``lightening''. Nothing got lighter. But Dawn's swelling tummy was visibly lower than it had been, as the baby moved lower into Dawn's womb, head down and getting ready for delivery. This redistribution of the baby put a lot of pressure on Dawn's pelvic area, so she was in some pain for a while. Since Dawn was going in to see the doctor anyway, we waited for the visit to talk about it.
  This visit was also Dawn's first routine internal exam, done by the doctor to check the state of the cervix. We went in to see Doctor Number Four. It was Dawn's idea to get at least one internal exam from each doctor so she'd be more comfortable with them.
  The doctor performed the exam and announced that there was no dilation. Dawn didn't want to hear that. What she wanted to hear was, ``Wow, you're twelve centimeters dilated! This baby is going to fall right out!''
  After she was over this disappointment, Dawn brought up the pain she'd been having.
  ``I'm having a lot of pain in my pelvic area,'' she explained. ``It kind of burns over here, and my leg aches, like a shooting pain that goes down my thigh when I walk.''
  ``Really?'' the doctor said jauntily, ``Too bad.''
  ``Too bad?'' Dawn echoed.
  ``Too bad,'' he repeated. ``Being pregnant isn't fun. It's just the pressure of the baby. It'll go away soon--maybe another month.''
  The pains actually went away within the week, but the baby stayed inside, getting bigger and bigger.
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