[My husband keeps me sane.]
I've heard that some women can't stand their husbands when they're pregnant. Not this woman. As independent as I think I am. As strong. As determined. As tenacious and scrappy. I'm afraid I'd be a tragic mess without Joe. I don't tell him enough. How happy I am that I married him. That I chose to have a baby with him. That he chose to marry me. Have a baby with me. How grateful I am for his unconditional love. Because believe me, there are moments when I wouldn't love me. But he does. And he tells me. Over and over. How grateful I am for his kindness. His compliments. That he tells me I'm beautiful. Even as I get bigger and crankier and dismiss every ounce of his flattery and crinkle my nose at the mention of beauty. Still he tells me I'm beautiful. And in moments of solitude, I think of that. And in moments of frustration, I think of that. And I think Damn girl, you're lucky to be so loved. And I think about my son. How lucky he is to have a father who sets his head on my stomach and says "Hello in there. How you doing? If you can hear me, kick me in the face. It's the only time I'll allow it, so do it while you can."
Pregnancy, as exciting as it is, can be a frightening endeavor. It can be as heavy or as light as you want it to be. As dramatic. Or humorous as you want it to be. You see that hand puppet up there? That's my husband's hand. He drew on it while I was in the middle of a glucose test last month at our birthing center. For those of you who are unfamiliar with glucose tests, it's a gestational diabetes screening that requires guzzling a bottle of foul-tasting, sugary syrup and then waiting an hour for a blood draw. During that hour, my husband went to the bathroom, where he grabbed a Sharpie marker used for marking urine samples, and on his hand drew two eyes and a mouth. When he returned to the waiting room, he insisted on talking using only the hand puppet. In a ridiculous voice, of course. When it was time to draw blood he made obscene faces with the puppet behind the nurse's back causing me to giggle awkwardly before being pricked. Note: I failed this test and returned three days later (without Joe) for a three-hour test that required 12 hours of fasting and ingesting a stronger, more sugary syrup concoction Without him the test was boring. Tedious. Definitely not funny. Definitely not worth writing about. Other than the fact that I passed. At the next appointment, my 32-week appointment, while we waited for the midwife to enter our room, Joe and I played a game of hot potato with the rubbery life-size fetuses on display. This was followed by a game of Which is it: Pregnant or FUPA? There was a lot of activity that day in the birthing center. A woman was in labor at the end of the hallway. Female family members of all shapes and sizes were running amok awaiting the arrival of a niece, or nephew, or cousin, or grandchild. One woman's FUPA so closely resembled a baby bump that we were convinced she was pregnant until we realized she was in her mid-50s. At least. I was laughing so hard when the midwife walked in the room I could hardly regain my composure. I married Joe for these moments. Because there's no one else I would rather toss a rubber fetus with at 34 weeks pregnant, who makes me laugh when I'm uncomfortable who tells me I'm beautiful even though I'm beginning to resemble The Blueberry Girl from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. My wish for all girls who one day hope to settle down with a mate is that they find someone who stretches mundane moments into stories worth retelling. Because that's all life is. The good stuff, anyway. The meaty stuff. The stuff that lulls us to sleep at night. Stories and moments strung between people like a tangled fishing line invisible to everyone else but you. What matters and consoles Comforts and inspires. Love is the man who rubs your back when you're sick and pregnant as I was this week. The man who heads to the drug store at midnight to get cough drops and sore throat spray for his wife, who's lying in bed miserable and wheezing. The man who actually sprays the stuff in his wife's mouth even though she's just warned him, "I might vomit on you when you do it." The man who pats his pillow at night and lets his wife curl up beside him hooking her leg over his and where there once was empty space now there's an unborn son. Wedged between them. Kicking them both. Like some kind of baby Morse code for goodnight. On Monday night I had my first painting class in a series of six painting classes at an art center in downtown St. Petersburg. It was a Christmas gift from Joe. I figured I best get the classes in now. Before The King is born. I also figured I'd paint something cool for The Baby Cave. I walked into class with my canvas. My paints My palette in tow. I was sick. My voice was gone. I was sucking on honey cough drops and nursing a bottle of water. I thought painting would make me feel better. The woman next to me asked when I was due. "June 1," I rasped, pointing to my throat to indicate my voice was shot. "Boy or girl?" She asked. "Boy," I whispered. "You're in for a treat," she said. "I LOVE my boy. He's my everything." I smiled. Nodded knowingly. When really I know nothing. Yet. "His father was out of the picture before he was even born," the woman continued. "I was four months pregnant when he left." She looked at me strong, determined tenacious and scrappy. "How old is he now?" I asked. "21. He just got into art school. He's the one who encouraged me to take this class." I looked at the painting she had started. It was of a woman's back. A muscular woman draped in red silk. I looked at my own sorry painting of two brown owls and hung my head in embarrassment. "You'll be surprised by how much boys love their mamas," she said. An hour later, I bailed out of class early. I could hardly breathe. The smell of acrylic paint was making me nauseous. I was coughing too much to be in public anyway. I felt stupid for surrounding myself with healthy people. I felt guilty for spreading my sickness. I waddled in the dark to my car. The Rays game had just let out. The city was buzzing with traffic. The air was sticky and filled with the sounds of honking horns and car stereos with too much treble. I drove to CVS to get Robitussin. In the parking lot, I saw a little white dog with three legs. He was so happy. He had that dog smile going on. Tongue out. Half-jumping, half-walking alongside his owner. Suddenly, uncontrollably I started bawling. I don't know why. Was it the three-legged dog? The single mother with the artist son? Hormones? Bronchitis? Anxiety? I drove home crying. I walked through the front door crying. I plodded up the set of stairs leading into our living room. Crying. Joe turned the corner. The pug circled my feet. A bad sitcom laugh track hee-hawed on TV. "How was your class?" He stopped short. Saw me My tear-streaked face. My pathetic owl painting. My bag of acrylic paints. "WHAT'S WRONG?" He asked, bewildered. "I don't know," I whimpered. I crumpled into his chest. A sniffling heap of phlegm and belly. My forearms speckled in brown paint. "Was the class THAT bad?" He asked. "No," I replied hoarsely. Dumbly. "The class was great. I loved the class. I painted two stupid owls." I flashed my painting. He smiled. "I thought they were bears." I started to laugh. A cry-laugh. A pitiful cry-laugh. I thought of the single mom. Who is, by the way, still single. How much braver than I she was. I thought of the three-legged dog running at a good clip through the CVS parking lot. Beaming. Oblivious to his handicap. "So what exactly is the matter?" Joe asked. I blubbered to find the words. But all I could muster was Thank you. For being there.