Friday, August 1, 2008

Not My Best Moment

On Monday I had an appointment with my new gynecologist, and while I was there--in the waiting room, surrounded by women in varying stages of belly swell--I cried.

It wasn't a gushing cry. It wasn't a sob or a weep. It was more like my eyes watered, filled, glistened. I was filling out paperwork. I was giving my birth date, my address, my emergency contacts. And around me women were cooing at babies or rubbing at their stomachs or propping parenting magazines up on their swollen midsections. I had to blink fast or I was going to look like an idiot in front of the receptionist.

I'm pretty sure it wasn't really me that was crying. It was my body. My body, after all, knows only simple rules: it is supposed to sustain life to create life. It's supposed to do this before things start shriveling up, withering away. My body was looking at the girls around me--several of who were under the age of twenty--and it was thinking, Holy fucking shit. I've got to get on this.

My brain and my heart, however, were strangling at the thought of being pregnant. Especially at sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, or nineteen years old. There was one girl there who looked about as pregnant as pregnant can be, and she had with her the baby's father--a boy who was trying desperately to grow facial hair. It was coming in patchy, light, downy. It was such a sweet attempt that it made me want to cry even more. After all, here was this girl--had she even graduated high school?--and the father of her baby couldn't even grow a real beard. I wanted to take her home and make her cupcakes and give her a fistful of condoms.

Of course, I couldn't really do any of that, but I could hurry through my paperwork and claim a seat and try to find a magazine that didn't have to do with birthing or parenting. This was an impossible task, and I was so frazzled by the fact that a few seconds before I'd been this close to dissolving into tears for no good reason, I took whatever I could find, not caring that it was a magazine that had articles that discussed the best ways to discipline your child. Besides, there weren't any other choices, and if I wanted to read something instead of staring at a wall until my name was called, I was going to have to settle--there sure weren't any Vogues or In Styles or Elles to look through.

I was busy reading an article written by a nutritionist--something she'd put together after shadowing one "regular" family for a whole day to see what kinds of nutritional choices the parents made for their children--when an older, not pregnant woman huffed over to my corner and collapsed in a chair across from me. She surveyed the sad display of magazines and sighed.

"Oh Lord," she said. "Is there anything in here that doesn't have to do with preggos?"

Because I couldn't tell yet if she was crazy or not, I just smiled. Then I decided I wanted to commiserate. "No," I said. I made a face. "Just these crappy parenting magazines."

"Geez," the woman said. "They could consider there are people who come here when they're not pregnant or parents." Then she looked at me, all apologetic, and shook her head. "Not that there's anything wrong with that," she said, probably because she couldn't quite figure out what I was in for.

"Right," I said. "Not that there's anything wrong with that."

"It's just not for me, you know what I mean?" she asked.

I nodded and looked down at my magazine again because she'd gotten a look on her face--a look that said I'm About to Tell You My Sad Life Stories, and I was feeling like I'd done enough commiserating for the day.

For the next ten minutes, I feigned interest in the nutritionist's article, and I pretended to ignore every time they called a new mother back into the offices. The nurses would sweep the door wide and hold it like that so the new mothers--moving slowly, wearing stretchy pants--could maneuver themselves and their babies through the arch. "Let me see! Let me see! Let me see!" the nurses cried. Their levels of excitement were impressive. They sounded as if they'd never before seen a baby that cute, when in all reality they'd seen about fifty since the day began. Each time they wiggled their fingers at the babies, and each time they squealed how cute the babies were, my body strained and pulled, saying, I. Want. One. But every time I sneaked a peek at the young mothers--especially the one with the pitifully bearded boy--my mind triggered an impressive vomit reflex. I wanted to run, run, run away from those to-be mothers and all those parenting magazines that featured whole pages where mothers wrote letters in the voices of their not-yet-speaking babies.

But after I got in to see my new gynecologist--a kindly older midwife who talked to me forever, who answered any question I ever had about all the things that fell under her specialty--I felt a little bit better. Especially when she pushed back from the exam and praised everything, told me everything was good, everything was fine. After I put my clothes back on and she stepped back into the room to give me some final words, she scratched my back the way a mother would. It was a scratch that said, You're just great, kid. Don't you worry. And I believed it.

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