Somehow, I can’t bear having anything dirty around. Before I got pregnant, I don’t think I would’ve thought twice about having a half-full trash can in the kitchen. But now, an old crust of bread and an empty soymilk container sitting in the bin make me feel like there’s a parade of ants marching up and down my spine. Shivers!
I can’t even call it morning sickness anymore, for it comes at anytime, followed by sadness, followed by anger, followed by ridiculous, overwhelming bliss.
“You know, Berry,” I said in a calm moment between the waves, “I think perhaps the purpose of prenatal emotions being so mixed up is to give the baby an experience of every feeling before he comes out. See? This way, when the baby feels anger or sadness or joy, these feelings will all be familiar.”
“Right!” she said. “The baby will say, ‘Hey! I felt this before! It’s no big deal! It’s just part of life, right?'”
And then a wave of sadness hit me, and Beryl wrapped me in her arms.
“You are doing great, Mae,” she said. “It’s not easy to carry the whole spectrum of human experience inside of you! You are so brave!”
Thank heavens for Beryl. My sister knows how to make everything right for me.
Except for this flu I seemed to have caught. I had a really high fever.
“It can’t be good for the baby if I have a fever, can it?”
Beryl called the clinic.
“They say just to rest and drink green tea,” Beryl reported back. “Prescription drugs could hurt the baby, but they say just rest, drink tea, and you and the baby will be fine. They say this can happen when you’ve been overdoing it.”
The tea didn’t quite sit right. Had I eaten that morning? Oh! I really just wanted my body back. It felt like it’d been hijacked.
I started imagining these little tiny suicide bombers dressed in fatigues racing around inside my cells, KaBlooie! No wonder I felt like my body was the West Bank. Call in the anti-terrorist squads! White blood cells to the rescue. Covert operations underway, boss!
Oh, God. I was a little delirious, but it was fun.
“Don’t forget to eat!” Beryl said. “Even if you’ve come down with something, you still need to keep up your strength.”
I grabbed a piece of fruitcake.
“Is that the cake that Jade brought over when we first moved in?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “It smells really good.”
“Well, it should be OK! I’ve hear fruitcake has a shelf life of about five years!”
It tasted amazing. And I felt like I could keep it down.
“I think I’ve discovered manna for mammas!”
I took a long nap after my snack. It felt so sweet to lie in bed while around me swirled the sounds of the radio from the other room, a few birds singing out back, Beryl walking through the house singing to herself.
I felt wrapped up in the arms of home, like when I was a little girl taking naps after school while Mom bustled through the house, gathering her art supplies, stretching canvases, and whistling while she painted. Then Dad would come home from the office and play the piano, and through it all, my afternoon dreams nestled into the sounds of home.
When I woke, the fever was gone and I felt strong enough to take a stroll through the neighborhood.
A woman was looking at me with a curious smirk. It took me a moment, but then I recognized her. She’d been the one standing and laughing with Jade the second time that Paolo and I fell out of the closet at the Narwhal Arms. Which means she was, in a way, witness to the creation of this little person inside of me, weird and strange as that is.
I was pretty sure she recognized me.
Nothing to do for it but introduce myself.
Turns out that Mary is something of a kindred spirit. We ended up talking about plant genetics and chess openings and how the theory of probability predicts points of intersection between the two.
My afternoon walk helped, and Beryl had fresh grilled cheese, made with provolone and blue cheese this time, waiting for me when I came out of my evening shower.
“My back is killing me,” I said. “God, I’m sorry I’m always complaining about how my body feels.”
“Didn’t they say that lower back aches often signal that the time’s coming pretty soon?” Beryl said. “And don’t even think twice about complaining. If you can’t share how you feel when your pregnant, when can you? Besides, you’re my sister!”
I still say that Beryl puts magic into her grilled cheese, for after I ate, I felt well enough to do some writing for a while before bed.
I’m working on a kid’s book for the baby. It’s about Beryl and my dad. There was this story he always told us growing up about one summer, when he floated off on a log down the river and into the Puget Sound. He was gone for about 12 hours. He always said that during that time, so many thoughts went through his head–a whole lifetime of thoughts–until he reached the point where he just stopped thinking and just lived. Eventually, the captain of a tugboat found him and hauled him in and brought him back home, but by then, as Dad said, “The damage had been done.” Something switched inside of him after that, he said. He was never quite a regular person. He was better–and a little bit magical.
Maybe this baby will never meet his grandpa in the flesh. But something of my dad is never-ending. And maybe that something will get transmitted somehow to this kiddo. What if I look at him and see my dad’s eyes looking back?