JULY 2 (THURSDAY), 32 WEEKS + 3 DAYS
It's almost the ninth month already. It seems as though the weeks have passed more quickly since the morning sickness ended. She spends nearly every waking hour eating now.
She came home from the M Clinic today looking a bit depressed. It seems that they warned her about gaining too much weight.
"I had no idea the birth canal could get fat," she said. "They said that women who put on too much weight can have difficult deliveries." She seemed irritated as she pulled out the notebook she'd been using to keep track of the pregnancy. I could see that someone had written "Weight restriction" in bright red letters on one page. "They told me that I should only gain about twenty-five pounds by the end of the pregnancy. No doubt about it, I'm in trouble." She ran her hand through her hair and sighed. She has already gained close to forty-five pounds.
"I don't suppose there's anything you can do about it," I muttered, glancing at her swollen fingers as I headed into the kitchen to make more jam. Because, without my really thinking about it, making grapefruit jam has become something of a habit. I make it and she eats it, as easily and naturally as you brush your hair when you get up in the morning. "Are you really afraid of having a difficult delivery?" I asked, without looking up from the counter.
"Of course," she said, her voice thin and faint. "These past few days I've been thinking a lot about pain- trying to imagine the worst pain I've ever felt, whether labor pains are more like terminal cancer or like having both legs amputated, that sort of thing. But it's pretty hard to visualize pain, and not much fun trying."
"I can imagine," I said, peeling fruit. She was clutching her notebook. The picture of a baby on the cover was warped, and the child seemed to be crying.
"But it's even more frightening to think about meeting the baby," she said. Her gaze dropped to her swollen belly. "I just can't believe that this thing in here is really my baby. It still seems so vague and abstract. But I know there's no way I can escape it. In the morning, when I'm just waking up, there's always a moment when I'm sure that it's all a dream-the morning sickness, the clinic, this belly, everything. It makes me feel wonderfully free. But then I look down at myself and I know it's real. I'm filled with sadness, and I realize that what scares me most is the thought of meeting my own baby."
I listened without turning to look at her. Lowering the heat on the stove, I stirred a big spoon through the pot. "It's nothing to be afraid of. A baby is just a baby. They're soft and cuddly, with little curled-up fingers, and they cry a lot. That's all." I stared down at the jam curling around the spoon.
"But it's not that simple. Once it's born, it's mine whether I want it or not. And there's nothing I can do about it, even if it has a birthmark covering half its face, or its fingers are stuck together, or it has no brain, or it's Siamese twins…" She went on for some time listing awful possibilities. The spoon made a dull sound scraping the bottom of the pan as the jam began to congeal.
I stared into the pot, wondering how much PWH it contained. Under the fluorescent light, the jam reminded me of a chemical, something in a clear bottle, perfect for dissolving chromosomes.
"It's done," I said. Gripping the handles of the pot, I turned to face her. "Here, have some." I held it out to her, and she looked at it for a moment. Then, without another word, she started to eat.