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it appears i have finally become that woman.

last night i took bitsy shopping. i have been deluding myself into believing that if i had only the right tote bag to take to the hospital, only the right nursing pjs to wear while i’m there instead of the hideous gowns that make me wish i looked good enough to be described as schlumpfy, only the right adorable post-partum clothes, i would be able to feel so much better about myself. and since i am so hopeful that boo will arrive any moment now, i thought, last night, that i should locate and purchase all these new material goods while i still have the chance to transform myself.

and bitsy is a champion shopper. “buy shoes, buy shoes,” is her standard rallying cry, and buy shoes we do. and purses. and the occasional dress. i figured she’d have a great time looking for purses and jammies and bras (another of her favorite clothing items), and then lugging everything through the aisles to the cashiers where she prefers to sign my name in the window of the electronic card-slider.

oh, what a thing it is to misjudge a two-year-old.

in the first store she discovered that tearing back and forth across the threshold would make the store’s bell go ding-a-dong, that opening the curtains onto other women’s dressing rooms would make them squeal, and that looking at bras in only white and black and the ill-named “nude” is dull, dull, dull.

in the second store, instead of carrying one purse at a time and carefully putting it back before choosing a second one (her usual modus operandi), she picked up bag after bag after bag, grabbing as many as she could while simultaneously running far, far away from me. the more i called after her the faster she ran.  the more i ignored her the further she ran. the more i tried to keep an eye on her without actually following her the more i envisioned some cruel stranger snatching her and making off with her before i could gather myself and chase him down. luckily she came back of her own accord once she realized that all her running had messed with the hemline on her pants and that one leg was uncomfortably pulled up to her knee. when she whined “ti, mommee, ti” i told her just to pull the leg down and it wouldn’t feel tight anymore. she took this as permission to take off her pants entirely; thus sartorially freed she pranced around in her “panties” (a diaper cover she insisted on wearing yesterday over her diaper but underneath her pants), waltzing herself to the sale-shoe rack, where she promptly threw off her own sandals and dashed madly for the adult size 6s (not my size! not my size! grab a good-looking shoe in my size, why don’t you?), grabbing instead a cork-heeled pink wedge sandal in one hand and a hot pink c-f-m stiletto in the other.

i tried to be patient. to reason, to cajole, to bribe. i was that horrible mother who says ridiculous things to her child, in public, all in a pathetic attempt to look like anything but the failure she so obviously is.  finally i was reduced to the person i swore i would never be: the mother who throws her screaming, kicking toddler over her shoulder and marches out the door with her, shrieks echoing down the aisles behind her, disgusted and smug cashiers in her wake.

she didn’t even buy anything, i swear i could hear them snickering.

i’m working with a student who is finishing his dissertation on writing and identity. reading one of his chapters i was struck by this quote, from Dona J. Hickey’s Developing a Written Voice:

Any reader, like any writer, is in a state of both constancy and flux…Each writer strives to discover and communicate her private relationship to the world in which she lives, yet that same world pressures her to conform, to please. How do we know when we are responding to the pressure to please and when are we asserting our distinctive selves? This is a lifelong question. All we can do, I believe, is live with the tension. Its existence is part of what it means to be an individual and a member of a community. Every day, our voices are spoken and heard, written and read, within that tension. The sound of that struggle, however, is often what’s missing in print. (25)

it’s an interesting passage to stumble across as a sort of lazarus blogger. i have felt an odd, um, oddness with myself as i’ve tried to recreate my blogging life. i blogged primarily as a grieving mother of a recently stillborn child, and while i am still that woman and still that writer, i find that i want to do more as a woman, as a writer, as a mother, and yes, as a blogger. what, exactly, i haven’t fully figured out yet. but i have found, at times, that the sounds of those tensions can silence everything else.

the other morning, heading to my favorite work-away-from-work haunt, i was plugging my meter when a lively and lithe youngish woman (maybe my age, maybe a year or two younger) parked her car, hopped out and plugged her meter too. i only noticed her in that offhand way you notice activity around you, but since i turned my back on her and headed down the street much sooner than she did i was a trifle surprised to see her bop past me. she was walking at what struck me as a normal, healthy, active rate — the pace of a woman with some strength in her bones — and i found myself trying to remember what it is like to not-lumber around. as she passed, i became entranced by her hair — gorgeous, long auburn locks with a gentle wave to them. i noticed, gazing at her backside, her, um, backside, which was a nice size and a nice shape and was covered in well-fitting but probably not expensive trousers. good god, i thought to myself, i will never again be that woman: the woman who looks put together, the woman who is fit, the woman whose body is not exceeding what appear to be its natural bounds. and i was ashamed of myself, and a little sad, that during the time i had been that woman i hadn’t fully appreciated it.

my red-headed friend ended up in front of me for coffee. well, not so much in front of me as to my side — a vantage point from which she turned to me, smiled shyly, and said “i’m sure you’re tired of answering this, but when are you due?” “three weeks,” i told her. her eyes widened. “wow,” she said. “you look great.” i smiled and said thank you. “i was where you are, almost exactly two years ago,” she continued. “uh, WOW!” i answered back. “YOU look great.” she laughed. “oh, my two year old is FAST. i spend all my time running after her. literally.”

from envy to hope, just like that.

lately i’ve been dreaming about boo, post-delivery. in my dreams he is a dark-haired, chubby beauty who never cries and who is several days old before i realize i have not been feeding him. so i take him to my breast and try to teach him to latch on. in one dream he is a brilliant latcher but there is no milk. in the other dream he gums me lethargically as i slowly realize i’ve been starving my baby to death. in that dream i march to the doctor’s office and immediately demand domperidone, insisting that they should have seen this problem coming because my breasts so obviously deflated at the end of the pregnancy. i am told not to worry and  to try a host of other remedies first — all of which i refuse, insisting that domperidone is the only thing that will work.

a few mornings ago, still sleepy enough to be amused at my dream-self for forgetting to feed the baby for several days, i told mac about my dreams. he looked at me half-seriously and said “y’know, your breasts have been looking smaller to me lately.”  can’t be true, right? doesn’t happen? it’s gotta be the ratio of belly-to-breast, no?

meanwhile my anxiety has extended itself to boo’s delivery. odds are good he will come to us via c-section, either the one that is scheduled or the one that is likely to happen when i show up at the hospital in labor. i find myself obsessing over whether i’ll get to see him in that first, crucial hour when newborns are calm and receptive. i love the idea that mac will have him during that time, and that they’ll get some kangaroo care — when i returned from bitsy’s c-section, this is how how i found bitsy and her dad — but i also want some of that time for myself. post-surgery with bitsy my o.r. nurse decided that i didn’t need to stay in the recovery room, so she took me back to my regular room almost immediately. i want the same thing with boo. i want to see this child, to hold him and gaze into his eyes, to feel him next to me. i can’t stand the thought of delivering him, and then still having to wait.

scary, all this wanting.

i have apparently hit that stage — evidenced by my belly, my posture, my facial expression, or something else equally ephemeral — where strangers feel like it’s ok to approach me as if they know me and talk to me about my obviously pregnant self.

item: v. friendly cashier at the coffee shop looks me over and says, hands making a mounding motion over her own tummy, “when are you due?” i tell her. she says “i don’t know much about babies. but you look full of baby.” yes indeed i am full of baby. apparently that is more visible than the piss and vinegar which i fear i am also quite full of.

item: while picking up my heparin the woman in front of me in line turns around, gives me a huge smile, and says “you’re all belly!” i know she means it as a compliment, but since i also have newly acquired girth around the hips and upper thighs (which now rub obnoxiously when i walk) and an extra fold under my arms, not to mention varicosities of the internal and external sort, anti-clotting medication-induced bruises, and nipples that now point downward, it is all i can do to keep myself from explaining to her the many, many ways i am indeed NOT all belly.

item: woman downtown turns around to look at me (notice the pattern here), gives me a big smile (again with the pattern — i must look like i need softening up), and asks when i’m due. i tell her. “oh! those were the days. well, you’ll be glad when it’s over.” i will, indeed, be very glad not to be pregnant any longer, or ever again. but glad when it’s over? let me see a living, breathing baby on the other side of this before i tempt the gods with that one.

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*ages ago, studying for the gre, i learned “fulsome” as a negative adjective. apparently today it is enjoying something of a renaissance as a positive adjective. perhaps both i in my copious bodiliness and my new friends in their flattery are both variations on this ambiguous theme.

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You see life as complicated and intriguing. The only thing you know for sure is that you haven't figured it all out yet. You question everything and believe very little. And whatever you believe is likely to change. You are interested in theories, philosophies, and religions...even if you don't buy into any of them. You are also fascinated by how things work. You'd like to understand as much in the world as possible.

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