The shape of this October is different from all the rest. Already we are nearly halfway in and the leaves are changing, tops of the trees first where they are kissed by sun, cascading down into the shade. Horror movies are on TV and for some reason I found myself watching Saw II the other day even though I’d never seen the first or any other in the series. It wasn’t scary and I didn’t find it particularly shocking, now that I live in a world where there are Human Centipedes. The Food Network is plating its Halloween-themed shows, during which I marvel at how beautiful and inedible a cake made of fondant and spun sugar can look, and how I would eat the shit out of it anyway, just because. I’ve put up my fall wreath on the front door and a strand of spider lights in a window (jankily and with packing tape that keeps falling, I might add), but the rest of the decorations (my big skull faces, bloody handprint window gels, skeleton garland, purple lights, pumpkin candleholder) are in a bag while I contemplate whether I am actually going to feel like taking them down come Nov. 1. I haven’t bought a pumpkin yet or even considered how to carve it this year. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I had a fleeting thought about a little jack-o-lantern family: Two big ones and a teeny one. Because my body is lousy with gestational hormones, that’s why. But then I thought about how much of a pain in the ass it would be to carve three pumpkins right now, considering how they will probably last for maybe two or three days, given the longevity of last year’s gourds.
No, this October is different. I’m counting down and not to Christmas. Well, in the conventional sense of the word. I am waiting on a big ol’ present to get here, that much is true. I am scurrying around much like a squirrel preparing for winter, picking up knick-knacks here and there to store in preparation. I’m organizing and reorganizing these knick-knacks into systems that make sense. I’m making lists of things we have and things we need, my hand perpetually coming to rest on my belly, which is so unavoidable now that people are beginning to ask me when my last day of work is (it’s in a month, groan).
My ritual lately has been reading a home birth story or two from the Mothering boards every night before drifting off to sleep. These stories are all so different and some of them more encouraging than others, but they all carry the same weighty beauty, and I am obsessed with tracing the patterns of labor from one woman to the next. I look around my house and try to imagine where I will pace, where I will lean, where I will leak, what spaces will open up to comfort me when things get tougher than I expected. What the cats will do. What Ray will do. What I will do.
Amy came over on Wednesday and brought a birth day gift — a bedpan full of medical supplies that will become my friends: A peri bottle, gauzy underwear, boat-shaped feminine pads, gloves, a bulb syringe. I showed her my birth supply bags and realized quickly just how much I have left to assemble. After this week, I will be clear to deliver at home should labor start spontaneously. That sure is something to think about. We talked about how and when to go about calling her if I think something’s starting, and the procedure for a hospital transfer should one become necessary. She took my blood pressure and listened to the baby’s heartbeat and everything checked out perfectly. He’s in the same spot he’s been in for weeks, little heart just thumping away. Only this week, he’s the size of a crenshaw melon and I’m betting he’s long ago passed the six-pound mark.
My guts are all smooshed by him. I can feel him stretch clear from the depths of my lower left pelvis all the way around to the right, up and around my hip area. He stays tucked up underneath my sternum sometimes but is usually polite enough to refrain from kicking my lungs. Last night, though, he triple kicked me rapid-fire in the side and took my breath away.
A few hours later I woke up choking on my own stomach acid again, this time unable to keep from puking everything up onto myself, my bed, and the big long pillow I hug throughout the night. The vomit was brown from a chocolate protein shake I’d had too close to bedtime, and there were chunks of undigested Special K in it. I couldn’t stop puking. Every time I tried to cough or clear my throat, it would trigger my gag reflex and up would come even more. Ray was in the living room and I couldn’t find my voice to call to him, so I texted him for help. His phone beeped … from right beside the bed. I stumbled my way into the bathroom and just kept puking. It was horrible. Puke, heave, choke, clear throat, cry, rinse, repeat. I am up and down, in and out of the bathroom so much during the night that he didn’t even notice anything was wrong and I couldn’t yell out to him. I finally stumbled into the hall and announced dramatically that I was okay, not to worry! This is my fear, always: That I will finally relent and need help and that I won’t get it in time, for whatever reason. We changed the sheets and I went back to bed, stomach empty and head elevated, pillow and shirt whirring in the washing machine. I conked out and dreamed about Blake Anderson, I guess because I read a bunch of his tweets right before falling asleep.
It was not my finest night.
I’m so ready to be done with work. Organizing the remaining days of child-free time I have in my life around my job is frustrating. I wish my company offered paid maternity leave, even a week of it, so I could take some time off, even a day or two, before my due date. But they don’t so I have saved up every vacation day and sick day I could muster this year, meaning I have had hardly any time off at all this year. It’s crazymaking, but that is how we do things here in the land of the free to work yourself to death, I guess.
There is this running joke in the office now that when the baby is born, he’ll only be comforted by sounds of grunting and stomping and snorting and sneezing and sing-song yawning and humming and throat clearing — the sounds I hear for 8.5 hours every day. Seriously, the human cacophony around me on a nightly basis is sometimes too much for me to take. You would not believe it unless you heard it yourself. I get annoyed and then outright rage-filled because the offending parties have NO IDEA their tics are so loud and annoying and constant, and some of them like to complain about others’ noisemaking. Even headphones can’t drown it all out most nights so I just sit there and selfishly wish for a meteor to hit and make it all go away.
I am ready for a break. Spit-up and around-the-clock breastfeeding and diaper changing sound like a vacation to me. In small part because I will finally be able to see sunsets again, at least for a few weeks. I have missed almost every sunset that has happened since January of 2005. That is deeply, deeply fucked up.