"Baby comine out?"
That is the sound of my two and a half year old daughter playing OB/GYN, checking up with my wife to see how things are coming along. "Baby kickine?" she also asks, exhausting her knowledge of in utero behaviour and thus bringing us around to begin the interview anew: "Baby comine out?"
It's the circle of life. It's the loop of contraception. It's the triumph of instinct. It's the badge of the financial warrior. It's a promise and a threat, a Malthusian gift from our genitals to your planet.
And so we too must now loop back to the beginning of our journey: the time has somehow come to issue this, another First Trimester Report.
(I have previously mentioned the expansion of my family.)
My wife, bless her nethers, has been known to be randy. This is, of course, a feature. Despite this general background of favourable weather I do remember a time when I was shocked and awed by the hurricane of lust she whipped up into a frothing frenzy after being briefly ill. A good time was had by all.
By counting weeks we were later able to determine that this was the way my ovulating wife felt when not hysterically muzzled by the chemical soup of her birth control pills. She'd barfed one up, you understand, releasing a hormonal riptide of frightening intensity and guaranteeing that my sperm would go unchallenged at her borders.
Several trillion cell divisions later my daughter paints a picture of a happy face and then proceeds to scribble all over the lower half. "Look Papa," she crows, "it's you beard!"
Thus I should have been more suspicious when my wife's randiness went off the gauge some months ago. It was the last month in her entire life in which she would be taking birth control pills, and perhaps in anticipation of her carefree cycles to come she missed a pill or two, just days before ovulation.
I should have been suspicious, but I was too busy having fun. Mercy!
It is my sincere hope that our noise did not unduly traumatize the teenage Swiss au pair girl sleeping in the next room. We tried to be quiet, but she looked as tired as we did the next day. We went out for breakfast.
I think I had sausages.
Meanwhile, deep within my wife's giblets a zygote drifted. She belched. "I feel funny today," she told me, snagging a pancake off my plate.
That zygote's name is Baby Two, and we have now seen their lurid timelapse-evolution likeness via ultrasound. Unlike our daughter who held still as if posing for photographs, this little bugger wriggles around like a break-dancing eel. Therefore the image is somewhat blurred, smeared across time like Duchamps' Nu descendant un escalier.
"That's a baby there?" asks my daughter dubiously, furrowing her brow over the black and white smudges we bought from the laboratory for ten bucks. "That's a baby inside Mummy's a-tummy, like Penny's a-baby?"
Her understanding of the mechanics of pregnancy comes principally from a visit with our friend Penny a few weeks before she delivered her own child. Ingrid was intrigued by the idea that there was a baby inside the swollen woman, and positively tickled by being able to feel the baby kicking. "Where baby go come out?" she asked, which is toddler-speak for via what aperture shall the infant be released?
"The baby will come through her vagina."
"You so silly, Papa. 'Gina is for peeine."
She's a sharp cookie. She understands that Baby Two is growing, and that when Baby Two is big enough she'll be able to feel the kicking through Mama's belly. She knows that Mama feels sick sometimes because of the baby, and will even imitate the sound of retching to illustrate her narrative. "Mama sick, reeyach, reeyach-ugh!"
Her interest in infancy has expressed itself in a desire to cradle her teddy bear, Bo, baby-style in the crook of her arm, rocking him back and forth and offering to bottle-feed him. "Baby Bo wants milk," she says.
No two pregnancies are exactly alike, we're told. And I believe it. My wife is sick to a new schedule this time around, and her hormonal surges have a unique character quite different in flavour from her previous bout of first trimester madness. My wife's explanation of this pregnancy's distinct texture is that she is generating a boychild.
Could be. That'd be nifty. I'd like to have one of each. (The human sexes: collect 'em all!)
We're finding the second run to be less anxious, of course. The midwives assure us that the second birth is almost always easier than the first, not harder. We already have all of the paraphernalia: onesies and sleepers and teething freezies and carriers. Despite how the course of this genesis may meander from our experience, we come from a place of charted ground and thus are more secure in our ability to pass through future hoops.
The child could be handicapped, of course, or otherwise challenged. That would be novel and trying, no doubt. But as long as there are no serious complications we feel pretty at ease.
Like I said two and half years ago, a woman's body pretty much knows what it's doing. When the construction process requires specific ingredients, a craving is generated. When energy is required, my wife wilts and goes to take a nap. When she feels drained, we hug.
The single best thing about this being our second child is that the overwhelming majority of busybodies who had such frightening and patronizing omens have found themselves without a defensible reason not to shut up. Occasionally some jealous little pimple warns us that we'll probably end up wanting to claw our own eyes out once our little possiboy inevitably develops colic and then later goes on to smash the house as a violent and boundlessly animated juggernaut of he-toddler evil. But having been through the wringer of such malicious predictions before, we are far less likely to be concerned.
Some people just like to bring others down. Because they're assholes. This was my suspicion the first time around, but now I can speak with some authority.
We know parents whose children had colic, or are hyper-active or sickly. We know that these challenges wear down even the bravest soul, but it's only the assholes who have any interest in raining on other people's parades. It's only the small and muddled who want to burst expectant parents' bubble of hope and optimism, because they're scared and vicious inside for their own host of reasons.
This time around we wanted to see if we could learn the sex of the child before the birth. An extra ultrasound was scheduled for this purpose, though the snotty technician wanted to dictate my wife's agenda to her by insisting that sexing the child was a low priority compared to assessing the child's health. (Sometimes people who can't be fired have poor attitudes with regard to customer service.)
Once the visible health of the child had been confirmed to be unchanged from the imaging session two weeks prior my wife politely directed the grumpy technician to scope out the embryonic naughty bits.
The technician grudgingly proceeded but declared the goods invisible. However, on the occasion of a third imaging session with a different technician Baby Two did the scissor-kicking male equivalent of pornography's wide-open beaver shot and presented the wand with a crisp silhouette of his wee dinky and scrotum.
"You're going to have a little brother," we told Ingrid.
"He has a penis like Papa?"
"Because he a boy, the baby?"
She nodded. "What his name?"
My wife and I looked at each other and shrugged. If Ingrid had turned out to be a boy her name would have been Sebastian, so I figured we were already covered -- easy as pie. My wife, on the other hand, explained to me that Sebastian was the name of an unborn male version of Ingrid, and that the current boy in question was a new person deserving of their own unique name. "Sebastian was a baby who was never born," she said.
"Au contraire," I argued; "he's just a little late. He's on his way now."
"Same Idea-of-baby. Just new meat."
"Exactly -- new meat, new name."
It is, obviously, a point we will have to return to. Another respect in which Baby Two's sex is relevant is the future of our birth-control. I'll explain. You see, we have achieved our target of two children. We even have one of each gender. This means that my wife and I really have no further use for our respective procreative apparatus, but we do feel compelled to continue having sex. Thus, one or both sets of equipment will have to be taken offline -- and since it has been my wife's cycles being bamboozled by the pill for all these years it only seems fair that I be the one to volunteer for adjustment this time. So next year after Baby Two is born I will have myself medically sterilized.
(I'm a little nervous about it.)
If Baby Two had been a girl I might have had an excuse to put if off, thinking we could try for a boy the next time around -- but I have a sneaking suspicion that such a strategy would more likely than not just lead to me having three or more daughters, all of whom expect undivided attention, an allowance and an education. I would be able to indulge in self-pitying fantasies about the son I never had.
Fortunately, my son is on his way. He is a kickier, punchier tenant than Ingrid was, and he sleeps at different times. His commands for meat have been strong enough for her to suspend her vegetarianism. Where Ingrid caused cravings for tomato juice, Baby Two seeks peanuts, pork, yogurt and chocolate. Also, while carrying Ingrid my wife's libido experienced a lull -- in contrast, Baby Two has inspired her to passion.
The child is to be expelled at my mother's house in Leaside so that the midwives won't have to battle the snow to get to our country schoolhouse. It may be that the birthing pool is installed in the room that was my bedroom as a teenager, which is a bit strange in that the first appearence of my son will join a motley crew of adolescent memories associated with that space. (Some of them even thematically linked. Um.)
The mothers at the village playgroup assure my wife that managing two children requires more energy than doubling the experience of one child parenting. They added that the move from two to three was less jarring.
I consider these pearls of wisdom as I watch Ingrid run laps around the living room couch, improvising a meandering ballad about whatever comes into her head as she keeps muffled time on a xylophone squished beneath her arm. She pauses to mash her face into my wife's belly and then runs out of the room shouting, "I hide from you!" on her way to squash herself into some improbable cranny. A moment later we hear a distant call: "Okay, come on! Start wookine now, Mama-Papa! I ready!"
I rise with a groan. Isn't it bed time yet? "I'm finding you!" I call.
"Thanks," says my wife sleepily, sinking back into her chair.
When I find Ingrid hiding in the bath-tub she asks why my wife hadn't come after her, and I explain that she is tired on account of the baby. My wife waddles in after me and sits down to use the toilet. Ingrid's eyes go wide. "Baby comine out you 'gina now, Mama?" she asks breathlessly.
The affable blonde halfling's understanding of human gestation contains many unresolved points, and she's anxious that the pregnancy could be in jeopardy. She hunkers down on her haunches and tries to peer between my wife's legs. "I no can see baby," she reports.
"No honey," assures my wife, "I'm just going potty. The baby isn't coming out yet."
"Baby still in you tummy?"
"Baby not falline out in the toilet?"
Ingrid straightens up, satisfied. "Okay." After a moment she adds philosophically, "Babies no use a potty. They has accident in their diapers."
I escort her from the washroom so my wife can urinate without being threatened by another surprise gynecological inspection. Ingrid wraps her hand around my index finger and tugs on it. "Babies hold like this," she says with authority. She then reclasps my whole hand. "But I no a baby, I'm a big girl."
She's right. Time flies when you're fruitful. Ingrid used to be just like Baby Two: a swelling with attitude. Now she asks questions about who is dead and why they died ("Einstein he did died a long time ago, right Papa?"); what the name of and cause for any event, situation or object is ("What it called those men doine?"); what letter any word or name begins with, and why ("What that sound say?"); the secret history of random objects like discarded shoes or bits of trash ("Who do makine that mess?"); the destinations of flocks or birds or swarms of insects ("They goine home?"); how we trade money for things we want like food at the shop ("Where food comes from?"); the emotional states of other people and their causes ("Nana fustated?"); the relationship between herself and heavenly bodies ("They goine aroun' and aroun' my Earth?"); morality ("Why he is beine mean?") and metaphysics ("I don't remember if that is real or pretend!").
When you ask her a hard question or she's fishing for a way to conjugate an unfamiliar tense she makes a crooked little smile and furrows her brow. "Um," she says gravely. There's no trace of the baby left (except when I get to carry her out of the car when she's asleep, and she curls up like an infant against my neck).
She's this girl I know. Sometimes, in glimpses, a stranger -- she is her own creation, an identity and personality separate from ours. A new person.
And soon I will get to know another new person, too. Like Ingrid, I also wonder what his name is.
There are no words for how happy my children make me.
The collected Trimester Reports are now available in a printed edition. Makes a great gift for anyone expecting to own and maintain a baby.
Posted by Cheeseburger Brown at 10:59