From the moment you become pregnant, your body is no longer your own. Not just in the literal “I’m growing another person in here!” sense, but also in the sense that everyone around you all of a sudden feels comfortable putting their metaphorical butt all in your business. The normal social barriers that keep people from saying things like “Wow! Your belly is HUGE!” (or any of the other borderline inappropriate things people say to pregnant ladies. Digression: I was pretty lucky in this respect. Between it being winter and being covered with sweaters – to the point where my neighbors across the hall didn’t know I was pregnant until they saw boxes for strollers and car seats outside of my door – and the fact that I never really got huge, I didn’t get too many comments at all, let alone really awful ones) just totally fall apart once your belly starts “burgeoning.” (PS: Can we get rid of the word “burgeoning?”)
It doesn’t stop once the baby is out. Oh no. I’m actually getting way more comments now than I did when I was pregnant. Which makes sense since most people really like babies and having the baby on the outside is way more obvious than baking one on the inside. Mostly, people are good natured and say nice things, even if sometimes I would like to just eat in peace thankyouverymuch, yes, I’m sure your grandchildren are lovely, but seriously – trying to eat. There’s something about seeing a baby – especially a very new baby – that compels people to tell you all about their own children. It’s like hanging a sign on your head that says “YES TELL ME ABOUT YOUR REPRODUCTIVE EXPERIENCES PLEASE AND THANKYOU.” I’ve definitely noticed since having Paulo that I’ve been guilty in the past of asking mothers “Oh, how old is the baby?”all the freaking time and have definitely tried to hold back now that I’m also receiving that question sixteen times a day.
(The other day the cashier at Stop & Shop was asking about the baby and revealed that she’s five months pregnant herself. I thought back to that point in time and thought about “Things to say that aren’t completely asinine” and came up with “Good luck – that last month takes FOREVER.” That and “You look great!” because really, she did.)
Sometimes people don’t talk to me directly, but make running commentary about the baby right next to me – as if I am a baby exhibit and not a human being capable of hearing their conversation. Most of the time it’s along the lines of “Oh, how cute!” and I’ve heard several discussions sprout up around me about baby names. I do hope that many of these citizens reconsider as Sweet Jebus there are some horrible names out there.
(I would also like to mention that every stranger I’ve met who has heard Paulo’s name has at least done me the favor of convincingly pretending to like it. I’ve yet to hear “Oh, that’s… interesting.” So, thank you strangers!)
Yesterday, I took Whuff to the park (PARP!) and we were sitting on a blanket next to a bike path. Just chillin’. Whuff was really happy and was kicking his little legs with glee. I mention this to point out that he was not crying, squalling, squawking, or in any other way disturbing the peace. He was cooing, smiling, dancing, and generally being eighteen kinds of adorable.
On the bike path were three women who I’d guesstimate to be a few years younger than I am. Post-college for sure, probably around 25. They were on their bikes, and had stopped for a minute to chit-chat. I have no idea what they were talking about initially seeing as it was totally none of my business and all, but I heard their conversation shift to baby talk. Or rather, lack of baby talk.
“It’s such a waste.”
“Yeah, I know, I’m just going to be the cool aunt.”
WAIT, WHAT? The phrase “It’s such a waste” was referring to BABIES?
“My sister just had a kid and I was telling her it’s just such a total waste of money.”
“Well, think of it this way, WE are doing our part to not contribute to overpopulation!”
Seriously. This conversation was going on not twenty feet from me. And honestly, I don’t care if anyone in the outside world wants babies or not. I don’t have some kind of parenting agenda in which I believe that all humans must breed. But to hear people reacting to the sight of my infant – not even a crying, screaming infant, the sight of which can indeed be trying to the outside observer as well as to the inside observer – by talking quite loudly about what a “waste” he is.
I almost felt like I was expected to get up and defend myself. That these women were waiting to hear what kind of justification I had for “overpopulating” the earth and “wasting” my money. At the same time, they weren’t talking TO me… so…
Instead of telling them, I just told him. “You’re not a waste. You’re the greatest thing I’ve ever done.” And he smiled as if to say “WELL YEAH, MOM. DUH.”
[image from RISD museum show, January 2011. Not only was I naughty for taking a photo of recent (and thus copyright protected) work, I was even worse in not getting the name of the artist. Shame on me.)