If you have been wondering where I have been, what I have been doing, why I have been gone from this typographical home for so long….
Reader, I made a human.
This may come as something of a surprise because I have never been a broody person. I am a soft touch with cats, dogs, and Lorenzo, the lorikeet who visits my balcony,* but random human babies leave me somewhat indifferent. They screech and pull your hair and sometimes cry at astonishing decibels. They are, quite frankly, useless for at least six months of life; they cannot feed themselves, or clean themselves, or even be reliably expected to do something as simple as go to sleep when they are tired. They are useless potato people.
Also, in order to reach this useless potato stage of babyhood, you first need to go through nine months (ten, really – almost a full year if you think about it) of growing it inside you like a Chestburster from Alien with the understanding that eventually the Chestburster will need to come out of your body… And by that point, to be honest, having it explode through your chest wall might sound preferable to the reality. I have always understood all of this in theory. I understood and accepted that this is simply the way it has been engineered over many millennia, degree by evolutionary degree.
Surely there is a better way to bring new people into this world than something as primitive as pregnancy? Perhaps Matrix-like pods? A switch to monotreme existence? Some other format that doesn’t involve taking a back seat in your own body while all nutrients get rerouted to the tiny hijacker in your abdomen?
I spent the first twenty weeks depressingly, unrelentingly, overwhelmingly sick. The smell of food was unbearable. Eating was a difficulty, because anything even remotely food-related made me vomit. It was not morning sickness as much as it was all-day-every-day sickness. Imagine feeling violently seasick and being stranded on a small boat in choppy waters for twenty weeks straight.
Now add a layer of bone-tiredness that would suggest that maybe you reached said small boat by means of a 15km open water swim.
For twenty weeks I vomited, and napped, and vomited, and worked, and vomited, and napped, and vomited. Sometimes I switched up the order of this busy schedule, but essentially that was my life. I survived almost entirely on a diet of mashed potato and milk, since they were the only two things I could keep down. I would groan with misery as I lifted yet another forkful of mashed potato to my lips, wishing I could eat something – anything – else. Sometimes I would hit my limit and rebel against my own body. Who says I can’t have watermelon? I would think, cutting a slice with shaking fingers. I like watermelon. I’ve always liked watermelon. You can’t ruin watermelon! And I would force myself to take a bite, only to aggressively vomit it back up moments later.
I haven’t had watermelon since.
And then, as the sickness abated and I started to feel just baseline queasy rather than violently ill, the kicks started to come from inside the body. The call, as they say, was coming from inside the house. Jerky movements thumped from where my organs once used to be. Hiccups happened (not my hiccups), like an annoying eyelid twitch, only in my abdomen; little flickers of movement near my hipbone. I could not place my hand on my stomach because the sensation of being kicked from inside my own body was a sensation that made me borderline hysterical.
And then these feelings all started to get pushed into the background by a new, more confronting thought because of course at the end of a pregnancy the baby has to exit your body, and no matter how you go about it none of the options are enormously appealing.
Do you walk around waiting for the cataclysmic event to happen even as you shop for carrots in the grocery aisle? Let the baby decide when it’s fully ready to wake up and greet the world?
Do you ask the hospital to induce it, so you at least know roughly when you should start bracing yourself for unimaginable pain? Set an alarm, if you will?
Or do you cut a shortcut into your body and yank the baby out in what I can only imagine is the birthing equivalent of waking someone up with a splash of cold water and a vuvuzuela to the ear?
The estimated due date came and went, and nothing happened. I started to feel a looming dread. My doctor asked me what I wanted to do.
“I don’t know, but I know what I don’t want to do,” I said, thinking about the many, many reddit threads I had read through. “I don’t want any …instruments… coming near me. No balloons or tongs or vaccuums or anything like that.”
She cocked her head and smiled sympathetically. “I can’t guarantee that unless we do a c-section.”
…And so, that was that decision made.
In the end, we cut out my body’s passenger with the sort of speed and efficiency you might expect at an Aldi checkout**. Before I knew what was happening, a small wrinkled alien being was handed to me. I looked at it, feeling completely overwhelmed, and apologised profusely for so rudely interrupting its stay in my torso.
“Sorry!” I mumbled to this ex-bodymate of mine. “Sorry! Sorry sorry sorry sorrysorrysorry! I’m sorry!”
Thankfully the small wrinkled alien took it in stride.
It has now been over five months since that day. The small wrinkled alien has filled out and is no longer quite so small. She screeches and pulls my hair and sometimes cries at astonishing decibels. She is, quite frankly, useless; she cannot feed herself, or clean herself, or even be reliably expected to do something as simple as go to sleep when she is tired.
But she is mine.
And so the screeches are amusing. I am more worried about my hair becoming a tourniquet than it being ripped out by tiny fingers. When she cries, I feel bad for her. She is useless, but her uselessness is part of her charm. She cannot feed herself, but that’s fine. She cannot clean herself, but that’s fine. She can’t be reliably expected to do something as simple as go to sleep when she is tired, and this is less fine because then there is crying, but it is still, oddly, fine.
Somehow I made a human, and now that human lives with me and is slowly learning to master the art of holding things with her fingers.
And after all of the strangeness…
I don’t find it nearly as strange as I thought I would.
*Lorenzo used to visit with his mate but she quickly vanished from the scene; he is either a devastated widower who lost his partner in a tragic accident, or a greedy bachelor who killed off his partner in order to keep all the apple juice for himself.
**Although a lot more precision – thankfully nobody flung the baby at me in quite the ruthless manner Aldi employees fire groceries at their customers.