I am five months pregnant and I'm too scared to go to a mommy group.
I signed up for one online, and endless email threads spool out along the length of my laptop screen as people write back and forth and back and forth, planning their next meet-up. And then they write to each other afterward to say, "It was so amazing to meet you all!! All 40 of you!! And your wonderful hubbies!" And I am still cowering in my apartment, afraid to step outside because I might get run over by a seriously jacked up stroller. Those things are so technologically advanced now -- they're like transformers. Some of them are probably voice-activated. You can fit your whole life in one, if you can only master the mechanics, like an organist, always toeing pedals as your hands move busily above.
I went to Babies"R"Us and looked at the things that babies are supposed to have. Fleets of bouncy seats with dangling, jangling things attached; high cloth walls around play sets that will educate your child from birth to college while you're in the other room, living your life; and hulking herds of gleaming, multi-compartmented strollers. I panicked and bought a massive stuffed giraffe. I couldn't face the handlebar innovation. I couldn't face any of it. I felt suddenly like I needed to sit down, so I feigned round ligament pain.
There are raging debates in this new world of motherhood over which carrier is worse for your baby's hips. I thought only German shepherds got hip dysplasia. No, my baby will, too, if I choose wrong. Which diapers are dangerous and which are wondrous? Glider or rocker? Do you even need to ask? What's wrong with you?
And then there are the moms themselves. These cheerful legions of women in the birth club that I have automatic membership to. These women who will meet all 40 of each other, all at once, and compare notes. I keep thinking of reasons why I can't go. I'm really busy on Sundays. I have to clean the kitchen. I have to prepare for Monday! I am hanging out with my husband or my childless friends.
I know I'm supposed to go. None of my friends are having babies. I'm the only one. I'm supposed to be lonelier. I'm not sure why I'm not. My friends are talking about "in three-to-five years..." And my curled up, unborn daughter is kicking me in the cervix, like, "Ready or not!"
I ran into this woman who saw that I was pregnant and said, "Listen, there is ONE thing you need to do. RIGHT NOW. Join a mommy group!" So I thought, Yes! OK! I should do that! Because I am big on taking advice from people who have been there when I haven't.
But I can't seem to. I don't know what my deal is. I think that part of my deal is that I am not ready to be a "mommy."
And it's confusing, because I actually feel totally ready to meet my daughter. I can't wait. Especially when she's kicking me somewhere weird. No, especially all the time. I want to see her face. I want to touch her hands. I want to know her. I want to introduce her to my little world. I hope she likes giraffes. I know she's going to love her dad's furry chest. It's impossible not to.
But when I think of myself as a "mom," I don't like that. I don't understand it, except the way it's been shown to me, in a million GIFs and jokes and clichés. In the extreme specificity of my own mother, who I am of course like in some ways and profoundly different from in others. In the stories the young women I know trade about less ambitious women who got pregnant and gave up. And the thing is, it always looks like a whole identity. And I don't feel ready to shimmy out of this one and pull a whole new self on instead. I've fought to get here. I've agonized and plotted and cajoled and therapized and cackled with dark glee and triumphed and generally made myself crazy over it.
I am a writer, I think. I am a writer who is having a baby.
OK, that will make me a mom. She will do that to me. But, I'm not ready to say it yet. I am not ready to join the mommy group. I am holed up in my apartment, writing a fantasy novel about a girl who doesn't yet know her own power, but she will one day save the world.
Maybe she'll have a daughter, too, eventually. Not in this trilogy, but later. Maybe she'll be a mom and she'll learn about different kinds of strollers. Saving the world probably wouldn't prepare her, though, for the second floor of the Babies"R"Us in Union Square. Nothing can really prepare a person for that.
The author at nine months (photo: Photography by Cari Ellen)
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