I never watch horror movies. Even the funny ones leave me too unnerved to sleep alone, and since I have mostly lived by myself for two decades I avoid the bloody things. I prefer the more understandable tragedies of Law & Order marathons. Plus I get to enjoy the fine form of the capable Mariska Hargitay playing the soft, yet dykey, and dubiously heterosexual, Detective Olivia Benson saving the world, one special victim at a time.
But at 28 weeks pregnant (and counting,) I am in the thick of Halloween. The movie channels are stuck on Halloween overload. I am still on bedrest, which means the TV is my best friend. But it is October, so I can't find anything to watch that doesn't have some bleeding face or slime-covered fang cackling at my fear of the un-dead. Everywhere I turn there is a haunting ghoul staring, or some lit lantern grinning sinister at me, and my impending offspring. Whenever I am faced with these monstrosities I can't help but think of my friend, Michelle, who doesn't do Halloween because she couldn't see herself participating in a celebration of evil. My friend, Keondra, has me reassessing our friendship when she tells me she can't wait to figure out her costume for this year. Even the advertisements are filled with fake cobwebbing and tubes of green slime, and to add insult to anxiety my next doctor's appointment is on Halloween.
I have never trusted the dead. But this aversion to the paranormal has become more acute during my pregnancy. If I even get a glimpse of some scary flick with a alien creature lodged inside a human body, or the ghost of some human child walking the halls of a home it once inhabited, I cannot help but to look suspicious at my own growing abdomen, pulsing and moving unassisted, inhabited by a strange being I have yet to meet. My imagination then begins the race down crazy road, and before I know it, I am certain that the moving being is not my child kicking, but the spirit of some murdered soul from Mars returning to earth via my vagina, to visit its revenge on the murderer who was never brought to justice.
Even before the scary dreams inspired by The Feast Of All Saints, I was a bit wary of this seemingly strange happening called gestation. (I have not allowed myself too much room to consider the birth.) I am ashamed to admit that even after nearly seven months carrying a child, the process of making a human being still feels alien to me. I experience it like something you would see in a film about things not human. And that scares me. Sure, I chose it, and sure, I want my child, but this part of the process leaves my practical/physically-rooted brain a bit befuddled. I mean, how in God's name does one deal with losing complete control over one's whole being? How do you plan for a phenomenon that is not easily managed with any known formula? When I ask my doctor why this baby has been so hard on my body, she patiently repeats what she always says. Every pregnancy is different. There is no magic cure for morning sickness stretching along the entire length of three trimesters. Nobody knows why a sub-chorionic hematoma forms. And no, there are no known explanations for the irritable uterus syndrome. And let's not talk about the hormonal rollercoaster. The emotional upheaval is a little like falling down a rabbit hole -- I'm never quite sure if I'm weeping out of joy or pain or sadness or all three.
Weeks ago, I attempted the famed and necessary baby registry. Famed, because everyone who has had a baby tells me I need a registry; this is imperative for the shower, i.e, the party where these gifts are presented to you. And all the stores that sell baby things have invited me to sign up for one. And necessary, because unless you are pregnant with Oprah Winfrey's child, no one can afford all the crap that ends up on the list that these stores insist is supposed to be basic. In short, one needs the community to chip in to buy the things baby will need in the first year of life. I did some research to find out which places have what things for sale and discovered that BuyBuyBaby.com has a bunch of the healthy stuff marketed to lesbians, often manic tree huggers, the arguably gullible, and nervous first-time moms concerned with the ills of toxicity in everything we consume. There are diapers without the gel that could poison the baby's little vagina, butt cream that makes sure his little penis won't rot, organic cotton to prevent irritating the all-too-common eczema of modern babies, and every manner of wooden bassinets and non-plastic strollers and natural shampoos and such. I promptly signed up.
Then I found out that most people shop at Babies 'R' Us, because everyone knows them, and they can be found in every city in the US and Canada. Plus the expected baby hits are there; the hyper-gendered pink and blue clothing (to which nearly everyone seems committed,) recognizable brands that we all associate with baby care; Fisher Price plastic pacifiers, Gerber baby formula, Pampers wipes--and everything is supposedly priced for the frugal. The prices on both sites weren't significantly different, but to satisfy the two camps in my community, I registered there, too.
Then I was supposed to add things to the registry list. I hate lists, but this was for the good of my child, so I opened the window and began my duty of love. And to be honest, I was excited to see all the cute things my baby was going to have. Because each site provided a sample list of recommended items I assumed it couldn't be that difficult.
Seven hours later, I found myself still sifting through breast-pumps and bottle warmers and creams I can only describe as Chapstick for the nipple. My eyes hurt, my back was stiff and I had all of two items on the list. I felt completely overwhelmed by the sheer breadth of what I did not know. I suppose I had heard of these products before, but I didn't know which ones worked, or which ones would cause me to rot or poison the boob on which my child would spend hours and hours suckling. There were little blankets designed to wrap the baby like a papoose, but I worried that I would wrap the child too tight and suffocate her. There were booties, and footies, and onzies and bundlers -- I had no idea where to start, what to add to the list, what to ignore.
Then it dawned on me that no one was planning a baby shower. A few of my friends had kind of said they would, but most of the close ones do not live in New York City, and the ones who live here are too broke, too busy, or too beat-down to plan a party. I wasn't going to have a baby shower. I couldn't do the registry. I was a failure. This whole baby thing hadn't worked at all. There would be no gifts and no opportunity to give them to me. I missed my 94-year-old grandmother. I'm not sure why, since my deaf Grandma could never plan a baby shower, nor could she help me with the registry. But somehow, I thought, if my grandmother were alive, or if my mother weren't so broken, or if I wasn't living in America, I would have a registry and a baby shower and my pregnancy wouldn't be so riddled with complications. It all seemed too much. I shut the computer down and burst into tears.
Then my friend, Ami, who lives in Jamaica, who has had two children, (who are both still alive and well,) came to the rescue. Organized, patient, and experienced, she told me to send her the passwords for both registries. She made a concise list of the essentials. Don't worry, she said, we could add things when we are done with this first list. Lists, she insisted, made things manageable. We spent one morning on Skype, during which she sectioned the tasks into bite-sized portions. We looked at feeding, then safety, then travel, then home --
and before I knew it, I had a neatly ordered registry of car seats and socks, and sterilizers, and receiving blankets. She explained why some things were better, and she pointed out that though she found this or that helpful, that it was a trial and error process for all mothers. She encouraged me to give myself room to change my mind. I listened to her speaking and was amazed that all of this seemed so easy to her. This, I thought, is why we need the proverbial village in order to raise the child.
Then came the obsession with the registry.
I checked both sites every fifteen minutes. When no one bought anything in the first hours I broke down crying, convinced that, with no bodysuits or nipple cream in sight, my baby would go naked and that my breasts would be chapped and cracked and unable to feed the now hypothermic child. (Never mind, women have been warming babies with their own body heat and feeding them from breasts that have never seen nipple cream!) Eventually, someone in Iowa bought a few items, including a tiny pair of red socks, the sight of which sent me blubbering into my pillows again. Thinking of those socks, sitting squarely on my baby's cold little feet made me weep with joy and terror and the relieving conviction that things were going to be just fine. It was fine that there wasn't going to be a baby shower. I had red socks. And a matching bodysuit. All I needed was a little patience, and some faith in my community and things would fall right into place. Then thinking that made me worry I was being cocky or at least complacent, over-confident. Then I burst out laughing at myself for being such a loon.
Days later, my friend, Carmen, wrote to say she and my other friend Biola were taking on the task of the shower. All I would need to do is send a list of invitees, she assured me. That sent me into a new tizzy of grateful tears. When I was done wailing, I wiped my face and checked my registry. Another friend in New York had just bought clothes covered in monkeys. A stranger from Iceland purchased a pack of bibs. Yet another bought us a pack of non-toxic diapers. I smiled at the growing list of items being purchased by the global community I was so convinced I did not have. And I was grateful for them. I felt so lucky to be me. Then I marveled at the magic of the changing moment. And somewhere in that tiny echo of this ghastly Halloween, I caught the memory of my dead Grandmother whispering, "The world yuh live in is round, me chile, kinda like a cricket ball. You hit dat thing hard enough, and wait a while, you never quite know exactly where it will land."
And suddenly the cryptic quote, which Grandma had always delivered to me in times of doubt, becomes clear. "Life is full of surprises. Any outcome is possible. Just do what you can, and give fate a little time, she may well show up for you in ways you never would have imagined."