For a variety of reasons, I perpetually look like I’m about 7 months pregnant. Even at my most svelte, I have a belly. When I actually *was* pregnant, I continued to work out and was in good shape. Despite gaining seventeen pounds my entire pregnancy, I looked humongous. Walking out of Kmart one day when I was about twelve minutes pregnant, a stranger yelled to me “WHOOOOO GIRL YOU LOOK LIKE YOU GONNA POP ANY MINUTE!!” That was awesome.
I was recently sedentary for 5 months as I recovered from an injury, and you can imagine what that did to The Belly. I did not feel good about myself. If I had a day when I left the house not feeling like I looked like Danny DeVito in drag, it was a win. I had been back at the gym for a few weeks and was *just* starting to feel better about myself the other day when I walked into my office building and was greeted by someone I hadn’t seen in some time who squealed, “OOOOOHHHHH MISS KATE YOU HAVING A *BABY*?!?!” Usually, I just laugh such comments off, make a joke, move on. On this particular day I growled “Nope. I’m just fat.” And that was the end of that. For a nanosecond I felt bad when I saw the look on her face. Then I thought to myself “I may not look great, but at least I know the Rule Among Women: unless you see an infant actively shooting out of someone’s vagina, you say NOTHING about being pregnant and even then, you’re playing with fire.”
These comments happen on occasion. Usually on a day when I feel cute, it never fails. But it’s not like I am not aware of my body, and I don’t take the comments to heart. On that day though, the comment really did get to me, but not for reasons regarding physical appearance. The truth is I have wanted to have another child for a long time. My Mom asked me one day after my daughter was born if her dad and I were going to have another baby. I said I didn’t think so for rational and logistical reasons, but that in my heart I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was missing. She looked at me like I had just won Jeopardy and exclaimed “That is exactly how I felt when we had you!!” Since I was sort of a late-in-life baby for my parents, and my siblings were 10, 13, 14 and 16 at the time I was born, I had always assumed that I was an accident the whole family just sort of came to terms with over time because by the very nature of being an infant, I couldn’t be ignored. So the validation that at least my Mom had given some thought to me prior to my creation was nice, and it was a relief to hear that she knew what I meant when I said I felt like someone was missing. If I was crazy, she was too and I was in good company.
My daughter is fabulous and my desire to add to our family was no negative reflection on her whatsoever. When I was married to her dad there was never a good time (no really) and I have always felt financially irresponsible to even consider another baby. In my current relationship having a baby is not a possibility and I made peace with that decision a long time ago. Still, if you’ve ever mourned the loss of someone, you know that you can go a long time feeling like you have found your footing, only to have the sidewalk ripped out from under you unexpectedly in an instant by something random. That is what happened to me during that interaction in my office the other day. I have mourned the loss of many people who were actually here. How do I explain that I grieve the loss of someone who never existed, but whose presence I have felt so strongly? How do I put into words the depth of the sadness I feel sometimes? It doesn’t mean I am not at peace with my decision, it just means that I will probably always miss that baby, in much the same way I will always miss my Mom and Dad, and they will all be with me forever in my heart and soul.
As I was writing this, I kept thinking about a time when I almost drowned during a whitewater rafting trip. As our raft was coming up on a rapid called Knife’s Edge, our guide gave us the following instructions, “If you fall out here, don’t fight it. Just go with it. You will rise to the surface and be ok.” At the time I thought “That’s pretty counterintuitive!” We went over the rapid, and I didn’t so much “fall out” of the raft, as I was ejected out of it like I had been shot out of a Glock. Then I was dragged underwater over jagged rocks that had their way with my backside from stem to stern while I fought like hell and spun around and flailed and gasped for air. If you’ve ever seen a gator do a “death roll” on the show Swamp People, you have an accurate visual. When all I saw was black, I finally did relax and give in to it. I wasn’t going to win against that river. I went with it and relaxed. As soon as I did, I flipped right side up, saw the sunlight in the water and I bobbed to the surface. I was lifted out of the water like a ragdoll by our guide, bless his heart. I guess the connection between that experience and my feelings about the Baby Who Will Never Be is this: I handle this grief the same way: if I fight it, it takes me down. If I go with it and ride out the wave, eventually I come to the surface, and see the sunlight again.