Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pregnancy Revisited

Just for fun, here's a re-posting of two of my essays on pregnancy.

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Drawing Room

It seems to me that babies are sprouting forth in other families all around me, so here I sit thinking about babies and pregnancy, of all things.

I am thinking, pregnancy is masculine. This is only right, for after all, a man is closely involved. The womb is New York City, it is a large, rumbling construction site of vessels and muscles and belly, swollen with doings and slow traffic and shut down for days, months, longer than predicted. All kinds of activities and such re-routed, things grind to a standstill, then a rush of activity.

Mom at Work! There should be orange Detour signs, No Traffic Today, Not This Month, Not This Summer, Expect Delays! Go the other way! Ok, Stand and Watch, but Stay Back behind the tape. We should all be wearing hard hats and giving cat calls and surveying the scene with our thumbs in our pockets. The baby finally emerges and looks like he has been in a brawl, red and blue and puffy and gasping and clenched.

But, of course, pregnancy is also feminine. It is, as the Psalmist says, like knitting.

There is fine needlework being done deep down in the womb -- a genteel drawing room, private and hushed. There are delicate, tiny, original stitches... the infinite, infinitesimal, industrious click-clicking of molecule upon molecule weaving and fitting, a little friendly gossip between the soul and body, the DNA taking tea.

Did you know, the face forms itself from the outside in? It meets in the middle and leaves it's little calling card, which is the dimple and bow of your upper lip. In a child born with a cleft lip, like my boy, Ben, you can see where the face did not meet, the introduction wasn't properly made, and there was a scandal. And always the placenta pours the precise mix of blood and vitamins in, the little toes and hands grasp and push away the cup. There is the clink of saucers, a polite chuckle, a murmur. Then -- shhh -- the baby is sleeping!

***

An Inch and a Universe

I write this on an old spiral after a day at dog obedience school, clearing out branches and logs from the storm, and shuttling to and fro the repair shop... the flotsam of suburban life.

I look down at my belly, untroubled by improvements and besotted with metaphor. It is Greek Hestia's belly, or the Victorian "Angel at the Hearth," or the Hearth itself where babies are warmed, a Garden where babies are grown.

In college it was tight and brown and good to look at, good for tanning and pink bikinis. But it has been about more important business since then. Now it is good for holding babies. It is good Rx for scraped knees and stubbed toes, a pillow for tired brown heads in church, a place to bury your face when you feel shy or afraid, a warm and friendly place.

It is stretched and functional, criss-crossed with the lines and shiny stretches of 3 babies and some surgeries. It bears the haphazard tic-tac-toe of gestation and trauma, the hard work of hammering out and making people. My dad remarks (a military man), "Your Marine friends would be jealous!" But surely if I hung out with Marines, I wouldn't be showing them my belly!

William, once and years ago you were a baby inside, elbowing my abdomen, forcing me to take up your desperate agenda. One inch of skin separated me from you. One inch of skin and womb between mother and son, and it may as well have been a mile. There was a human pressed to my heart and kicking my ribs, and I had never met him. I hadn't met you.

I'd seen many strangers and never you. And there would be no hurrying our introduction -- that grand introduction. The brutal miracle, this labor of desire, forged by your father's heat and shaped in your mother's lap -- and you, a different soul, separate from us, little squawking man. And now my tall and lanky brown-eyed boy, catcher of baseballs, reader of science encyclopedias, eater of large cookies... irrevocably you.

God's creation. Holy to the Lord. Never early, never late. I wait.

"As it is written, 'Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.'" Luke 10: 23

2 comments:

Laura said...

Love these Anne! Such good analogies. It makes me want to paint it!

annechamb said...

Thank you Laura! I have been thinking of you lately and I hope you are well. I would love to see your work some time. you are such a talented person!