For the past few weeks I’ve grown from pregnant to HUGELY pregnant. It is now 100% obvious that I am not merely fat, but rather gestating what sources keep telling me is a very small human being, but which I have a hard time believing given how not-small everything about me is. (Or, rather, I am fat and gestating a human being.)
This is the time of pregnancy when strangers start saying things — and apparently when the unsolicited belly-touching occurs, though that has never happened to me. Given my general misanthropy, you would think that the near-constant barrage of pregnancy-and-babby related small talk would annoy me, or at least I would find it invasive, but I’ve instead found it pretty fascinating, at least on an amateur anthropological level (apologies to all the real anthropologists reading this; I have no idea what the fuck you do all day but I hold it in the highest regard; you seem very smart, especially Ted).
There is something about the obvious visible percolation of a miniature human that interests many other humans who are not related to that human, and it is almost like people can’t help themselves but to ask more or less the same set of questions. It’s almost like there is some sort of primal instinct driving them to inquire: When am I due? Do I know what I’m having? Yep, a girl! Oh, a girl! How wonderful! But if I’d said a boy I’m sure I would also get, Oh, a boy! How wonderful! Because what kind of asshole is like, “Ooh, I don’t like that gender, you should return it for a refund”? (Actually I would think that was pretty funny if it happened).
My absolute favorite (by which I mean most perplexing) thing to get asked, though, is: Do you have a name picked out? That is by far the weirdest question I get because it is from strangers who don’t know my name. Why do you want to know the name of a strange fetus when you don’t know its parents’ names and don’t seem interested in learning them? We may or may not have a “short list” of names picked out, but we’re keeping ’em locked up tight, so I generally say, “There are some contenders but nothing concrete yet; we want to meet her before we name her,” which people tend to think is adorable, before launching into the story behind what they named all of their kids (or would name their kids if they had them), which is clearly what they wanted to talk about all along, and I’m happy to let them — and this, again, is all while I don’t know their names and they don’t know mine, and nobody asks.
Another thing I hear happens a lot at this stage is unsolicited grisly horror-story birth stories, which thankfully I have also not gotten (and don’t want! Do not leave them in the comments!). I am the only person in my Childbirth Education class at the hospital who is opting for a drug-free birth (provided it’s uncomplicated); everyone else is basically like HOW LONG DOES THE EPIDURAL TAKE TO KICK IN? CAN I HAVE ONE NOW? and I’m the lone hippie in there, getting strange looks and wondering if it’s going to be a Thing in the delivery room and all the staff is going to roll their eyes at me and not be supportive and OK YOU KNOW WHAT? SERENITY NOW. Never mind.
So, that’s about it. Right now my days are mostly filled with purging all of the pink clothing from the voluminous (and wonderful) gifts we’ve received (right now it’s going into the “backup” pile, but if she doesn’t puke and shit through all her less-gender-norming duds in the time it takes me to do laundry, it will be surreptitiously moved to the “whoops they grow so fast!” pile), and working on my book manuscript (just finishing up a chapter today; should be on schedule to squeeze out about half the book before I squeeze out the babby).
I got my contract yesterday, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so delighted to see 35 pages of legalese. Today I am going to sign my name on the proverbial dotted line (it’s actually a solid line — who knew?), in quintuplicate, and then I’ll mail all five copies to 175 Fifth Avenue, the address I used to write, type and narrate about 500 times a day because I used to work in that building (in publishing, no less!) in my very first job out of college ever. I’ve seen about 200 contracts the likes of which I’m about to sign; I’ve been on the receiving end of the phone when the authors and their agents called up furious about the distribution of some subsidiary right or other, or demanding that their “check be cut” right that instant (as if I, 22-year-old Editorial Assistant, had that power, and as if such a thing could be done with an unsigned contract). It has been both surreal and delightful to be on the other side of this paradigm, and having the whole thing take place in the Flatiron Building just brings my entire life full circle.
Today — as the baby continues to do her Hulk Calisthenics against my ribs and I get ready to sign this contract — is one of those days when I realize that failing to become a college German professor was categorically the best thing that has ever happened to me.
HOWEVER (ahem), that doesn’t mean I am not still dealing with residual trauma from four years of trips to MLA I couldn’t afford, so amidst all this I humbly remind you all to, if you haven’t already (and even if you don’t know your full and concrete costs yet because it’s before the fact), please fill out my MLA Cost Project Survey. As the conference approaches I am hoping to tighten the screws on any department that dares try to pull some shit where they withdraw an interview because a candidate requests videoconference. That, indeed, is the reason I am doing this before the conference and not after, when people have receipts and shit — I want to help, if I can, with this year’s hiring cycle.
Remember, it’ll take you 2 minutes, and it’s ANONYMOUS (I know you academics love anonymity, except when you’re on the tenure track and writing suck-uppy hagiographies to why academia is so great, which might as well all be called PLEEZ ME WANT TENURE; you’re not fooling anyone).
I showed you a picture of my massive naked belly, so really it’s the least you can do.