Tummy Talk


A pregnancy seems as though it should be a concrete thing. A fact. Either you ate that sandwich, or you did not eat that sandwich. Either you are pregnant, or you are not pregnant.

It has started out for me as a very abstract thing.

Janelle is very lucky. So far, after 16 weeks of pregnancy, she has had virtually none of the troublesome side effects. There have been no bizarre food cravings (something I was actually looking forward to her being seized by)—the extent of her new tastes has been a desire to avoid chicken. She has experienced slightly more heartburn than would be normal, but we’re in the midst of the holiday season and traveling a lot, so our normal schedules and diets are in upheaval anyway. There has been no sickness for her at all.

Couple this with the fact that we’re still too early on for her to be showing (first-time moms tend to take longer to show a bit of belly—the body is basically busy going, “Wait, you want me to do what? You’re telling me I have to move all this stuff around? Did you put in a work order? A month ago? Shit.” And so things take some time while it hunts down the appropriate permits for the expansion project), and it has been pretty hard to really call the pregnancy a tangible thing.

Ultrasounds, which are run of the mill wonders not unlike “Oh, right. We put MORE people into space to live for months at a time. Whatever,” are the first real evidence that you are, in fact, carrying a baby around. They all haven’t just been playing an elaborate prank on you. At first you will just see a smudge on a screen and have to be told by someone with a degree on the wall and a lab coat on their body that you, in fact, are looking at a baby. And then they’ll let you hear the heartbeat. This was my first “Oooooooh” moment. Partially I was unaware they even had that ability, but it was also amazing to see the forcefulness of life present in something about the size of a pea. At that size, the baby seems very literally to be all heart. It beats very fast. It’s hard at work. The next ultrasound will show you the beginnings of a baby as we recognize it [see last Monday’s post for examples].

These are just glimpses. For something that is about to dominate your life and very likely alter it permanently, you may have almost no tether to grip and tell yourself its all real. I’ve tried to start talking to Janelle’s stomach as well, but it still just feels like I’m talking to a stomach. However, the baby has ears. In fact, it’s around 16 weeks that the baby will not only be able to hear, but will also react to sounds. The reactions are basically just the baby gyrating around or having its heart-rate change, but it does hear.

I’m going to start trying to talk to the baby more. I think that will help everything feel more real throughout and it won’t all of a sudden be “Oh, there you are” in a couple of months when Janelle will be definitely showing. Treating the baby as if it is already here and already a part of my life and routine will, I hope, make for an easier transition come June when things really will get turned upside-down.

An added benefit of talking to the baby is introducing yourself to it as much as the other way around. You’re going to have an advantage when that baby comes out. You’re expecting it. You know what’s up. That baby will have no idea what the hell just happened to it and who you people are. But it will recognize, even if only on the most fundamental level, your sound. The Mom has a clear advantage here, the baby will hear her voice as often as the mother talks—and it will hear it better, as the sound is conducted through the body. A Dad will sound a bit more like the parents from the Peanuts cartoons (“Mwa wah wah wah wah. Mwa wa wah wah.”), but it’s better than nothing.

My schedule is already becoming something I’m trying to delineate more and more. “Spend some time reading a novel. Read a chapter in the baby book. Write the blog Mon/Tues/Wed. Write the novel Tue/Thur. Watch TV off the DVR.” I’m going to add on “Talk to the baby.” We’ll sit on the bed, I’ll prop myself up on my elbows and the abdomen and I will have a little chat.

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