Two Saturdays ago, my husband and I had dinner with my good friend and her husband at our favorite Thai restaurant in the West Village. After the meal, we decided to hop around to some of our old favorite bars. As we walked along West 4th, a homeless man approached us and asked for cash with a very clever sign. Dutifully, my friend’s husband forked over a dollar. The man was grateful. Just before we walked away, he pointed at my protruding belly.
“Boy!” he declared.
“No,” I replied. “It’s a girl.”
“Oh…. Twin girls?”
“Nope. Just one girl.” I gave him a smoldering glare and silently hoped my friend’s husband would ask for his dollar back.
I tried to dismiss the man’s comment as the deranged ramblings of a street person, but a few days later, while Minnow and I were at the Long Island Children’s Museum (we have an annual membership, in case you’re wondering), a pregnant mother came up to me and, without introduction, asked when I was due.
“June,” I replied simply.
The pregnant mother walked away, but felt compelled to return a couple minutes later.
“Early or late?”
“Are you due in early June or late June?”
“Late June,” I said. “June 29th.”
“Wow!” she exclaimed. “You’re huge!”
Minnow and I promptly relocated to a different area of the museum. We started playing with the telephones in the telecommunications exhibit, alongside a mother and her two sons. The mother looked over at me.
“Any day now,” she said with a wink.
“No. Ten weeks from now,” I replied testily.
I had thought I looked pretty good for thirty weeks pregnant. Now I started to wonder.
The following Monday, after dropping Minnow off at school in Bronxville, I went to Slave to the Grind for my usual vanilla chai latte. As I stood in line, a woman greeted me from behind.
“There you are!”
I turned to face her.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. “I thought you were my friend, but-" she glanced at my stomach- “clearly, you’re not.”
A few awkward moments passed and then she added, “Well they better hurry up with your order or you might go into labor before you get it!”
Ok, lady. Now I’m really not your friend.
To understand what these people were seeing, I had my husband take pictures. To illustrate, this is what people see when they approach me from behind:
And this is they see when I turn to face them:
There’s no getting around it (literally and figuratively): My stomach is enormous. As one person put it, I look like a python who swallowed a pumpkin. And in a cruel twist of fate, while the rest of my body expands, my boobs stubbornly remain the same size.
I’m not really sure why I look like this. I carried Minnow so compactly, I could suspend reality long enough to actually believe some of the dramatizations on the TLC show I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant. Maybe those women really didn’t notice any changes to their bodies! Now I know: Those stories were all false.
In ordinary times I have high (some might say over-the-top) self-esteem. But these are not ordinary times. I am a walking hormone who is making settlement on her house on Monday. My emotions are in free-fall. Peanut is due in nine weeks and I don’t know how my body can continue to accommodate her growth. I’m no biology major, but I just don’t think skin stretches that much. I’m in distress.
So, as a public service announcement, if you find yourself in conversation with a pregnant woman, please observe the following guidelines:
1. While it’s okay to try and guess the gender of the baby, it is not okay to try and guess how many babies are inhabiting the pregnant woman’s uterus. Assume it’s one, unless she tells you otherwise.
2. While it’s okay to ask a pregnant woman when she is due, it is not okay to react with anything other than a smile and a sincere "Congratulations!" at whatever she replies. When she walks away you can remark under your breath that she is a house.
3. Don’t assume that the person in front of you at the coffee shop is your friend until you’ve seen her face. This applies for pregnant and non-pregnant women. And if she does turn out to be pregnant, don't suggest that she is on the brink of going into labor. If that were the case, she probably wouldn't be hanging around waiting for a latte.