There are just certain things you don’t say or do to a pregnant woman. Obviously, and I may be totally wrong about this, but I think most people get that memo. Birth is unique in that it is one of the few events in an individual’s history that they can share with every other living human being on the planet, yet no one can remember it. We all went through it, but I challenge anyone that says they can remember being born, yet it has happened to all of us. Somewhere between that blankness of memory and impending adulthood, we develop a certain awareness to memory, but nothing we can do, dream, or hallucinate will recall that event back to us. It’s as if the two things we commonly experience in life, birth and death, we have to rely on the memories of others. Well, not death actually…cause why would you need to remember your own death? Anyway…I digress.
“I hope that this situation will not stress you out and cause you to lose the baby. I would be very upset. It would just kill me.”, she says through a thin veil of tears hanging from her eyes. This coming out of the mouth of a woman whose “family” was preparing to sue my pregnant significant other. The suit would be dropped in a few days because of lack of evidence, but I knew it was because of lunacy. Because if you say something like that to a pregnant woman, you have stepped off the balance beam of mental stability and floated into the abyss of just plain stupidity. Because this is what a pregnant woman hears in her head, “I would like to cut your baby out with a spoon. But no hard feelings…eh?”
We have a cousin that lives in the same town we do. Plenty of people have family that lives close to them. All families, I have come to realize, also have that family member that is vaguely inappropriate in social settings. You know the Uncle that burps the alphabet at family reunions, or the Aunt that smells of some kind of exotically bad cheese and has a knack for always hugging you into her armpit. Two things I immediately notice about these family members: One is that they seem to only be this way with family, and that it only seems to bother family members. Outside of the familial bounds, the uncle is seen as charmingly rude. His friends laugh at him and say things like, “Well there’s Ralph for you. He’s a real character.” While the aunt is seen as charmingly exotic, friends remark that her artwork is handsomely abstract, and they don’t even notice the 27 cats in her house anymore when they visit her. The other thing that I notice is that an amazing amount of family members DO NOT live anywhere near the offensive party. I am not that family member. Up until a few months ago, the “cousin” (as I’ll refer to him), lived in the same state, but at a comfortable distance. I find that right amount of distance is about three hours. It’s just far enough away to weasel out of visitation, and seriously decreases the chances of a random meeting. An hour drive requires little effort, while three hours puts you in the range of a serious trip. That however all stopped when the cousin moved into the same town. Have you ever noticed with the family you want to see you have to put in an enormous amount of effort, but the people you would just assume disown if you could, always have a way of randomly showing up at your doorstep to announce their great and abiding presence in your life?
“We’ve moved up here! Isn’t that great! Now we have family to hang out with!”, he says at my front door while he bounces up and down like a child waiting to blow out the birthday candles. This being the same man that only a few weeks earlier had made a random visit to my girlfriend’s place of business and proceeded to fart on her leg and laugh in front of her other co-workers. The way he announces himself in the store is to grab an unsuspecting associate and have them announce over the walkie-talkies that her “lover” is in the store and would like to see her. He is her first cousin, and he is forty-two years old and married. Lest you think he is a total ogre, let me in fairness inform you that he has a successful career, and from all appearances a lovely wife. They live a comfortable lifestyle, and reside in a nice house. Professionally he’s a success; socially he’s a train wreck.
We had debated for some time telling family about the pregnancy. Not because we didn’t want to tell anyone, it’s just that it was just as much a surprise for us as it would be for them. I came up with a three-tiered plan for telling our families, press release style. We, of course, told our parents first, and from there we moved our way though the immediate families, letting other family members share in the joy by allowing them to tell the immediate family strata below them: parents to children, to uncles, aunts, and so on. We told the mother of the cousin, and informed her that we would tell him when we felt the time was right, which she wonderfully honored.
“I have football season tickets for you.” he says into the receiver of the phone.
“We’re not going to get them this year, we have other things we are planning on.” she says dryly as if talking to a casual acquaintance.
“What?!? What could be more important than football tickets!” he screams as if he’s just received the news his house has burned down.
“We’re expecting a baby.”, she says calmly.
“So what’s that have to do with not getting football tickets?”
Two days ago he shows up at her work. He is with his wife.
What is it about a pregnant woman that opens up the opinion bloodbath? It seems that everyone, regardless of whether or not they have children, feel its ok to give you their advice on children or that they must tell you their worst pregnancy stories.
“It was wrapped around the baby’s head three times, and I spent three hours in surgery so they could get the little bastard out…but he’s such a joy! We’re so lucky to have him!”
“Oh you won’t get any sleep! I was in labor for 16 hours. I didn’t take the epidural, stood on my head and did two back flips right before she popped out. You will never work harder in your life! But it’s all worth it.”
“Oh honey, don’t worry about taking a shit everywhere! Just ask for the enema. And bring plenty of snacks!”
He proceeds to first start touching her stomach. Now I don’t know a lot of things, sometimes my social graces need a little refining, but I do know one thing…you do not touch the stomach of a pregnant woman unless she ASKS if you want to, and maybe not even then. If you like your hands actually attached to the ends of your arms, my advice to you is steer clear of the tummy touching. Fair warning.
He then makes a comment about her size increasing. People…listen, and listen good. It is never ok to make a comment to a woman about her size, period. It ranks right up there, and maybe higher than asking her age, weight, or going through her purse. But saying it to a pregnant woman borders on being both stupid and dangerous. I know my woman. She’s like most women; she has a concern about how she looks. I wouldn’t call it a dangerous concern, but if you think your woman doesn’t have it, you’re retarded. Now take that normal concern for a woman and feed it the steroids of pregnancy and you have a woman who looks (in my humble opinion) wonderful, but feels like a hippo and the Spruce Goose all rolled into one.
“You know your boobs are going to get big and tender. Bigger than they already are!”
This is something you might hear from an inappropriate obstetrician, not your first cousin.
If I had been there, this is the point at which I would have taken a swift kick to his twig and berries. Not that it would have made any difference. This is the same man that informed us at our first ever dinner with them, the great lengths and personal conviction that went into getting “his winky snipped” as he put it.
His wife stands there…mute.
You’ve gotten that look from your partner. The kick under the table, the glaring look, the pinch on the back of your arm fat that your significant other so lovingly gives you to let you know that, in fact, you have crossed the imaginary line of good social sport. I get “that look” all the time. If it wasn’t for her, I’d have to go and get that tattoo on my forehead that says “Insert Foot Here”. That’s how relationships work. It’s as much about keeping each other out of trouble as it is getting in trouble together.
“I think I should say something!” I utter as I push my chest out in bravado pacing a track across the floor. My whole stomach is churning and I feel like a football hooligan on opening match day. My mind runs circles around various scenarios resembling something of an amalgam between the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Godfather. I envision taking him down with my posse at an abandoned toll booth stop. Rat-a-tat-tat, the rhythm in my head is almost deafening.
She lies on the couch, with her belly exposed. The life of our child swimming inside her, and she says, “What are you going to say? He won’t even get it if you explain it to him.”
And in the middle of my mind, bullets raining down, I realize she’s right. Put your Tommy guns away.
If I were to say or do something, I know the reaction I would get…bewilderment. He would stand there after my highly justified and incredibly logical berating, and have a quaint, almost childlike expression on his face. My dog gets the same look on her face after she has gotten in to trouble. The head tilted sideways, ears drawn forward, and eyes as calm and glassy as the sea.
Then, he would probably try to hump my leg.