There is a tiny stranger inside of my body. There is no part of my life he hasn’t affected in the almost 25 weeks we’ve co-habited this space. Every day has felt like one more unsigned letter, a wordless puzzle I’m trying to assemble into a picture of the person I’ve decided to loan my body to for nine months.
I’ve heard from him once a month, brief adamant glimpses of a heartbeat that started out at 144BPM and has settled to 134BPM. I knew it was there, but I didn’t realize what the experience would be like to hear this thing issuing from within me. For two months, I clung to the memory of those beats as proof that something was happening within me when I had yet to experience physical proof of what was within–I hadn’t felt anything, I hadn’t seen anything, I’d only heard from him.
I’ve seen him, a brief hour one morning with my husband, my mother, and a stranger expertly wielding an ultrasound wand. I haven’t seen his eyes or if he’s inherited the stubborn chin from my grandfather that is so prevalent among his descendants, but I’ve seen the blood pulse in the hemispheres of his brain, and I’ve watched his heart beat, a silent counterpoint to the beat I’ve clung to at each prenatal appointment.
I’ve felt him, the tiny limbs I watched measured out on a computer screen becoming my very visceral reality as he happily pummels my cervix (in excitement? In the midst of a mad sugar rush?) after I’ve eaten a gyro and gelato. I haven’t held his hands or played with his toes, but I’ve become intimately acquainted with his ideal movement patterns, his fists and feet beating out a pattern across the interior of my abdomen, from my ribs to my pubic mound.
He’s made me jump, his unexpected jerks and blows from within as I sit in traffic with a full bladder or while I desperately try to write an intelligent paper on instructional models. Sometimes the movements drive me to that stupid fatuous pregnant woman face, the one I used to disdain, where my attention is turned entirely inward as I cup my belly to better feel the demands of this passenger.
In return, I’ve made him jump, when I played him his “first” song, fitting headphones to the bump and teaching him a lesson early that “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin’ Ta F Wit.” His startled jumping response was amazing, the first time that he’d responded to something I’d done and not me responding to him. He calmed down for his first album, Mark Lanegan’s I’ll Take Care of You, subsiding into almost-silence but for an occasional kick in response to the guitar chords. I’ve “taken” (because we had no other choice) him to concerts, exposing him early to Mark Lanegan, Isobel Campbell, Greg Dulli, and Robyn. Next month will be our first Ani DiFranco show together, and the first time I’ll be able to feel him respond to live music.
I’ve committed 40 weeks of my life to creating a new person from my own flesh and blood, a tiny wanted parasite that freely takes from my body and my energy. I find it to be a strange and wonderful situation that I’m in: he accompanies me literally everywhere I go, yet he’s a complete stranger to me. Once he’s born, he will be part of my life for the rest of my life, someone I dedicate my time and energy and resources to, someone I will know better than almost anyone else in the world. The beginning of that person is inside of me right now, but we’re still strangers to each other, passing notes of pokes and flavors between us.