It’s like a scene out of a film called Buttercups and Daffodiles. Don’t bother looking for it on Netflix. It’s a single three month long take of you and your little guy skipping and tumbling and rolling like bunnies on a gentle grassy knoll covered with yellow flowers and soft velvety bushes laden with gummy bears. That’s how second trimester feels after the first one. No nausea, no fatigue. You pick apples and make pie. Several, in fact. You cook daily and eat every meal with relish. Meat is your friend again. Vigor and vitality are you best vriends. You throw H up in the air and swing him around and shout, “Eet ees a meericle!”
And something more. You’ve always loved H, but you experience an almost unbearable adoration for him. Every hug is a snuggle, every kiss turns into ten, every smile from him a warm chocolate pudding bath for your brain. He feels so good in your arms you only let him go when he squeals and squirms like he’s suffocating. He splashes you in the bath, he throws tantrums, he spits food onto the floor and says, “Funneee! Ha ha!” when you say, “Stop that,” and he is adorable.
Also, you notice that less of your hair falls out during showers. It looks better than it has since H was born. Nevermind the near decimation of your locks that will inevitably follow the birth. La la la! Your hair looks great for now, you have a definite baby bump that makes you look pregnant rather than fat, and every morning you wake up eager to see your little boy with whom you fall in love again and again for 90 days.
When you find out the next one’s a boy, you’re happy. You turn to SC with the optimism and madness of an amnesiac, “Maybe the next one will be a girl.” He doesn’t say a word.
* * *
This is the time to start nesting. For Squeezable Companion. During the first pregnancy he spent over 110 hours a week at work and didn’t get a chance to nest. Now that he’s living a semblance of a normal schedule while on research leave, there’s so much to do!
There’s a trip to Ikea to make! that dreaded trip to Stoughton where you put the health of your marriage to the test. There’s so much to buy! which you both find confusing and blood pressure raising because you’re having another boy and you and everyone else thought, “We’ve got everything we need already!” At checkout there’s a crib and mattress, linens, toy storage shelf and bins, drawers that SC plans to customize and install under the cribs and sofa for more storage, a book shelf for the living room, extra storage shelf for the storage area, which he also customizes, a changing table and all its accouterments, and a kitchen island from craigslist to make more room in the kitchen.
Then follow countless trips to Home Depot for plywood, two-by-fours, brackets, screws, cup hooks, paint. He builds three separate drawer systems that take two weeks to put together because using power tools and painting while minding a toddler slows you down a lot. You unpack all the infant stuff like the baby swing–that thing is huge!–the full-sized stroller, infant car seat, 0-6 month old clothes, the linens like swaddle blankets. There’s so much stuff!
All this is busy-ness. Necessary, sure, but busy-ness.
The arching melody playing over the noise of busy-ness is you experience almost no anxiety during this pregnancy. Whatever happens during the course of the upcoming labor and care for the baby seem entirely surmountable. You feel supremely confident. This sense of calm grows during your romps through buttercups and daffodiles when any small sliver of doubt sticking in your mind would get plucked out with a flick and you’d tell yourself, “Stop worrying. And don’t worry about not worrying. Shit will hit the fan. Shit always does. And you’ll just wipe it off.”
There are three things that happen during your third trimester that go beyond pregnancy:
1. You attend a reading by Junot Diaz at the local library. He’s a Pulizer Prize, MacArthur Genius Grant, Guggenheim Fellowship winning author of three books. You decide to attend this reading as a way of doing something for yourself, something you used to do before all this nesting and mothering and wyfering and not writing.
During the course of the question and answer period, you have an epiphany: you have been an unconscious slave to the white male gaze.
Rather than writing about what you want to write about–your parents’ immigration experience, your immigration experience, being a woman, being Korean, being an Asian/Korean woman, your relationship with your sister, your relationship with your mother, your relationship with your father, your mother, your father, your parents’ marriage, basically any topic that would reveal to the reader that not only are you a woman but you’re an ethnic minority–you have tried to hide who you are by writing about things that white male writers write about–being white and male and having white male problems–and sounding the way white male writers sound–privileged, authoritative, entitled.
But who are you kidding? You’re not privileged, you have no authority in that voice. Who do you really want to be writing for and about? To white people? To white men? Why? Why has your standard of Literature been an unconscious preoccupation with sounding like and being accepted by white dudes? That’s not you and they are not the principle people you want to reach.
In the span of those two hours at the Cambridge Public Library, listening to Junot Diaz reveal and clear away your own unbeknownst-til-then preconceptions that have held you bound to notions of white supremacy–in your writing, your reading, your self perception, your life–you are freed. It puts you on the path to vigilant self-examination, of uncovering other preconceptions in your life that you never realized you had supposed to be true and normal. In their stead, you being to figure out what are your standards, your values, your principles; in essence, figure out who you are in your eyes rather than in the white male gaze.
2. You and SC start couples’ therapy. Marriage is the toughest project you’ve ever undertaken. Tougher than raising a child. (So far at least.) Trying to make a life with another human being, with his or her own history and baggage and mind, is almost next to impossible at times. You need help. Especially before the second baby comes, which will only aggravate existing problems, problems neither of you can resolve alone.
The immediate relief of simply having this third person managing your relationship takes out the strain in your daily lives: strain that leads to explosions of vitriol where H learns to say “Fuck you”; strain that leads to SC missing his son’s birthday party; strain that makes you understand Meryl Streep’s character in Adaptation when she says in her moment of dirge and despair, “I want my life back. I want what I had before it got all fucked up. I want to be a baby again. I want to be new.” Everyone relaxes. And you–seven, eight, nine months pregnant–need to chill out.
3. You make no indication or plans to have second baby shower. You think it’s rather tacky. Yes, having kids is expensive and that’s your choice, but it’s a choice that shouldn’t ask other people’s wallets to support it even if there’s cake involved.
But then a good friend decides to take it upon herself to throw you a baby shower brunch. It’s a few hours on a Sunday morning without any of the toddlers, a small party of four women with a Julia Child’s quiche and homemade cinnamon rolls made by her talented husband, wonderful conversation, and a few thoughtful gifts. You think maybe that thin, hard line you took on second baby showers should be smudged a little.
You are a lucky woman. You have great friends. And on this you can say without Streep-ish drama, you have a good life.
* * *
Your due date is tomorrow. No contractions, but the OB tells you you’re 1 cm dilated. Let’s get this show on the road, little man. Some people enjoy being pregnant, but for you it’s mostly just a lot of waiting. Nine months is long enough.