Inside the smallest, darkest room

I’m spending a lot of time imagining what it’s like for our baby right now, growing bigger and bigger inside this warm, dark, muscley, whooshing pool. My understanding is that babies this young don’t really have cognition yet, so everything they feel and do, all their responses, are more about instinct and reflex. That, too, is hard to imagine: what would life be like if you were distilled back down to those things?

Apparently, one of the things you would do is wiggle and kick a lot. Our baby grows stronger and stronger every day, and the kicks are now visible from outside although they’re still too intermittent for Devin to be able to spot them. When I’m lying on my side the baby rests side-to-side, head toward the ceiling, feet thumping the bed. During a few parts of the day the baby is head up, dancing a little jig on my cervix. And the rest of the time it’s head-down, letting me know it’s aware of the warm tea I just drank, that the shower water’s too hot, or that there are voices somewhere in the room around us. Often the kicks are strongest during meetings and interviews — times when I need to pay the most attention to the person talking, not the person playing Spider-man in my belly. Of course, what I really want to do in those moments is retreat somewhere and focus in on the mystery of what our child is doing in there, exactly.

Speaking of mysteries, I’m also thinking a lot about the next 17-18 weeks or so — a stretch with no sonograms offering us a window inside, no other chances to learn the baby’s gender or see it sneezing, sucking its thumb, hiccuping, dancing, or making its presidential endorsement. I’m not typically someone who sits well with unknowns, and there are many unknowns before us that sometimes make me uneasy, but somehow I am comfortable with — even thrilled by — this idea that I don’t know who’s in there, not yet, which makes the day we begin to find out all that much more exciting to think about. And yet, in some ways it also feels like a lesson in what’s to come; as close as you can be to someone, there’s always going to be some part of them you never quite fathom. And I suppose with a child it’s a good idea to get used to that even before they show up.

It’s possible that I’m pondering all this darkness and mystery because of the season. Who knows. But I like how this excerpt from Judy Grahn’s poem “Like a Woman in Childbirth Wailing” puts what’s going on in there:

A queen am I
my city is within me

ever and ever did I swell
with its messages
delivering all it ever needed
to know of itself
cell by fleshy cell
and spark by spark
and all entirely in the dark.

I plied on the smallest, starkest loom
inside the smallest, darkest room
knitting fingernail to finger
iris to eyeball to socket
I rarely missed a stitch.
Almost the hardest thing I had to know
was when to call the baby done
and let it go

— Beth