By Shannyn Kornelsen
I am the first person in the world to confess that the sight of a glowing pregnant woman causes my heart to flutter uncontrollably. This response is quadrupled if she happens to be beautiful, healthy-looking, and — particularly — happy.
The happy pregnant woman is a sight to be seen. I hope that if ever aliens contemplate obliterating the human race, the radiant pregnant woman is the first human they ever see. Out of aesthetic appeal alone, they would spare our sorry asses.
I have tried to consider whether my attraction to pregnant women is at all related to my Catholic guilt which has, since childhood, followed me around annoyingly like toilet paper stuck to a shoe. Perhaps I was conditioned to find images of the pregnant Virgin Mary as the very definition of beauty, though her robin’s egg blue robe does nothing for me now. I know I definitely did the Mary head-scarf thing after many a bath as a child, but that was usually for jokes. Usually.
Upon intense consultation with both loved and mostly loved ones, I am pleased to report that an almost painful obsession with beautiful pregnant ladies is, at least as far as I can tell, a rather common affliction.
There is something so humbling about the human frame complete with a perfectly rounded belly. They are so perfect, they almost look unreal, as if pregnant women strap on a manufactured foam belly just for the fun of it and the baby actually grows in their ear. The belly practically begs for attention in all forms, from smiles across the street, to rubbing it as though each and every pregnant woman were a walking Buddha. I have startled myself (and others) with my involuntary responses to pregnant women. This includes staring to the point of awkwardness, which luckily for me, is usually written off as simply feeling my own “maternal desires.” I have even been given the eyebrow raise/shoulder shrug combo which seems to say “Don’t worry! One day this will be you!” While this can be mildly insulting as my maternal wants are about as strong as my desire to go into law enforcement, it has saved me from embarrassing moments in which have I almost responded, “No, no! I don’t want children, I just think you’re so beautiful I couldn’t walk and look at you at the same time.”
Even though love is blind, I find myself completely on one side of a rather harsh division within the realm of pregnant women. While happy pregnant women give off an aura that is almost intoxicating, unhappy pregnant women cause exactly the opposite response. When I see an unhappy pregnant woman I feel a bit like an apple that has withered in the crisper of a neglected refrigerator.
My first thought is always, of course, to empathize with the woman. Perhaps the child is an unwanted one and she has been forced into pregnancy, and everyone knows that isn’t fun. But the particular woman that stirred me to write this was married, had attended law school and was clearly quite aware of her personal and legal rights. I had the unfortunate experience of sitting next to her and her parents at a little cafe where I was reading alone, attempting, for once, to not listen in on private conversations. However, these people were too enticing to ignore. At the time I didn’t have cable, so cashing in on people’s personal lives was a close second.
The pregnant woman was well dressed, sporting a trendy empire-waisted flowered top with a pair of black capris. No heels. Reasonable. Her hair was neat, blonde, dyed. Her hands manicured but conservative. Her eyes were blue but flat. She seemed half awake, which I can understand as her parents were about as interesting as a broken can opener.
I am, to this day, 60 percent certain that the woman had not awoken that very morning to discover she was seven months pregnant. Although, had this been the case, she would be very much justified in looking as displeased with the whole situation as she did.
I looked up from my book as soon as they were seated at the table over from me. I noticed her pregnant belly and the sirens went off in my head. The first thing about her that I noted however, was that she hadn’t smiled once. Now, normally a pregnant woman is absolutely emanating warmth and love, seeing as how she is carrying actual, physical life around with her. But this woman looked unimpressed with her current status, her current dining buddies (as was I), and her life in general. I thought of the withered apple.
Her mother was trying her hardest to impress her daughter with the menu, assuring her that the quiche was a real French quiche, to ease her fears surrounding the fake French quiche impostors known to roam the city. Her daughter raised an eyebrow and looked off into the wall behind her Mother, spreading her infectious lethargy in my direction like a bad fart. While her Mother seemed to be particularly attached to the pesto pizza I was devouring in between eavesdropping, her daughter ended up ordering the quiche. I can’t remember what the Father ended up ordering, because as far as I can recall, he didn’t say more than 3 words for the duration of their visit.
The pregnant woman talked about law school and her scowl remained. I tried to defend her, I really did. I told myself her continued scowl despite a clear life of privilege must be because law school had been tough for Melanie (Yes, I named her), who had been a member of Greenpeace since she was 10 and a major supporter of ecofeminism, and that law school was just an old boys club. That had to be it, and I waited for the conversation about fighting the good fight, and growing increasingly tired. That is why my pregnant woman wasn’t smiling! She was a warrior in the resistance! I could get behind that. I waited, and it never came.
Turns out Melanie loved law school, has a lot of friends who are working in firms around the continent now. Melanie, of course, is on maternity leave, so perhaps she is depressed that she is no longer working? I almost lean across the table and ask her myself, but her Mother beats me to it. Strike Two. Turns out Melanie is perfectly content to not be working right now. “She doesn’t mind work, but time off is OK too”. Who talks like that? I still had yet to see a smile.
Maybe her parents are awful people and it breaks her spirit to see them? I don’t think that’s it. Sure they’re boring as hell, but they clearly love her and know all the details of her life. Maybe she found out the baby is a boy and she wanted a girl? Maybe her partner wants to name it Zane? Maybe she’s just sugar-lowing, having a bad hair day? That can’t be it. Even on the worst of days I can clumsily fumble through the day’s required niceties (i.e.: Yes, milk please. No thank you, I’m great. Excuse me, thanks! Oh by all means, you first! Funny weather, isn’t it?) with a smile, albeit fake and difficult, but a smile nonetheless. Because that is what you do. You might be the most miserable bugger that ever lived, but you sure want people to think you’re happy. Isn’t that what life is all about? A series of decisions made to convince people you know what the hell you’re doing and that you’re quite happy doing it?
By the time they move on to the prospects of caesarean section and her trouble deciding between five highly-qualified doctors, I am dying of disappointment, and consider putting myself out of my misery with my fork. They discuss the birth with the same passion that one uses to read a DVD Instruction Manual. It was awful. And still no smile.
I thought about spilling my water on their table accidentally. I could apologize profusely, and be so damn sweet that they would have to smile, at least out of basic human politeness. However, I watch their interactions with the server, and I can clearly see that spilling my water on their table will do nothing more than add another 25 years to this woman’s anti-depressant prescription. There is nothing more for me to do here.
Well. I hope she realizes what’s going on in her little belly there. Perhaps her parents, in their awkwardness, neglected to mention that she is in fact, carrying a mini-human under her skin right now and that just like “Baby-eats-what-Mommy-eats”, I am quite certain that “Baby-feels-what-Mommy-feels”. What’s the point in eating only organics, not smoking, drinking, or playing anything but classical music so you’re baby pops out as a healthy, mini-Mozart, if all the while your attitude and energy are guaranteeing mandatory therapy for the first 30 years of her/his life?
If you’re pregnant and you decide to keep it, best to get excited about. Paint the nursery, buy baby clothes, knit some booties, fake a smile, whatever it takes. Because after the legal termination date, unless you’re going the adoption route- you’re in it for the long haul.