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Archimedes Inside and Out:
Chronicle of a Pregnancy

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Part 4: Reality Strikes

Month 5

I finally have come to accept that I'm pregnant. The ultrasound in week 18 was a huge wake-up call. The technology was damn cool, and the whole procedure was enormously stress-relieving as many of my anxieties were laid to rest (e.g., the baby is not a spineless jellyfish). During a comprehensive exam, the technician went through the checklist: two arms, two legs, two kidneys, liver, stomach, a bunch of ribs, closed spinal cord, four chambers in the heart, et cetera. No tapeworms were found. And we're having a baby girl. (Note the change in this series' title to the feminine.)

We happily counted ten toes, but only got nine fingers because while we were counting, Archimedea turned her head defiantly and looked straight at us while vigorously sucking on her thumb (digit #10). If the ultrasound could detect sassiness, I think the monitor would have gone berzerk. The ultrasound also confirmed the due date, July 13, but given her sassiness, I think Archimedea will present herself on Bastille Day purely to offend my Londoner husband's English sensibilities.

Reality of this pregnancy sinks in as I'm hit with a bunch of other physical changes. My stomach is finally and happily starting to grow. Tragically, my butt seems to be expanding at the same rate. Presumably this is to provide comfortable padding for the coming months, but I feel like a grumpy Michelin tire man. I've taken to sticking my stomach out to draw attention from my baby hippo-sized ass. I could be shaking my booty in a Sir Mixalot video.

Just as my enormous ass paranoia launched, I began to feel tickles inside my belly. At first I thought it was yet another case of gas or maybe just my pulse, which now beats ferociously to get enough blood to Archimedea. But within a matter of a few days, these cute little tickles turned into strong, insistent wallops. I am convinced Archimedea has tapped into my subconscious admiration for that fine show, Xena, Warrior Princess. Archimedea's specialty right now is kicking somersaults—charming when she hits the front of my stomach, but when she kicks me square in the bladder I feel like I'm going to pee my pants. I suspect that Archimedea hates root beer because she goes totally Xena if I drink it. I still do so occasionally, when I'm worried she's somehow disappeared.

Doctors and other moms say that this is all joyous, all miraculous. It's not all that. The weight gain alone is tough. Just try keeping up with your regular activities, like hopping up the stairs to your apartment, but with a 15 pound dumbbell stuck down your underpants, and you'll know what I mean. Add a hormone cocktail plus a bonus shot of general klutziness, and you'll find it's always a sweaty day in Pregnancy City.

The kicking is pretty cool, because it means Archimedea is OK. But at the same time, I'm terribly creeped out about it too. There is something inside me, which may be natural but is also deeply disturbing, damn it. I have major personal space issues, a holdover from too much time spent in airplanes. I deeply resent quiet talkers because you have to lean in too close to hear whatever they're saying.

The big picture, the huge reality pill for me to swallow, is that I am undoubtedly pregnant—with no bonus escape key, no handy undo command. I'm scared to death that I will be completely clueless with what to do with a baby, a toddler, a kid, a teenager. I was never one of those girls who soothed crying Susie dolls and wanted to be a Real Mom. Good lord, it's only been recently that I've found other babies interesting instead of repellent.

So every time Archimedea whacks away at my insides, I start with a happy "cool!" and follow with a long and heavy, anxiety-ridden "holy shit!"

My anxiety grows exponentially with increasingly visible signs of pregnancy, since people—friends and otherwise—ask all sorts of questions that I don't know the answers to. I've avoided reading chapters that are further along in the pregnancy books because I don't want to get grossed out by the whole birthing thing. "Do you have a birthplan?" No, unless it can be one word long: drugs. "Are you going to have a doula?" What the heck is that? "How long are you going to breastfeed?" How am I supposed to know that now?

These questions worry me, but surprisingly not too much, because I am the high priestess of procrastination. Plus, I can just copy my friends Kelly and Grace, who are due to have babies this month.

It's funny how things I used to worry about—Is the presentation done? Will the lead partner attend the client meeting?—all seem pretty insignificant compared to this.

My interests are also changing slowly, subtly, insidiously. As we walked along a popular beach of San Francisco, my friend Sharon exclaimed, "Did you see that chick's cool Nikes?" I sheepishly answered that I had been checking out that woman's nifty baby stroller instead. In the hazy sunshine, I found myself gazing longingly at the parade of pricey European baby gear on display at this beach, instead of at the beach itself. Even worse, in the parking lot I busied myself comparing the trunk capacity of various station wagons instead of the lines of hot new luxury convertibles.

I was deep in comparative trunk thoughts when I was nearly backed over by a Passat wagon I was examining. Sanity alarms pierced my brain. Oh my God! What the hell am I doing checking out station wagons, the preferred vehicle of uberpractical hausfraus worldwide?

I feel I'm slipsliding uncontrollably down an oil-slicked slope of ugly maternal doom. I can see the future. I blithely buy a station wagon, blindly take the advice of those stupid pregnancy books—the ones that say that stirrup pants are a great fashion alternative—give birth with or without a plan or a doula, and wear my unwashed hair in a ponytail to match my unwashed sweatpants (XL) stained with baby barf and other kiddie goo. Then, flash forward five years to an unfortunate appearance on Ricki Lake as a makeover victim on a special episode of "My Daughter Is Ashamed to Have Me Pick Her Up from Kindergarten Because I Look Like Crap." 

This is my doomsday scenario, and pregnancy has triggered it all.

I am deeply aware that I need to come to grips with this new life, especially in sorting out the major shift to my new identity as a mom-to-be. I doubt my tried-and-true retail therapy of buying hip purses, stylish clothes, and expensive aromatherapy will be sufficient to snap me out of this dark reverie. So, I have four months to devise a plan to ensure that the Ricki Lake nightmare will not ever come to fruition. Is that even possible?!


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Copyright © 2002 Yumiko Shinoda.

Yumiko Shinoda lives in San Francisco, California.