Lyall

Lyall

A weeklong electronic journal.
Jan. 14 1997 3:30 AM

Lyall

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       Studies have shown, the papers reported last week, that people's brains actually shrink when they're pregnant. (This is apparently why pregnant women are so spaced out and inept, and why no one trusts their testimony in court.) Leaving aside the fact that these were the British papers and you can't believe anything they say, unless they are reporting that Prince Charles communes with aliens, this is not news to me. My brain is so small now that if I were killed by cannibals, they would put it back. Why haven't I mailed my Christmas cards yet? My brain is too small! (It's not too late, is it?)
       Even without the benefit of reason, these last few weeks of pregnancy are supposed to be a wonderful time of joyous anticipation, and I'm sorry to have to say that this weekend all I wanted to do was yell at my husband because the house is such a mess. Apparently that was because of the "nesting instinct," in which, as the pregnant person, you supposedly spend all your time putting charming little touches on your home, like installing floral borders in the baby's room, gluing ruffled pieces of fabric next to the windows, I don't know--needlepointing cunning animal cushions or stripping down the paint and stenciling in scenes of sweet wee fairies living under toadstools. But at our house, it's all we can do to pick the mail up off the floor. My husband--who has, in a miraculous feat of one-upmanship, turned out to be a bigger slob than I--leaves trails of papers behind him wherever he goes, like a snail with its path of slime. He glowers if you touch anything. It's not pleasant. Until now, I have always held that people should do what they want. But not any more. Now I believe that people should do what I want.
       We are both so scared that after the baby comes we won't have time to do anything ever again (this has something to do with the knowing look people with children give you, when they say, ominously, "Your life will never be the same"), that we both spent the weekend in a frenzy of work. Since we're journalists, that involved dropping even more pieces of paper on the floor, to add to the ones that are already there. If our house were in America, it would be a Superfund site (they don't have them here). All this working makes me sad, because I had dreamed of spending these last baby-less days in a valedictory fit of self-absorption, trying new hair products and having lovely creams slathered on my face and attending daily body-awareness classes (I'm too fat for actual exercise). Alternatively, I hoped to go to a lot of movies and to spend time holding hands with my husband (too fat for anything else) while discussing the philosophical implications of parenthood. Sorry. I have so much left to do that, the way things are going, if the child (due in about two weeks) is early, I'm screwed--brain shrinkage is even worse postpartum. This means that every time I feel something funny in my stomach, I start to panic. Not yet! Get back in there!
       Of course, all this means that I am in major denial. At this point, women are supposed to be dreaming of the baby--pleasant anticipatory scenes of hugs and cuddles, or else frightening narratives in which you leave the child somewhere, like down a well, and can't find it again. Me? I either dream about doing the tedious things I do anyway (I spent hours the other night paying my American Express bill, for instance--that was meaningful), or I dream about dogs. I did, in fact, lose two dogs in a dream last week. Given that the dogs were clearly supposed to represent the baby--in a Freudian, metaphorical sense--what did the dream mean? I think I'm going to give birth to a dog? I like dogs better than children? Both choices are frightening, given that it's too late to send the child back--even people with no brains can see that.

Sarah Lyall reports for the New York Times from London.