In the waiting room of the OB/GYN office, the rules are simple. The most pregnant lady wins. For a few short weeks in my two pregnancies, that lady was me. I waddled in there like I owned the practice and the doctors were my loyal subjects. With a theatrical sigh, I tried to wedge my capacious ass into a waiting room chair without my paneled pants ripping down the seams. I loved to make eye contact with the lesser pregnant women as if to communicate benignly to them: “Look and behold me: I am so utterly pregnanter than you are with your measly 27-week-old fetus. I will smile at you because I am a generous mother-to-be, but don’t forget, I am the Queen of this waiting room right now. (Now save my seat, because I gotta go pee again.)”
Today I found myself walking down Ontario Street in downtown Chicago as I have done countless times on the way to the OB/GYN office. Having (somewhat) recently given birth to two babies (2009 and 2011), I have a reel of memories of trekking to the office through the sideways blowing snow right before Simon was born or the sweltering, sticky July soup before Sadie was born. When my belly was swollen and full of life about to spring forth, I usually went to the OB/GYN with my husband Jeff. Hand in hand we walked through the busy streets near Northwestern Hospital making our way to yet another appointment to find out how many centimeters dilated, how many heartbeats per minute or how many days before an induction would be medically necessary. There was so much to measure; we hung on the doctor’s every word and wrote figures in the baby books I had prepared for our babies-to-be.
Those were heady times. I remember walking through the door of the doctor’s office feeling more like a celebrity the closer I got to my due dates. First my appointments were a month apart, and then a week apart; by the time I was visiting weekly, I felt like the queen (and the float, frankly) at the most spectacular parade on the planet: the parade that celebrates life and fecundity and my fucking awesome uterus. My arrogance was especially acute once I hit 40 weeks and continued to schlep to the doctor’s office with my recalcitrant daughter-fetus who sat perched high up near my rib cage refusing to budge, drop or descend well after her July due date.
Back then, I knew I was the winner: I was the MOST pregnant lady, clocking in at 41.5 weeks and not a mucus plug in sight.
But, today, I was not visiting the doctor with a baby stirring in my womb or breasts leaking colostrum. It was only a small consolation that I also didn’t have gas, heartburn or pee-pee leakage that accompanied me during both pregnancies starting at the second trimester. Instead of seeking prenatal care, I was there to discuss the fact that my menstrual cramps reached such a crescendo of pain two weeks ago that I fainted while on the toilet.
How far from celebrity is that? Sure, you can argue it’s pretty damn rock-and-roll to have a medical crisis on the toilet, considering that Elvis, Lenny Bruce, Judy Garland and other fatally unstable celebs met their makers on the toilet. I, however, fancy the more glitzy side of celebrity, say, swag bags, my own reality show, or a perfume line.
So, when I walked into the waiting room today I saw the pairs of expecting parents—the mothers in their ill-fitting maternity clothes (because those are the only kind that exist), and the fathers in their dress shoes and business casual khakis, sneaking peeks at their emails approximately every 17 seconds. I couldn’t meet their eyes. I felt like an aging athlete—a former two-time gold medalist who returned to the Olympic stadium a few years after my prime, sporting a bum knee and a muffin top. When I stole glances from behind my book, I realized that none of them were looking at me anyway. I was the great invisible singlet, with only one heartbeat housed in my still-ample chest.
No one cares about the not-pregnant lady at the OB/GYN’s office. I tried to sit up straight and look youthful so no one would mistake me for a peri-menopausal woman looking for estrogen supplements. I reminded myself of all the parts of pregnancy that sucked: not being able to take steaming hot showers while eating blue cheese stuffed unagi rolls and sipping Splenda-laden Crystal Lite by the gallon. How much did that suck?
And much as parts of pregnancy sucked, it also felt like a paralyzing jolt to sit there today and accept the reality that my baby-making days are (most likely) over. My two babies came so quickly that it has literally been a giant 3-year blur from that first positive pee stick to today. Psychologically, I am facing a bit of a blank page because I don’t know what’s next for me, and if baby-making is out, that’s going to leave me a chunk of free time that both excites and burdens me. As I sat there today, experiencing what it’s like on this, the we’re-done-having-babies side of the fence, I felt the first strong pangs of grief about moving forward and leaving all that (the adorable newborn smiles, the leaky breasts, the painful post-partum intercourse, and the uncontrollable weeping in the Macy’s restroom) to the women sitting around me, swollen with water weight, gas, and offspring.
Today, once the doctor told me I wasn’t dying, but only that my hormones were wacky and could be regulated with any number of birth control choices (sorry, Rush, here’s another slut looking for birth control), I felt such tremendous relief that when I walked back through the waiting room to go home, I felt like screaming to all the waiting women: “See you on the other side, Suckers! Have fun with that super satisfying post-partum sex, especially if you are nursing.”
Is there anything more touching than the bond between mothers?