I just wanted to swim, to get the pressure of my seventh-month twin pregnancy off my back in some nice salty water. It was hot. I was cranky and desperately wanted to cool off. But I couldn’t. You see, I was in jail, pregnancy jail.
I was pregnant with my now 2½-year-old twins during what seemed like a particularly hot New England summer, when my husband abandoned me while I was on vacation. Trying to save time off from work for when the babies were born, Scott left me with my parents at the Cape Cod cottage my family traditionally rents each summer. He spent four days there. During those days, I went swimming, watched fireworks, and actually walked around and window-shopped.
But the moment Scott walked out the door, my father sternly stuck out his right index finger and admonished his unborn grandchildren, “Now you don’t come out of there. Your daddy is going home and you wait for him.” My dad was absolutely terrified that I’d go into labor while at the cottage and that he’d somehow be forced to perform the gruesome task of delivering the twins. We’re talking about a guy who faints when he gets a cut on his finger and trembles at the thought of even conversing with a doctor over the telephone.
What pregnant ladies forget is that the world around them—except for the losers on the subways who refuse to give up their seats for you (heathens!)—thinks that you’re a walking, overfilled water balloon ready to blow at any minute with just the slightest jostle. Everyone who’s around a woman “great with child,” as my dad likes to say, lives in constant fear of being on the 6 o’clock news as someone who had to put finally his rusty Swiss Army knife to use and pull out his shoelaces to tie off the umbilical cord after making a grisly, bloody delivery in the back seat of a car.
That’s why, come the end of a pregnancy when all a woman feels like she’s doing is waddling around and peeing, people would much rather see her sit down. “Don’t get up,” they beg, fearing that any motion will trigger labor right there in their presence, as if the force of her water breaking would somehow surge from her womb with the force of a fire hose and pin them against a wall and cause permanent, disfiguring damage. Worse yet, would be to have her water break while she’s at someone else’s house and ruin their leather furniture. (Watch the looks a pregnant woman gets when she sits on nice furniture. “Just don’t move,” people shout in their heads. “Don’t go into labor now.”)
In my father’s defense, he had good reason to be worried about me going into premature labor. Women carrying twins statistically go into labor about a month or so early. In fact, I delivered my twins when I was 34½ weeks (out of 40) along. I was put on a moderate form of bed rest a month after getting home from the Cape. I had those so-called “fake” contractions—Braxton-Hicks—for weeks before they were born.
However during the time I was on the Cape, I wasn’t having any contractions. I wasn’t dilated or effaced. I wasn’t exhibiting any signs of premature labor. But my dad was so paralyzed by the mere possibility of it that for the remainder of the week I was thrust into a veritable jail as he sat in bed awake each night with his fingers crossed and his lips moving in silent prayer.
I felt like a teenager who’d been grounded. The beach was deemed off limits. I could hear the teasing of the surf from the cottage deck. And it took only five minutes to walk there (slightly longer if you’re a puffy chick with two rugrats growing in your belly). I couldn’t convince him. True, there were some pretty steep sand dunes to tackle to get there, but I was able to scale them as long as I had a strong arm to help me. Even the beaches that you could drive to, where there was no dune climbing involved were off limits.
I wasn’t allowed to go shopping or to walk more than 10 feet without being asked, “Are you sure you’re okay? Why don’t you have a cool drink and go lie down.” Suggestions ran from eating something to napping. And believe me, I didn’t need to eat anything. The photos of that vacation, particularly the nice shot of my shorts wedged so far up my rear end that I’m surprised they didn’t stick out my nose, remind me of how much I didn’t need to eat more. My parents’ idea of vacation fun for their preggo daughter was to put my sorry butt into the back of their car and drive me around pointing out things I’ve been seeing every year since I was five. “Oh look Mere, there’s the town pier.” “Ah, yeah, didn’t we just eat there a few days ago, when my husband was here and I wasn’t shackled to the back seat?” I could go on car trips and look at the scenery like I was 80, sleep in the middle of the day like I was 80 or eat something like I was somehow emaciated. Those were my choices. At one point, I called Scott and begged him to come back so I could get into the early release program.
Weeks later, when Scott went to a friend’s wedding in the Berkshires that I couldn’t attend for obvious reasons, my brother Sean and his girlfriend “pregnancy sat.” We ate pizza. We watched videos. The most I was let out of the house was to help select the videos at the rental store and to briefly walk into a furniture store so he could pick up a bed frame. The entire time he was at the house, I swore he sweat as though he’d swallowed a gallon of Tabasco, even with my A/C blasting. Any time I got up or moved, he looked at me in abject horror as if he was thinking, “Oh God, it’s time.” (He’s his dad’s son after all.)
Now, as I’m expecting my third child (just one baby this time), I suppose I should enjoy my freedom, or what can be called freedom when you are at home with twin toddlers, before the iron doors slam shut once again. Because I had the babies so early during the last pregnancy, everyone’s worried I’ll go into premature labor again. I can hear the warden’s footsteps echoing in the hallway ....
By the time our annual Cape holiday rolls around this time, I’ll be about 37 weeks along. Maybe I should go on vacation just to torment my father. I’ll buy him a rain slicker “just in case.”