I had nothing to say.
For the past many weeks, each Sunday I go to church and am barraged by the same questions.
“When are you going to have that baby?”
“Are you about to pop?”
I had taken to responding with a shrug and a smirk in the last few weeks, because I really have no response to these questions (or variations of them) anymore. Today, after the main meeting, the lady who goes out of her way to tell me every dead-baby story she knows came up and said, “No baby yet?!” to which I grabbed my belly and firmly stated, “Yes, there is a baby, and it’s right here!”
I lasted through about 8 more comments, and finally told Guy I was going home.
I feel like a baby (perhaps because I bawled after I got here), because I know I am a tougher cookie than that, but as I ponder it all I realize what is going on with me. I have lost my identity within my community. I am no longer Laine, artist, doula, singer, wife, writer, mother of four. I am “The Belly”. I…"I" am not what anybody sees anymore. I know that people tend to acquire little sayings and responses that they fire out at certain times, like “Is it hot enough for ya?” when there are a string of days over 100. I know people mean well. I know that they want to say something. And I have plenty on my mind that I could share, but no one asks the questions I have answers for.
Here is the conversation that has been in my head lately… “What will it be like to be the mother of five?” In my mind, I have always had two images of a “mother of five”. The first is of a well groomed, PTA president, soccer-carpool-cupcake mom who has chore charts on the fridge, bed times well enforced and weekly menus that are strictly adhered to. She has it all down, and her kids are walking-and-politely-talking testaments to her exceptional organizational and mothering prowice. They don’t announce "Safety!" every time they fart to avoid being punched by the kid next to them who yells “doorknob” upon hearing said fart (thanks, scout camp).
The other image of the “mother of five” that resides in my overcrowded brain is… well… you can find her on every aisle of Walmart, smacking little hands, hiking up her lose bra straps and announcing to her wild brood, “If you do that one more time…!”, never finishing the statement. By the time you leave the aisle she is on, you have committed to memory at least one of her children’s names due to its repetition in such phrases as, “Timmy, put that down!”, “Timmy, get that out of your mouth!”, and “Timmy, stop biting your sister!” Two aisles later you actually find yourself feeling sorry for Timmy. I mean, it’s not his fault he has this mother, is it?
I have seen the looks my belly gets when, with four kids in tow, I walk through a store and people count heads, and then add the bump. On difficult shopping trips, I have even asked myself, “I can’t even handle the ones I’ve got, how am I gonna do five?”
When Guy hears my question, he smiles, “The same way you do four.”
“A bite at a time?” I reply, perplexed. Oh, wait, that’s how you eat an elephant. Oh, well, same difference.
I am not the mom who has it all together. I am the mom who sets up the job chart and forgets to give the rewards. When my kids pick their noses, I don’t say “Get a tissue.” I say “Don’t eat it!” I make hollow threats, much like Timmy’s mom, about sending all the toys on the floor to the thrift store, and then think “If I were a better mom, I wouldn’t need to follow through with threats, because I wouldn’t need to make threats at all!” Soccer-PTA mom has kids with clean rooms, after all.
When I was first married, I was shocked when with my ring, there came no magic spell that made me the perfect wife and homemaker. I have battled the expectation ever since, but never more than now. I can’t become the Walmart mom. I just can’t!
Mother of five.
What is she supposed to look like? What would she have figured out by now that I haven’t?
And where, pray tell, does she shop for well fitting bras? Because, let me tall ya, Honey, they don’t sell them at Walmart.