Because We Separate Like Ripples on a Blank Shore

It always was, from the very start, something very abstract. A concept. A mirage. Something that makes you go, “I can’t say for sure, but it’s probably in there…”

Suddenly, I look down and instead of seeing my legs I see only the tips of my feet and my belly button pushing its way out. I try poking my belly button back to its original depth, as an experiment. Something inside pokes back.

And then, it hits me: Something inside’s poking back! God, it scares me, as in horror story levels. And what used to be a concept, a mirage, or something that makes you go “I can’t say for sure, but it’s probably in there” asserts itself. Kicks from the inside! Jesus.

“I have zero mother instincts,” I complained to Timi as we lunched at Mcdonald’s during our lunch break, a big fat cloud of grease and fat from burgers and fries hovering over our heads.

“Everyone has mother instincts,” Timi argued.

“I don’t. I’ll come home with a baby and not know what to do with it.” I slathered a fry in pommes frites sauce and popped it into my mouth. The kid kicked as soon as I was done chewing. “I mean, how do you even give a baby a bath?”

“Like this,” Timi said. She cradled an imaginary baby over the crook of her arm and moved an imaginary sponge over the imaginary baby’s imaginary head, holding it over an imaginary tub.

“Seriously?” I asked after she had finished her demonstration.

“Well, I don’t know… ” she admitted. “Anyway, maybe the mother instincts come when the baby arrives…”


Of course you’ll know what to do when the baby arrives!” Marissa exclaimed over lunch Saturday afternoon, as I recounted my conversation with Timi as we started attacking the salmon on our plates. “You’ll be surprised at how naturally it’s going to come to you.”

I still must have looked worried, because Marissa added, “You shouldn’t worry. If a baby cries, it means three things: it’s wet, it’s hungry, or it’s sick.”

“I don’t even know how to give a baby a bath,” I told her sullenly.

“You need a bathtub,” she told me.

“I already have a bathtub at home!” I said.

I detected a hint of pity in her eyes. “Not the normal bathtub. I meant a plastic tub.”  After a few seconds of silence, she said, “Maybe I should help you buy stuff before the baby comes.”


“You mean you don’t have a bathtub yet?!” Dr Doom exclaimed over the phone when I recounted my conversation with Marissa about the bathtub. “Are you kidding me? You’re what – 5 months? What have you been doing all this time?”

“Uh… working?” I replied sarcastically, trying to not pick a fight. I’ve always been able to hear the italics when she speaks, and it irks me to no end. “Look – it’s not like I can just take the afternoon off to go and look for plastic bathtubs or baby beds or stuff like that.”

“‘Baby beds’? You don’t have a crib yet?” Dr Doom shrilled once again. “Do you even keep a baby calendar?”

(For your information: Dr Doom is pregnant, too, with her second child. She got pregnant a month after I announced my pregnancy. “Don’t think I did this on purpose. You’re still the star, for god’s sake.” That was the SMS message she sent me to break the news.)

“… I have a baby book where I list down all my baby-related appointments. It even has a checklist of things you have to do every month. Milestones, and all that. It even has useful information about your baby’s growth. You can buy it in any bookstore, I think. Or you can order it online. Wait, let me give you the link…”

(When she was in university, Dr Doom kept a list of the clothes she’d wear during that week tacked on the door of her wardrobe drawer. The purpose was to avoid the embarrassment of being caught wearing the same pair of jeans/shirt twice in the same week.)

I had spaced out a bit during her monologue but floated back to earth just in time to hear Dr Doom say “… and please tell me you’re still taking prenatal vitamins. You don’t know how important that is. What did your doctor say about your sugar levels?”

“I haven’t asked her about it yet. I’ll ask during my next appointment.”

“How many weeks along are you?” she persisted.

“Uh…” I did a mental calculation in my head, and failed. “Between 20 and 22 weeks. I think…”

Even her sigh was judgmental. “Oh well. I’m 16 weeks and 3 days. Three and a half days,” she corrected herself, trying to dazzle me with her accuracy.


What am I going to do, I asked out loud, one evening when I had come home from work earlier than usual and Jul was still at the office. I was sprawled on the couch, feeling like crap. My hand crawled to my belly and I stroked it, marvelling at the unfamiliarity of it all: my changing body, my expanding belly. I don’t even keep a baby calendar, I continued. I don’t even know how to give you a bath. I don’t want kids calling you Stinky at the playground. I want you to be squeaky clean. But occasionally dirty, too. You know? I started to bite at the skin of my lower lip. Oh god, I’m going to be a shitty mom. My eyes moved to the bookshelf, where my robot Mahmud stood, giving me the hairy eyeball, probably thinking “My master’s gone mad; she’s talking to her goddam stomach.”

Even Mahmud is judging me, I whispered conspiratorially to my stomach. The bastard. He’s sore because I haven’t oiled his joints in the past three months.

The sun shifted the light in the living room and I kept on lying on the couch, worrying. I worried so much it almost suffocated me; it was painful to draw in my breath, and I could feel the tears threatening to fall. I lay there, drowning in self-doubt and self-pity, and a healthy dose of melodrama.

You’ll still love me, right, even if I don’t know what to do? I silently asked before lapsing into silence, still stroking my belly.


Currently listening to:
It’s Never Been Like That

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