Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

A Jar of Pickle Relish

Think of your baby as a jar of pickle relish.

Actually, I'm the one thinking of my baby as a jar of pickle relish, ever since my ultrasound last week. You'll see the connection, really.

Anyway, this was the Big Ultrasound, a major milestone, viable proof that I'm packing more than a large lunch. In California, pregnant moms often get a string of ultrasounds ("See, that little circle is the fertilized egg ..."), but here in Michigan, if the pregnancy is uneventful, we get only one at 18-22 weeks.

So there we are, in a dark little room on a sunny Wednesday morning, and there's the kid. He's twisting and rolling and kicking and throwing up his arms as if he'd just made a touchdown. I say "he," although we chose not to learn the gender. The baby hardly sat still long enough to allow the technician to take measurements. Must be those hyperactive Ron genes.

Ron was quite moved. This was his first glimpse of the baby, and he was much less prepared. I was chatting and joking with the technician, but he hardly said anything. I couldn't see his face and the only response he'd give was the occasional quiet "Wow." The technician gave us a string of printouts, which Ron immediately clutched to his chest, announcing that he was taking them to his newspaper board meeting that afternoon. "You can have them tonight," he told me sternly.

The technician told us the baby weighed 10 ounces, which meant nothing to me; I've always been bad at weights and measures. I admire people who can say, "Go about 50 feet past the stop sign and turn right in the driveway." I couldn't estimate 50 feet if you paid me.

So that evening I rummaged through the refrigerator. The baby wasn't a can of pie filling or a jar of peanut butter yet, but I did fish out the pickle relish and thrust it into Ron's hand.

"Hold that," I say.

"I hate pickle relish," Ron says.

"That's how much the baby weighs," I say. "It's 10 ounces."

Ron turns misty. "Wow."


I'm still logging on to occasionally, just to stay up-to-date on the latest freaky scare. The moms on the January 2004 message boards are still gibbering madly. The two most common topics: insensitive husbands and safety concerns.

I expected these women to be hiding under the kitchen sink long before now. The questions are still relentless: "Is it safe to eat a sandwich?" "Is it safe to clean my house?" "Are hot dogs safe?" "Are dryer sheets safe?" "What about ball-point pens? What if I shoved one up my nose?"

Some poor women are posting the rude comments they get, now that we're all beginning to show. Shocking comments from family, friends, coworkers and total strangers. The poor gals get remarks about their weight, criticisms of their conduct and horror stories about someone's best friend's hairstylist's cousin's dry cleaner's daughter ("So, after 47 hours of labor, they finally ..."). Ouch.

I feel lucky. My family and friends have been nothing short of marvelous, and since I work from home, my only coworker is a little stuffed bunny named Bronson. And Bronson has lovely manners. But you can't control strangers, and I've given some thought to developing appropriate, dignified responses. But honestly, who ever remembers those cool rejoinders under stress? So I've decided on a short, all-purpose response to all annoying comments. I'll just squint ominously and say:

"You know, I ain't above whippin' yo' ass right here."

I know I'm too Midwestern to say it properly, but it would be fun to try, and with my hormones pumping, who's to say I wouldn't follow through?



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