To Lizzy Bennet, without whom I couldn't have done this
The continuing story of Jessa and Dan. Jessa goes through her first two trimesters of pregnancy.
Please let me know if there's interest in continuing the story
The average full sized watermelon weighs 18 pounds. A mini watermelon weighs seven.
Now, you’re asking yourself, ‘why does she know this?’ It’s actually quite logical.
RIght after I told Danny about the positive test, I downloaded a pregnancy app to my phone - and I’m proud of that. Plato said, ‘the unexamined life is not worth living,’ and I was going to have the Platonic ideal of a pregnancy. I wanted to keep track of every aspect of my pregnancy and the baby’s development. I wanted to tell myself that I would always remember every second of it but I knew that was unrealistic. On some days, Sammie couldn’t keep track of where she was last week, much less during the first trimester of her pregnancy. I imagined that my mother couldn’t tell you much about her pregnancies beyond corned beef bothering her. I was going to keep a written record, so that someday I could hold it over Emma.
Anyway, among the other features of the app was one that told you how big your baby was - relative to food. Week four was a poppyseed, week six a sweet pea, eight weeks, a raspberry. Danny joked, “no son of mine is a fruit!” I joked, “oh no, it’s going to be...a vegetable.”
Danny looked at the app and said, “so when is it a watermelon?”
I laughed, “hopefully, never.”
“A watermelon’s not that big.”
“Uh yeah, it is,” I said. “If I end up carrying a watermelon, it’ll split me in half.”
“I’m telling you, a watermelon’s not that big,” he said.
“First off, you’re not carrying one in your uterus.” I thought about it for a second. No, I’m carrying it in your uterus, or what used to be your uterus. “Second, I am telling you that a watermelon is fucking huge Or much bigger than a newborn baby at least.”
“Fine,” he said, with a big smile. “We’re going to the store and we’re going to buy a watermelon and you’ll see I’m right.”
“Oh, please,” I said. “I am so right.”
“Wanna make a bet?”
Last time we made a bet, I ended up with wind burns. This time, I was right. I knew it. “Sure, if I win, you have to give me foot rubs whenever I say for a week.”
He smiled and kissed me on the cheek. “I’d do that anyway. When I win, you wear the white bikini when we go away.” We were going up to Bolton Landing the following weekend.
I smiled and put my hand down his pants. “Fine,” and I squeezed him. “But I’m right.”
He smiled and moved my hand. “Don’t try and distract me, Jessa. I’m right and I can’t wait to see you in the bikini.” I smiled. I couldn’t wait either. I had been planning on it. I figured that I didn’t have much longer before it would look like rubber bands on an egg.
We walked to Whole Foods, laughing and holding hands. I had never been so happy. We picked up a watermelon and walked over to the produce scale. As we walked, I held it in front of me. “Does this look normal to you?” People stared at us, casting their votes for ‘no, this most definitely look normal.’
Danny joked, “You are definitely having a boy. My grandma always said, ‘when you’re carrying a watermelon, it means you’re having a boy.’”
“No, that’s a cantaloupe. Watermelon means girl.” I had a vision of a little girl, in a pink party dress and Mary Janes, and her holding Danny’s hand. I wondered how he’d do with that. I smiled, “well, let’s see how much she weighs.” I put it on the scale. “Ha! Ha! Eighteen pounds! I win. I win.” Now, the rest of the produce section was staring at me. I didn’t care. I won.
“Well, let’s weigh a mini watermelon.”
“No, no, no. You said watermelon. Not mini watermelon. Watermelon. No going back,” I said.
He laughed, “I know. I know. You won. I just want to see.” He hoisted it onto the scale. “Seven pounds. You could totally have a watermelon,” he said, taking it out.
“Honey, be gentle with the baby. Support her head,” I said, laughing. I was waiting for the men with the nets and the white coats to come in for us, but I didn’t care. He walked away, holding it with two hands and cooing to it. I loved that he didn’t care how silly he looked.
We paid for the baby and walked home. Danny smiled and said, “you keep saying she.”
“Huh?” I blushed, embarrassed at having been caught.
“You keep calling the baby ‘she.’ What makes you so sure?”
“I’m not. I don’t know why. It’s just what I thought.”
He kissed me on the lips. “It’s fine. It’s cute.”
“It’s weird.” It was weird. If you had asked me when I was Dan, I would have said it was a boy. Now I was sure it was a girl.
He sighed, “It’s not weird. You’re pregnant. You’re all filled with estrogen. I get it.”
“It doesn’t bother you?” I said, biting my lip and putting one foot behind the other, hoping that would distract him.
He grinned. “Not at all, Jessa. You’re a girl. You’re the mommy. Whatever we have, I don’t care so long as it happy and healthy.”
“Me too.” And I meant that. Why did I keep saying ‘she?’ I was still me, I thought. Why was I so focused on ‘she?’ I put it out of my head and we walked home. We put the watermelon on the counter. Danny took out a knife and went to cut some. “You monster!” I mock-screamed. “How could you?” Then, we ate the baby. We were cannibals.
The first four weeks after we found out, I was in heaven. Well, I was tired, my boobs were sore and I now knew the location of every bathroom in Manhattan because I had to pee constantly. I didn’t care. It was Danny and me and baby makes three. I wanted to tell the world and didn’t want to tell anyone. It was ours and only ours for now. Our happy secret.
There was just one small problem.
I woke up from a nap one Saturday afternoon to see Danny sitting there.
“Oh hey, honey,” I said. “I’m sorry. I must have fallen asleep.”
He smiled and kissed me on the lips. “It’s fine, Jessa. You’re sleeping for two,” he said, with a laugh.
“No, it isn’t. It’s Saturday. You wanted to go out for a walk,” I said.
He kissed me again. “So we’ll go now. You were only asleep for an hour.”
“How about,” I said, pulling on his shirt, “we do something else first?”
He took off my shirt and unclasped my bra. “If you say so,” he said, kissing my neck and nibbling on my earlobe. From what I had read, my libido wasn’t supposed to be this high yet but I was always in the advanced class at school.
“Oh god, Danny,” I moaned. “That feels so amazing.” It did. I wasn’t faking it. He pushed me down on the bed gently. I would have liked it a little more forceful. Not rough, but forceful. He started playing with my nipples. “Harder, Danny. Bite them…”
“Uh,” he said uncertainly. “OK.” OK? That’s foreplay alright. But he did as he was told. He then started to make love to me, gently.
“Harder, harder,” I yelled. I don’t know what got into me, but I wanted it harder. “I said harder!”
“Um,” and he went a little harder, but not hard enough.
I got frustrated. “Switch places,” I said, hopefully not too angrily. He rolled onto his bank and I climbed on top, reverse cowgirl style. For whatever reason, I didn’t want to see the look on his face. “Oh god,” I yelled, pistoning up and down on him. “Oh god, oh god, oh god.” I’m not sure if I was excited or just in need of dire relief. When I felt him tense up and come, I climbed off. He laid there with a satisfied look on his face. “Thanks,” I said, “I needed that.”
He smiled. “That makes up for the nap.”
I went into the bathroom and cleaned up. “What’s up?” I said, from the bathroom.
“What’s up what?”
“What just happened there?” I walked back in and laid down next to him.
“Um,” he said with a laugh. “We must not be doing it right.”
“Seriously. What happened?”
“What?,” he said, defensively.
“Since when don’t you bite my nipples? And that was harder?”
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
I put my head on his chest and looked up at him. “Don’t apologize. What’s up?”
“Nothing,” he said. I could tell he wanted to roll away but wouldn’t.
“Danny, I know my body. I know what we can do.”
“I know,” he said. “I was, uh, distracted.”
I laughed, “Thanks. That makes me feel soooo good. A naked woman, a beautiful naked woman, offers herself to you and you’re distracted?”
“No,” he said, blushing, embarrassed. “That’s not it. Definitely not.”
I smiled and decided to let him off the hook. “You just wanted me on top. Make me do all the work.”
He laughed, ashamed to be caught in the lie and happy to be let off the hook. “You got me.”
We went out for a walk along the water. I put on a pink off the shoulder dress, with a floral print, and sandals. Since I got pregnant, I found myself in dresses and skirts most of the time. Maybe it was just the estrogen but I felt very girly. As we walked, I started to think about what happened. It was Danny and me and baby makes three, I thought. I always imagined the baby between us, just not between us.
August 18th. I was almost two months pregnant. I wasn’t showing yet, at least I didn’t think I was. Danny and I were walking to dinner, hand in hand.
“Can I tell you how much I love you?” I said.
He laughed. “I love you too, Jessa. You look beautiful.” I was wearing a horizontal striped shift, with alternating light blue and dark blue stripes, and a lapis necklace. All day long, Mike would pop his head in and say, ‘Hey, Gainsborough, can I see that motion?’ or ‘Picasso, what’s going on with the position paper?’ I had no idea he was such an art expert.
I looked up at him and smiled. “Really? Do you like this? I look OK?”
He laughed, “You look gorgeous. And it’s not just the outfit.”
That made feel good. “Stop,” I said, “I am really really happy. You?”
I asked this question about ten times a day. To his credit, he always said, “Me too,” and he touched my belly. “So are you excited?” Marty and Evelyn were in for Danny’s Aunt Carole’s 75th birthday, something that Evelyn was attending unwillingly, as she told me. ‘She’s having it on a Sunday afternoon. It’s not enough that I have to fly in for this. It’s a Sunday party. Which means dinner with her and him,’ him being her boyfriend Ron, ‘Saturday night.’ My parents were meeting us for dinner too, so we decided to tell everyone at once.
Well, I decided. “I can’t wait,” I said, practically skipping to the restaurant.
He gave me a kiss. “You really sure you don’t want to tell yours beforehand?” He had been harping on this since we decided to tell them.
“No, this’ll be fun. They’re all here. Besides, it’s not a competition.” Danny just laughed and raise an eyebrow. “Do you not want to tell them? Tell me now.”
“No, it’ll be fine,” he said. ‘Great, fine, I thought.’ “Besides, you’re the mommy, you get to decide.”
I smiled, “That’s right. I’m the mommy. And you’re the daddy,” and I stood on tiptoes and gave him another kiss. And we were nauseating. And I didn’t care.
We came into the restaurant. My mother was at the bar with Marty and Evelyn. I gave them all a kiss and my mother said, annoyed, “your father is looking for a spot.” My father was forever looking for street parking, being constitutionally unable to just park in a lot. ‘Do you know how much they charge,’ he’d complain. Why yes dad, I do. They have a big sign posted at the entry of every garage with rates. I figured that, since Laura moved in 14 years ago, he’d lost about 6 months of family life to looking for spots on the street.
My father came in five minutes later. “Hi daddy,” I said, giving him a kiss.
“Hey, sweetie,” he said, “I got a spot, only six blocks away.” He was proud of himself. When he got a spot in front of his destination, he was as proud as I had ever seen him, counting when I graduated college and when I made law review.
The hostess led us to our table. “Hang on, let me settle up the bar tab,” Danny said.
“I’ll take care of it,” Marty said. “Put away your wallet.”
Danny smiled. “My treat, Dad. I can afford it,” he said, handing over his card. I was surprised Marty backed down. He would never have let me pay, when I was Dan. I once had to fake going to the bathroom to give the waiter my card.
“Spring for a spot next time,” Marty said to my father, shaking his hand in a Macron vs Trump death grip. My father just smiled.
“Dave,” my mother said. “Please park in a lot next time.”
I went to his defense. “Stop picking on him. He got a spot. He’ll get the car later. What’s the big deal?” Danny rolled his eyes at me. I gave my dad another kiss on the cheek. My mother grumbled, “Next time you drive with him. See how you like looking for spots.”
“It doesn’t matter,” I said, “we’re all here. So how was the flight?” I said, as we sat down.
Evelyn said, “As fine as it can be flying with the junior pilot here. I was not aware that the pilot was taking the wrong approach into Newark. Nor was the flight attendant. Thank god Marty was there to tell her.” I felt Danny squeeze my leg.
“Thank god we were in first class,” Marty said. “Nothing like first class,” he said, looking at my dad who responded, ‘seems like a lot for a two and half-hour flight, but if you enjoy it…” Now, I squeezed Danny’s leg. Maybe we could wait until the baby was born to tell them. “Let’s see what they have to eat,” Marty said. He scanned the menu in two seconds. Marty did everything with immediacy but I never knew what he did with all the extra time - other than annoy everyone around him. “Sea bass,” he said, putting it down. I looked at the menu. Sea Bass with...corn salad. Shit. My mother had corned beef. Mona, pomegranates. Michelle, oranges. I had corn. If I was anywhere near corn, I started to gag. We couldn’t go to street fairs for the past month because there were vendors selling arepas and Mexican street corn. I looked at Danny, pleading with my eyes.
“Hey dad, let’s see what the specials are,” he said, with a smile.
Evelyn rolled her eyes. “You know your father.” She turned to my mother and said, “I swear sometimes it’s like having a child again.”
“Oh, please. If David had his way, he would have veal parmigiana four days a week, and a hamburger the other three.” Was this my future? Complaining about food? “So, when is your sister-in-law’s thing?”
“Sunday afternoon,” she said. “It’s not enough that I have to fly up here. She’s doing it Sunday so I can fly back late and be on the bench the next morning.”
“So, come in late,” I said, with a laugh. “9:30 call? You didn’t say 9:30 where.”
She laughed, “Very funny, Jess. That’s state court.” My mother sat there mute, watching us. “Speaking of which, how are they doing?”
My mother said, “who’s they?”
“I told you, mom. Jake and Rachel. The associates I’m supervising. Remember?” Danny said that I gave Evelyn an eye roll. I didn’t notice. He said my mom did.
“Oh, yes,” my mother said, tightly.
“Anyway, she’s getting better. She really showed me on the Article 78 motion.”
“Please,” Evelyn said. “They were going to bring suit against the AG on what grounds?”
I laughed, “I know. Come on. Still, she did a good job though.”
“I’m not following,” my mother said.
“It’s a long story, ma. Boring. But, anyway, I told you about Rachel. She’s a mouse and I, well Robin and I, are teaching her to stand up for herself. Evelyn has been really helping us.”
“That’s great,” she said, with the barest attempt at enthusiasm. “That’s really great.”
Before I could say something, Danny tried to make her feel better. “So tell me what’s new with you?” As she told him about whatever was going on with her friends, he shot me a look that said, ‘stop,’ ‘you owe me one’ or both.
Eventually, the waitress came over. “Can I tell you about the specials?”
“I’ll have the sea bass,” Marty said, reaching over Evelyn to hand the waitress his menu.
“Marty,” I said, with a smile. “Listen to the specials.”
“I want sea bass. What’s wrong with sea bass? It’s good for you.”
“Dad,” Danny said, “Listen. Maybe you’ll like something else.”
“Well,” the waitress said, listing appetizers and salmon in a horseradish crust, which sounded interesting. That wasn’t the special I wanted though. “Our special tonight is grandchild. It’s going to take about eight months to prepare. It’s big enough for four…” she said, with a big grin and giving my shoulder a quick rub. I had read on a website about different ways to tell your parents and this sounded like fun. Danny had told the hostess right after he settled the bar tab. Yes, I was such a girl about it.
My father was the first to comprehend what was going on. I saw the realization creep across his face. He started to smile and tear up. He came over to me. I got up and he enveloped me in a bear hug. I started to cry too. “Uh huh, daddy.”
“You mean?” He couldn’t speak. I started to cry. All he said was, “Teddy….” I could feel his tears on my shoulder.
My mother realized next. She was bawling. “My baby is...” and she hugged me. Then, Evelyn joined in, then Marty. Now, I felt less loved and more smothered.
Danny got up and pulled them off me. “Let her breathe,” he said, pulling them off me. The people around us figured out what was going on and applauded. I blushed and felt mortified.
“When?” my mother said.
“I’m seven weeks,” I said.
Evelyn turned to my mother. “Seven weeks. It’s amazing. They can pinpoint it like that so early now. With Jill, I didn’t know I was until two months.”
My mother laughed, “Please. With Laura, I didn’t believe it until I heard the heartbeat.” She turned to me, with a huge smile. “Seven weeks. How are you feeling?”
“Great. I feel great.” They both looked at me and I said, “OK, tired mostly. Really, really tired. And I have to pee a lot.”
Evelyn looked at my mother and smiled. “Get used to it.” I didn’t like them being friends. “That’s it?” They seemed shocked.
I looked at Danny, Marty and my father. “And other stuff.” The three women shared a smile, while the men all looked away. I looked at Marty and thought, ‘didn’t you go through this in med school? Wuss.’
Evelyn rolled her eyes. “If they had to put up with other stuff, the human race would be extinct. So how are you?”
“Like I said, excited but tired. I am peeing constantly. My boobs are so tender, it hurts to touch them.” Evelyn looked at her chest and laughed. “Sorry.”
“Please,” she said. “You want to know from unfair? The boobs I didn’t have hurt like hell.”
My mother smiled. “When I was pregnant with you, if someone came near me, they hurt. Like one of those motion sensor car alarms. And your sister always wanted hugs.”
“Great, thanks,” I said. “That makes me feel so much better.”
She smiled. “It is the most amazing thing you will ever go through. But, for the next eight months, your body is a hotel and,” and she touched my stomach, which felt weird, “that is one demanding guest. You don’t want to know how. But get ready.”
I started to tense up. It hit me. I was pregnant. I mean, obviously, I knew I was pregnant. But, now I was pregnant in public. I was Jessa. “Excuse me for a second. I have to go again.” My father jumped up to pull out my chair.
Over my shoulder, I heard Danny say, “This is my life,” to laughs. It wasn’t funny.
I went into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. I was Jessa. I was 5’6”, 125 lbs, with blue eyes and brown hair. I was wearing a blue dress. And I was a woman. I was pregnant. I was a pregnant woman and I started to hyperventilate. I sat down in a stall, having nowhere else to sit. I don’t know how long I was there but it must have been a while because my mother came in and said, “Jessie, are you OK?”
“Fine, ma,” I lied, just finishing up. I came out of the stall. “Sorry, the guest wanted room service,” I joked.
She looked at me. “Are you OK, Jessica?”
“Fine, ma. I’m just pregnant,” I said, with a weak smile, while looking at the floor.
She put her hand under my chin and pushed up. “Are you OK?”
“I told you, mom. I’m fine. I’m just nervous.”
She smiled. “That’s perfectly normal. If you want to talk, I’m always here.” ‘I know, I know,’ I thought. “It’s not good to keep things bottled up.”’
I smiled. “I know, mom,” I said, washing my hands from my fake bathroom visit. “Thanks.”
She gave me a kiss. “You don’t need to thank me. I’m your mother. Are you sure you’re OK?”
“Yes, mom,” I said, in the tone of a fourteen year old girl. “I’m fine.” I wasn’t fine.
We went back to the table and a bottle of wine was there. And a club soda. “What’s this?”
My father smiled and pointed to the table next to ours. “Congratulations,” said the couple.
“Thank you,” I said, blushing. “You didn’t have to. Thanks.”
The woman said, “You look marvelous. How are you feeling?”
I guessed that this was now a regular topic. I was going to have new cards printed up. ‘Seven weeks. Tired,’ and for women, ‘I pee like a racehorse and my boobs are sore.’ “Really, really tired.”
She smiled, “It gets better. Then worse. Then better. Then they want a car,” and Evelyn and my mother laughed. The husband looked at Danny and said, ‘You are screwed for the next eight months. Just realize that,’ and Marty and my father laughed.
The waitress brought our food. Marty looked at his sea bass, which had spinach on the plate. “I thought it came with corn.”
She looked at him. “I’m sorry, but your order doesn’t come with corn.” She leaned over and whispered to me, “I heard you say that you couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t take tomatoes.” I smiled and mouthed, ‘thanks.’ I could get used to this kind of treatment.
We finished the meal with chocolate cake, compliments of the restaurant. I could really get used to this kind of treatment. “Does anyone want some?” I said.
“Eat, Teddy,” my dad said. Through the whole meal, he kept calling me Teddy. He hadn’t lost his grin the rest of the night. He kept asking if I needed anything. My mother looked at him and said, “Two pregnancies. You were never this nice to me.”
“Yes, I was,” he said. I could tell he was lying.
She looked at the table. “He timed both so that I was six months during tax season.”
“Yeah, well, anyway,” he said, with a big grin. “Teddy, eat. You need strength. You’re eating for two.”
“I don’t need cake, daddy. Besides, the baby’s like the size of a raspberry,” I said, picking one off the plate and popping it in my mouth,
“Cannibal,” Danny said. We both laughed and they all looked at us. “Inside joke.”
The check came and Marty waved over the waitress. “I’ve got it. My treat.”
My dad looked at him and said, “My daughter, Marty. My treat.” Now, they had the Macron-Trump death grip on the check folio.
Danny looked at them and put his hand on the folio. “My wife. My baby. My treat,” he said, with a smile, looking mostly at his father. I knew he was angry though. I could see the vein in the side of his head, the one Jess used to say popped out when I was angry, pop out.
That they could agree on. “Absolutely not, Daniel,” Evelyn said. “Martin,” and he knew he was in trouble because she called him that, “Dave, split the check.” She smiled at me, “That’s an unappealable ruling.”
My father laughed, “Yes, your honor.” My mother didn’t.
As we were walking out, I turned to my mother and Evelyn, “Remember you two. No one. You can’t tell anyone. Not Carole. Not Helene. Not Mona. No one. Not even Jill and Laura. We want to tell them ourselves. Got it?” I put my hands on my hips for emphasis. I caught myself in the glass and had to laugh at the ridiculousness. “I’m serious. I’m also really, really tired. So goodnight,” I said, giving everyone a kiss and a hug. Marty and Evelyn caught a cab. Evelyn said, “I’ll call you in the morning, Jess,” which was not lost on my mother.
My father said, “we’ll drive you.”
I smiled. “We’ll be fine. Maybe we’ll walk awhile. The air will do me good.”
“No,” he said. “I’ll drive you. You’re tired.”
“Where did you park, daddy?”
“69th and 3rd.” The restaurant was on 63rd and 2nd. We lived at 55th and 1st.
“Daddy. You want me to walk six blocks north and 1 block west, and we live south and east. Besides, you can catch the Drive at 62nd and be on your way.” He looked upset so I said, “we’ll walk with you to the car. I could use the exercise.”
“Are you sure? Is that OK?”
I sighed, “yes, daddy. I’m going to be walking for the next eight months. I’ll be fine.” I took his hand and we started to walk.
My mother looked at us, then Danny. “You should have such a relationship with your daughter,” she said, with a tone somewhere between affection and irritation. Danny gave her a nauseous smile.
I looked up at my father and smiled. He was so happy. I was happy.
We walked into the apartment, and I laid on the bed. “What a day. That went well,” I said, with a smile.
Danny laid down next to me, “That was something alright.”
He seemed annoyed. “What?” I said.
“Nothing. It was so cute, you and your daddy,” he said, drawing out daddy.
“Stop, he was happy for us,” I said, blushing.
“I know, I know. It’s just so cute. He really loves you. It drives Barb crazy.”
“They were all happy for us. I mean, I figured that they would be.”
He just said, “yeah.”
“What’s up?” I said, putting my head on his chest, looking up. “You’ve been out of it all night.”
“Nothing. It went as I expected.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means they were all thrilled. My mom reacted exactly as I thought she would. You’re having her grandchild.”
“Stop. I’m having OUR child. She’s thrilled for US. Not me. Us. She said we’re going to be great.”
“She said you would be. Then she added me.” He looked at me. “You were eating it up,” he said, with a huge grin. “When everyone applauded…”
“I was mortified.”
“Oh, please, you girl. You were loving every second of it. All hail the mommy to be!” He stuck his arm up in salute.
I looked at him and straightened his arm. If you’re going to salute, salute correctly. “That’s right. You better hail me. You heard the guy. I am right and you are wrong and that’s that,” I said, kissing him. “Are you sure you’re OK?”
“Yes,” he said. “I’m fine. What happened in the bathroom?”
“I had to go,” I said, in a duh tone.
“That’s a lot of peeing. Seriously though…”
“Seriously, that was it.” How could I explain to Danny, after all that we had been through, that now I was freaking out about being a woman? This is what we wanted, what I wanted. I wanted a kid and now I was having one. Me.
He smiled, and in the smile I saw Jess for a second. “If you want to talk about it, I’m here.”
I smiled, “I know. But there’s nothing to talk about it. Same applies for you though.” I got up and put on a pink nightie. I figured that I didn’t have a lot longer in it.
October 29. I was seventeen weeks pregnant. The baby was now the size of a pomegranate. I made a note to avoid Mona, in case there was any residual nausea.
I had met Sammie and Charlotte at a Halloween party at Charlotte’s music class. Basically, the mothers and fathers shook maracas and played drums, while the kids put various objects in their mouths.
The teacher, such as she was, was about 24, with long brown hair and the sort of body I had come to resent. She was wearing a t shirt and skinny jeans and all the dads kept checking out her ass which was, to be fair, spectacular. Bitch. Everything on her body was still where it was supposed to be, while every day mine was changing from the kind that got looks from men to the kind that got seats on the subway and I wondered if I’d ever get back. Danny kept telling me that I never looked more beautiful but I knew he was full of shit. I’d look at myself in the mirror, at my swollen breasts and thickening calves and ask how I got here. Everyone told me that I had a glow and that my hair looked fuller, but I felt awful. On doctor’s orders, I had stopped running and spin class. Instead, I swam which made me feel like a manatee.
“OK, who’s ready for ‘The Noble Duke of York?’” the teacher said in a chipper tone. “Big finish.” I wondered what she said when she was out with her friends. I had a mental picture of her in a sweaty punk club dancing away the screaming children and the leering dads and drinking every time someone mentioned wheels or buses. One little boy, dressed up like Superman, wandered off to lick the guitar. I tried to imagine what his thought process was. ‘Hmmm, that looks interesting. I wondered what it tastes like.’ His mom mumbled, “I’m ready for a drink.”
Charlotte sat in my lap, holding a plastic egg that she could shake. She was dressed like a little lady bug and was, objectively speaking, absolutely adorable. She was ten months old now with Sammie’s dark hair and Jon’s green eyes. She had started crawling and was pulling herself up, but couldn’t walk yet. She still had a pudgy little belly that I had to poke my knuckle in and say ‘beep’ every time I saw her. Today, for the first time, she looked at my belly and poked it. I said ‘beep’ and laughed but felt mortified. Even a ten-month old thought I looked fat. Don’t get me wrong. I was the happiest I had ever been. I would walk around touching my stomach and looking at my reflection. I read to the baby every night, from whatever I was reading. This week, the baby went to sleep to the sweet sounds of pages 30-65 of a condominium offering plan. On the other hand, my boobs itched. Throughout the class, it wanted to tear them off and kept furtively reaching under my sweatshirt. Then, one of the moms laughed and said, ‘if there was ever a place where you can scratch away….’
“OK, Charlotte,” I said, “Are you ready?” Charlotte babbled at me and I said, “Really? OK! I’ll take that as a yes.” Sammie sat on the floor next to me, with a set of antennae on her head. If you had asked me which was more likely ten months ago, a zebra running backward down Third Avenue or Sammie sitting on the floor of a basement music room wearing antennae, I would have taken the zebra, hands down. When I saw her put them on, I started to laugh and she just looked at me and said, ‘oh please, Jess, you’ll be wearing the whole costume.’ The sad part was she was right. The sadder part was that I couldn’t wait.
After class finished, we went for coffee. Charlotte didn’t want to go in the stroller. When Sammie went to put her in, she went rigid which I was told was normal behavior for a ten month old. I picked her up and said, “that’s OK, Charlotte, Aunt Jessica’s here,” and I carried her on my hip. As we walked, Sammie pushed the empty stroller, while I talked to Charlotte, in response to the babbling. “Why yes, Charlotte, we are walking down Vanderbilt. Very good. You are so smart,” I said, in a higher register than I usually used, and then I kissed her on the nose. Which I had been doing all day.
Sammie laughed and said, “I would love to take a video of you and show it to the people you work with. They wouldn’t believe it.” I laughed nervously and she looked at me and said, “you still haven’t told them, have you?” I looked at the trees, the cars, anywhere but Sammie. “You haven’t. What’s up?”
We were now sitting at the coffee place. “I’m not ready yet,” I said, bouncing Charlotte up and down.
“You said you were going to tell them last week,” she said, scolding me. “Um, and don’t take my head off, you’re starting to show. How long do you plan to wait?”
I pulled down on my sweatshirt, as if to hide what I had wanted so badly. “You just don’t get it. You don’t get what’ll happen when I tell them.”
“They’ll be happy? You said Mike loves you. Besides, they can’t do anything. That’s discrimination. That’s what it says in our employee handbook.”
“Yeah, well, law firms write those, they don’t follow them. They don’t think the law applies to them.”
“Jess,” she said, putting her hand on mine. “You have to say something eventually. What are you going to do, call in sick when you’re in labor?” She started to laugh, “Hang on a sec, Mike,” and then she yelled, which made Charlotte laugh and then babble. “See, even Charlotte knows. That’s right Charlotte. Tell Aunt Jessie she’s being ridiculous.”
“Very funny, Sammie. I’m just scared.” I was. I had kept up my ridiculous billing, even through morning sickness and being constantly tired. In my first trimester, there were times that I was passing out at my desk and cursing the ‘no caffeine’ rule, but nevertheless I persisted. I had billed 220 per month for the first three.
“You’ll be fine, Jessie. You bill like a maniac. You will be fine.” I wanted to believe that. I wanted to believe that they would recognize my hard work and not punish me for having a baby. I needed to believe that. But I had read enough blogs and listserv posts to know that I didn’t. “Has Dan said anything at work yet?”
“No,” I said. Every couple of days, he’d ask if I did. And every couple of days, I’d say no and he’d look disappointed and ask why. Initially, I said, ‘technically, I have told them,’ having told Robin after I took the test. He wasn’t amused. Lately, he had stopped asking why and was starting to look frustrated. “I know, I know. I’m a bad wife. I’m a bad pregnant lady.”
She laughed. “You just have to pull off the Band Aid already. Stop being a jackass.” I smiled. With that, I knew that I was in trouble.
Monday morning, Danny and I were eating breakfast. “I’m doing it today,” I said.
“Really?” he said, clearly not believing me.
“I’m serious,” I said. “I mean it. Look at my outfit.” I was wearing a blue and white dress with horizontal stripes. I didn’t have a big belly yet but, in this outfit, you could see my swollen boobs and the fact that my waist wasn’t what it used to be. “I can’t hide it in this, true?”
He smiled. “You are to call me, young lady, after you tell Mike. No ifs, ands or buts.”
I flirted. “What if I don’t?” I said, kissing him on the cheek.
He laughed, “I will come there and embarrass you. Better yet, Barb will come,” and he swatted me on the ass.
“Nooo,” I said, in a joking manner. I wasn’t joking. “I’ll do it. I promise.”
“Fine. Speaking of which, have you made plans with her yet?” This was a big sticking point. She had wanted to go baby furniture shopping with me for weeks. She was turning my old room into a baby’s room and wanted to see what I wanted. I had been putting her off for weeks, claiming work and being tired. Danny looked at me, “come on already….why are you doing this to her?”
I knew he was right but I just couldn’t deal with her, not yet. “One thing at a time.”
He sighed and rolled his eyes. “You’re being mean but whatever. She’s your mom.”
“That’s right. She is. I’ll deal with her. But I promise. I will tell Mike first thing, OK?”
He shook his head and kissed me on the lips. “Can I tell you how beautiful you look?”
“You can,” I said, with a smile.
He laughed, “Thanks. I just wanted to make sure it was OK. In case I decided to tell you.” I stuck out my tongue at him and he hugged me.
I got to the office and took a deep breath before I walked in. ‘You can do this,’ I thought. ‘You can totally do this. You’re not the first person to do this. Every other mom here has done this. Just do it.’
Lourdes, the receptionist, looked at me. “You OK, Jessica?”
“Yeah, fine. Why?” I said, doing everything I could not to check out my reflection in front of her.
“You looked like you were thinking about something,” she said, looking me up and down and smiling.
I laughed. “Nah. Nothing. Something at home. Mike in yet?”
“Yeah, got in about fifteen minutes ago.”
“Thanks,” I said, as I went to my office, took off my coat and put down my bag. I looked at my desk and saw the motion I was marking up. ‘Just take care of that first,’ I thought. Then, I said, ‘no, Jessica. You need to do this. You need to do this now. You need to do this for the pomegranate,’ and I touched my stomach.
I walked over to Mike’s office. His secretary Jeanine was at her desk. She had been his secretary for 30 years. Everyone knew not to cross Jeanine. When I started, his wife told me, ‘do not cross Jeanine. If it comes down to someone else and her, she wins, me included,’ she said with a laugh but without a joke. She wasn’t bad just protective. “Hey, Jeanine,” I said, “good morning. How’s everything? How’s Frank?”
She smiled. “I didn’t kill him yet.”
I smiled, “Day’s still young.” This had been our running joke for years. Even when I was Dan, she and I got along, mostly because I never asked for much from her and was overly solicitous when I did. “Is he in?”
She picked up her phone, “You in for Jess, old man?” She really was his second wife. “Go in.”
“Hey, Jess, what’s up?” he said. “This on the Keller motion?”
I closed the door and said, “Mind if I sit?”
“Oh shit,” he said. “You’re giving me notice, aren’t you? You can’t do this. I depend on you.” I knew he did. He told me that when we went to lunch the week before last, when I almost told him. I didn’t want to spoil the mood.
I took a deep breath and said, “I’m giving you notice, just a different kind,” I said. “I, well, I don’t know how to say this, so I just will.” My palms felt sweaty. I felt short of breath. “I’m pregnant.”
He broke into a huge grin. “Mazel tov! How far along are you?” He seemed genuinely happy for me. He got up from his desk and gave me a hug.
“Seventeen weeks,” I said. “Four months.”
“Everything OK?” He looked concerned.
“Fine,” I said, knocking on his desk. “All good.”
He kept smiling and picked up his phone, “Get in here, Jeanine.”
She walked in. “What? I have to work to avoid.”
“Ah, shut up,” he said. “Tell her Jess.” Before I could say something, he said, “Jess is pregnant.”
She gave me a hug. “Congratulations. I thought you might be,” she said, with a smile.
“Why? Do I look fat?”
Mike mumbled something like ‘you’re all the same,’ and Jeanine said, “Not at all. You look gorgeous. It’s not that at all. I saw doctor’s appointments on your calendar and I noticed the way that you were rubbing your calf when Feldstein was here. When I was pregnant with Bill, my legs knotted up something terrible. Drink a lot of water. It helps.”
Mike smiled. “My little Silverman. Just yesterday, you were a summer associate. Remember, Jeanine? The eager little beaver? ‘Anything else, sir?’ And now look at you. You’re having a baby.” He pointed at the picture on his desk. It was his three kids, at the youngest’s high school graduation. “It goes fast, faster than you think,” he said. “Enjoy the quiet now, right Jeanine?” She just smiled. “How’s Dan doing?”
I looked at Jeanine and she gave him a look of contempt. “Yeah, Jess, how is he? Peeing a lot? Calves tightening?” she said. Mike looked at her, shook his head and smiled.
“He’s good,” I said. “Great. Let me go tell him I told you.”
I walked to my office, feeling ridiculous that I was afraid. Mike seemed genuinely happy for me. He told me that he depended on me. It was going to be OK, I was going to be OK, I thought.
I met Danny for dinner that night at an Italian restaurant near his office.
He gave me a kiss. “See, I told you it wouldn’t be that bad. You were worried. He depends on you. Did you tell anyone else?”
I laughed. “I didn’t have to. Once Jeanine knew, it was all done. I mean, first, the admins came in. Jasmine was so sweet, said I looked beautiful…” I looked at him. He smiled and said ‘you do’. “Then they all stood around me and decided what we were having…”
He laughed, “which is?”
“Well, based on voting, a hermaphrodite apparently. Then, Victoria came in and told me how great it was but a lot of work, and it kept going like that all day. I mean I should probably go back to work and make up the time. I’m afraid now though…”
“Why?” He looked amused.
“I have now heard literally everything that can go wrong in a pregnancy. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but if we have a three headed baby, don’t be surprised.”
He laughed, but with a look in his eye. “Yeah, welcome to pregnancy. When Melissa was pregnant with Ben, I remember how everyone used to tell her stories. What did you say? It’s like sports for guys.”
I laughed, “So, how did it go?”
“It went fine, great. Everyone congratulated me. Bruce told me to watch out. Melissa told me congratulations and said she’s going to call you.” He had a smile but his tone was, for lack of a better word, terse.
“Are you OK, Danny?”
“I’m fine,” he said, his leg bouncing up and down, which it did when he was agitated. When he saw me look at it, he put his hand on it.
“You sure? You seem bothered about something.”
He smiled, “Not at all. I’m just glad we told everyone already. It was about time,” he said, giving me a kiss that felt perfunctory.
“Yeah yeah yeah,” I said. “Well, we’re done.”
We ate dinner and walked home. “Seriously, Danny, are you OK?”
He sighed, “I am fine, Jessa. Do you feel better now?”
“Yes,” I said, looking up at him. “I’m sorry I was worried about it. I have a right to be worried. I mean remember Lindsay?” Lindsay was an associate who went out on maternity leave. Six months after she came back, she was let go for ‘non-performance.’
He swung my hand in a lazy arc. “You said she was incompetent.”
“I mean, she was but it was like they waited for her to have a baby to fire her. What if they do that to me?”
“Mike,” and I would swear that I heard annoyance in his voice, “told you he depends on you. Clients love you. You will be fine.”
“I’m sorry if I’m annoying you but I’m just scared. I’ve worked really hard.”
He stopped and looked at me. “You’re not annoying me and you have every right to be scared. But don’t be. Nothing is going to happen and if it does, we’ll figure it out.”
“What does we’ll figure it out mean?”
He realized his mistake and tried to backpedal. “It means, before it does, you’ll find something. Or we’ll live off my salary until you do.”
He meant well. He was trying to assuage my fears. He was failing, not for lack of effort but he was. “I don’t want to find something else or live off of you…”
He rolled his eyes. “YOU wouldn’t be living off of ME. WE would be living off of my salary. Just like, if I decided to be a stay-at-home dad, WE would be living off of yours.” He looked up at the sky and then smiled, “You know what? I think that’s the plan. I’m going to stay home with Pomo and we’ll live off of your salary. And I have a lifestyle to which I want to become accustomed. So, hop to it,” and he clapped his hands twice, in quick succession. “Chop chop.”
I looked at him and blew a raspberry. Intellectually, I understood what he was saying but still wondered if I’d be OK.
Three weeks later, my dad called me at work. “Hey, daddy,” I said. He called at least once a week to check on me. We told them thirteen weeks ago, which meant that he had called me thirteen more times than he had when I was Dan.
It was hard to imagine that time now. I could remember specific events (my bar mitzvah, graduation, my wedding) but, as time and my pregnancy wore on, I saw Jessa in them. Recently, I had been having strange dreams, which were apparently normal during this phase of the pregnancy. It was my wedding and I was wearing the lace and taffeta dress I had loved so much in Florida, with flowers in my hair. When we stood outside the doors to the hall, I was Dan. I was taller than my father but he just kept saying, “are you ready, sweetie?” When the doors opened, I looked down the aisle and saw Jess in a tuxedo.everyone gasped and pointed. I wanted to run and my father just said, “don’t worry so much.” He touched my face and suddenly I was Jessa and she was Danny.
“Hey, sweetie, how are you feeling? How’s banana?” My dad was fascinated by how they knew how big your baby was, especially relative to food. He had downloaded the app, ‘skipping all the disgusting parts,’ and checked every week. Two weeks ago, he asked about ‘arty the artichoke;’ two weeks before that, it was ‘avocado.’ I was now twenty weeks which meant ‘banana.’ It drove my mother crazy. I thought it was cute but, then again, he was my daddy - and I didn’t live with him.
“Appealing,” I said, laughing at my own awful joke. “Me, my legs hurt, I’m short of breath and I have heartburn…”
He laughed, “I must be pregnant.” I left off the vaginal discharge and the colostrum leaking from my breasts. Apparently, I was already preparing to breastfeed. Every time I thought about that, I smiled, picturing feeding little Emma, bonding her to me. He had a wife and two daughters, but some bridges were too far to cross.
“Very funny? What’s going on?”
“I was calling to see if Danny wanted to come to the Giants game against Green Bay Sunday. A client gave me seats.”
I was hurt. He and I used to go and now he was inviting Danny. “What about me? We used to go.” He and I did, when I was Dan. I didn’t know if that was still true but I figured it couldn’t hurt.
“I remember,” he said. “You had that crush on Luke Petigout,” an offensive lineman, “for some reason.” I guess we went. “I wasn’t worried, know why?”
“Why?” I said, waiting for an awful joke.
“I knew if he tried something and you tried to get away, you’d blow right past him. Why we drafted him in the first round...”
“That joke was awful. Well, why aren’t you inviting me?”
“It’s too cold. I’m not having frozen banana,” he said, laughing.
“Haha. I’ll wear a coat. Why can’t I go?”
“You can do something with your mother.” He paused and got serious. “You SHOULD do something with your mother.”
“I’ve done stuff with her,” I lied. I had done stuff with her present. “We went to Michelle’s baby shower last week, for example.”
“Jessica, that’s not what I mean and you know it. I’d like you to do this for me. It’s bothering her.” It was bothering Danny too. After we told everyone, he asked for a few days and then stopped, saying ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this…’
“I’m not trying to hurt her, daddy,” I mumbled.
“I know, but she wants to spend time with you. Do this for me OK, sweetie? She’s driving me crazy,” I laughed.
“It’s a short drive, David,” I said, in her voice. He laughed. “Fine, I will,” I said.
He laughed, “don’t tell her it was my idea.”
“Oh, like that’s a good idea for either of us,” I said. Then I paused. “Hey, daddy, can we go to a game together?”
He stopped for a second and I was worried that he’d say no. That I wasn’t his buddy anymore, just the mother of his grandchild. “I’d like that,” he said. “Knicks game OK? It’s too cold and I’m not having frozen cantaloupe.” Clearly, he had skipped ahead in the app.
“Banana has to learn heartbreak sometime,” I said. “I’ll look at the schedule and get tickets. Thanks, daddy.”
He seemed surprised. “For what?”
I was still smiling. “For being the best daddy in the whole world.” I almost made myself throw up. “I’ll let Dan know about the game.”
I hung up and looked at the phone. I needed to call her. I didn’t want to. I had projects to get done and couldn’t give her the time that she needed, or at least wanted. I decided to wait until I got home.
I walked in the door and gave Danny a kiss. “Hey honey.”
“Hey, Jessa,” he said, giving me a kiss back. Then he leaned down to my stomach. I was now visibly pregnant, with a round belly and swollen boobs. “Hey, baby,” he said, kissing my stomach. “It’s me, the daddy person. How was your day? Was the mommy OK?”
“The mommy was fine. My dad invited you to a Giants game Sunday. Green Bay. You’re going.”
He smiled, “I’d love to. He’s going to give me the talk, isn’t he? What about you?”
“He doesn’t want a frozen banana,” I laughed.
Dan rolled his eyes. “Jesus. He’s not letting that go, is he?”
“Oh come on, he’s excited about being a grandpa again.” He smirked at again, thinking I missed it.
He took my phone and called up my mother’s number. “Call her.”
“What? Did my dad call you?”
“Huh?” he said, taking off his shirt. My libido was still running high.
I put down the phone. “She can wait,” I purred.
He put on a t-shirt. “Nice try, Jessa. Call her.” I put my arms around his waist which used to be much easier a few months ago. He moved them off, “Call. No special Danny loving for you until you do.”
I retched. “I hope I wasn’t that bad.” The look on his face said I was. “Fine.”
I called her. “Hey, mom!”
“Oh hi, Jessica,” she said, warily. “What’s up?” Jessica. Oh shit. Not quite Jessica Renee or Jessica Renee Richman, but not good either.
“Well, I was wondering...Daddy invited Danny to the Giants game Sunday and I was wondering if you wanted to come in, have a girls day, just us. Whatever you want to do.” I looked at Danny and mouthed, ‘happy?’
There was an interminable silence that I was later told was about three seconds. “I would like that, Jessica. That would be wonderful.”
“Me too. I’ve wanted to do it since forever but work has been crazy busy, you know?” I hoped the lie worked. “Almost bonus time.”
“I know but you need to relax, Jessie.” Jessie. The lie worked. “You’re going to be very busy in a few months,” she said in her sing-songy tone. “Have you been looking at things for the nursery yet?”
“We can go do that.” With a quick stop at the gun store, so I could shoot myself. “That’ll be fun,” I said. Like root canal.
“Mona was saying that they’re going to induce Shelly in a week if she doesn’t go into labor before then. Do you remember Naomi Moskoff?” I looked at Danny and mouthed ‘I hate you’ and he smiled. And then my mother went off on a story about someone I vaguely remembered, maybe a Hebrew school classmate of Laura’s, who had to be induced and then, after 42 hours of labor (which was slightly shorter than it took to tell the story), ended up getting a C-section. Everyone seemed to like telling me stories of interminable labor.
I got off the phone and Danny kissed me on the nape of my neck and then my earlobe. “You’re lucky I’m horny,” I said.
Sex was becoming more and more difficult. We could do it doggy-style but, after all these years, I still couldn’t enjoy myself. It made me feel gross and used. I needed to see Danny’s face or, at least, be on top. From behind felt, well, weird. It was ridiculous. I wasn’t Dan. I was Jessa. I was a woman. I was a woman who liked silk and lace. A woman who liked being sexy and pretty and feminine. A woman who couldn’t wait to be a mommy. But having sex doggy style triggered something in me.
And me on top was getting harder. I wasn’t heavier than I was when we changed, in fact I was fifteen pounds lighter, but maybe it was all in my belly. Maybe it was the distribution of weight but Danny said the last time that we tried, ‘please don’t hit me but my legs are starting to get numb.’ I hit him and then climbed off.
So, here we were. Me with my ass bolstered by two pillows and Danny standing off the bed, pumping away. I felt disconnected from him. He wasn’t touching me. He wasn’t looking at me. We were just getting a release, not making love. He came. I didn’t. “Hey, honey,” I said, “come and lie next to me.” I needed to feel the closeness, his skin on mine. He laid down next to me and started tracing circles on my belly, giving it little kisses, while I played with his hair. This was what I needed.
Friday morning, 11 AM.
The day had started off great. The morning sickness had passed and I was now halfway to being a mommy.
I was in the bathroom, when Danny snuck up behind me. He put his hands around me and said, “Caught you!”
I blushed. I had been admiring myself in the mirror. “I feel ridiculous.” I had been looking at myself in the mirror. I had a round belly, not huge but pronounced. I loved my bump and couldn’t wait for it to get bigger.
He kissed me on the neck. “You look gorgeous,” he said, rubbing my belly. “Every day, you get even more gorgeous.” He leaned down and kissed my belly. “Good morning, baby.”
I got dressed and went downstairs. Jose, the day doorman, said, “good morning, Mrs. Silverman. Cab?”
It was about 50 degrees and sunny. “Good morning, Jose. It’s a nice day. I think I’ll walk a while. I could use the exercise..” I started walking down the street, smiling. An older man walked past, looked me up and down and gave me a smile. A pregnant woman walked past, her three year old son holding her hand, and she gave me a nod of recognition. I was part of something, something bigger than me. It felt utterly ridiculous and egotistical, but I had a person inside of me, a person who depended on me for life. And I liked that feeling.
I tried to walk to the office, but got tired halfway there. At 50th Street, I caught the 6 train. The platform was three deep. I was ready to wait for a train, when a young guy, about 19, said, “go ahead, ma’am.” He moved aside three other people to let me on.
“Thanks,” I said, giving him a smile. “You didn’t have to.”
He looked me up and down and said, with a laugh, “my mom would kill me if I didn’t.” He meant well and I appreciated it. But, on some level, it hurt. Five months ago, if he noticed me, it would have been to give me the once over. Now…..
I went into the office and turned on my computer. Pinned to the bulletin board above my desk was a sonogram. You could see the baby. The picture was murky, but it was the baby. During the appointment, when the tech was doing it, it looked like the head was separate from the body but she said, ‘everything looks great.’ We looked at each other and shrugged, figuring if she didn’t have a problem with a headless baby, why should we? I kissed my fingertips then touched the picture, just like I did every morning.
I began working on a brief. Bonus time was coming up and I needed to show them that I was still going full force. After the first week, the novelty of my pregnancy had worn off. Jasmine would ask how I was doing every so often, and Jeanine would always check in after doctor’s appointments, but that was about it. People had their own concerns and there wasn’t much to say other than, ‘feeling great, thanks for asking.’ It was silly to think that my pregnancy should have mattered to them, no matter how much it mattered to me. Around 11 AM, I got up to stretch my legs and get a drink of water. I wanted coffee - badly - and knew that one cup wouldn’t harm the baby. The studies showed that one cup a day had no negative effects but I didn’t want to risk it. If that was wrong and something happened, I couldn’t live with myself. It wasn’t worth a cup of coffee for that.
The kitchen was down two hallways from my office, which was fine. Dr. Andopolis had told me to ‘make sure that you walk as much as possible during the day. You need to keep those muscles stretched and limber.’ As I approached the kitchen, I heard Doug, a male associate in corporate say:
“the body’s nowhere what it used to be, but the tits look amazing,” while another male associate laughed.
I stopped for a second and felt short of breath. I rested my hand on the wall and thought, ‘they didn’t see you. What makes you think they were talking about you? When did you become such an egomaniac?’ I walked into the kitchen, to their stares. “Excuse me guys,” I said, going to the watercooler. I willed myself to look at Doug, “don’t let me interrupt your discussion.” I filled my glass, took a sip and said, “I don’t know who she is, but really guys, free piece of advice. Locker room talk may make some people president. Not you,” and I smiled.
I walked back to my office, closed the door and cried. I picked up the phone to call Danny and then put it down. I looked at the sonogram and thought about my baby. ‘You can do this. They will not break you. Maybe you’re not who you were, but you are who you are.’ The question was who was that?
It was Sunday morning. I looked at the weather report. It was 45 degrees and sunny. I had hoped for a freak hurricane that would prevent her from coming in. It just needed to hit Rockland County and the city; I didn’t want to spoil the Giants game. I tried to imagine my father grilling Danny over the baby and had to laugh.
“Are you sure you don’t want to come?” I said to Laura.
“Oh stop it, Jess, it won’t be that bad,” she said, laughing and then ‘Tuck, put that down.’
““Please.” I started coughing. “I think I’m coming down with something. I’m contagious. She shouldn’t come.”
“Oh stop it,” Laura laughed. “When did you get so melodramatic?” ‘Hold on Tuck, it’s Aunt Jessie.’
“I’m not melodramatic. She’s annoying.”
She sighed, “She’s not that bad. I’m glad you’re doing this.” ‘Where’s daddy? Go find daddy!’
“Everyone keeps saying that. Like she’s not my mom. I’m not doing anything.”
“I know. I know.” ‘Tuck, NO!’ “This is making her really happy. It’s really hurt her, you know.”
I felt like shit. “What’s hurt her?”
“OK, look, don’t take my head off…” Whenever someone begins a sentence that way, I tense up. “She feels left out.”
“Left out of what?”
She sighed. “You. Your pregnancy. The baby.”
“I’m not leaving her out of anything. What am I leaving her out of?”
“The doctor’s appointments. The shopping. The everything. I mean all she’s talked to me about is how Michelle is always doing stuff with Mona…”
I laughed, “And all Michelle has told me is how Mona’s driving her crazy.”
She laughed. “No fucking shit. That master’s in duh is really paying off. Of course, she is. She drove me fucking nuts. We went crib shopping. By the time we were done, I told her I was going to put Tuck in a shoe box. I was afraid to go to the OB because of what she’d say. ‘Well, so Sheila Hecht was telling me how Stacy’s doctor lost a speculum in there but,’” and she spat three times, “‘the baby is fine.’” We both started giggling and then she got serious. “Seriously, Jess, she feels left out. She can almost take you and dad and the food jokes…” ‘Jeremy, can you please take Tucker anywhere?’
“Those are cute.” They were. That was me and my daddy.
She made a retching noise. “But, and don’t take my head off, please don’t bring up Evelyn.”
I got defensive, “I don’t bring up Evelyn. She does. Besides, I talk to Evelyn about work.”
“Yeah, well, whatever. Don’t talk about work then.”
“That’s not fair. That’s who I am.”
She sighed. “Be someone else for the day, Jess then.” ‘He needs a hat.’ “Oh god, let me go take care of this.” ‘Christ, Jeremy. No, Tuck, that’s not OK to say.’ “Please. For me. Love you.”
Danny came out. He was wearing jeans and had his Giants sweatshirt and a ski hat in his hand. “Do you have sweats on too?”
He smiled, “Yes…”
“It gets cold there. Like twenty degrees colder.” MetLife Stadium was in the Meadowlands, formerly known as the Great Swamp of New Jersey. There was nothing around it to block the wind and it was a miserable place to sit in November.
“Yes, dear,” he said, giving me a kiss. “Are you ready?”
“Yeah yeah yeah.”
“It’ll be fine. This means a lot to her, you know that.”
I sighed, “I know.”
“She’s not that bad,” he said.
I smiled, “maybe she’ll get stuck in traffic.” My father was going to drive her in and then drive Danny out. I told him that there was a train stop right outside the stadium and that it made no sense to come in to drive back out. After ten minutes, and ‘your mother’s going to park in a garage,’ he agreed.
“Stop,” he said, pulling on his sweatshirt. “Have a positive attitude.”
I took my fingers and turned up the corners of my mouth. “Positive!”
He gave me a kiss. “That’s the spirit. Wish me luck!” Yeah, you need luck.
I went to get ready. I was trying to decide what to wear. If I were going to be practical, I would have chosen stretch pants and a sweater. I didn’t want to be practical, I wanted to feel feminine, to feel like me. I chose a blue sweater dress, black tights and boots. I had my hair blown out the day before. Since Friday, I felt a need to assert control over my life. I couldn’t control work. I couldn’t control the changes in my body. What I could control was how I looked and I was going to do that, at least.
An hour later, my mom showed up. “Hey, sweetheart,” she said, giving me a kiss and a hug. “You look beautiful. I like that outfit.” ‘Thanks,’ I said. “How are you?”
“Pregnant,” I said, with a smile.
She rolled her eyes. “I’ve heard. How are you feeling?”
“Fine. Usual. It’s gross.” I don’t know why I felt awkward. She had been through this. Twice. Once with me.
She smiled. “Jessica, I did it twice. I know from gross.”
“Well, my boobs are leaking and,” and I took a deep breath. “Did you ever have..you know...stuff down there?”
She looked at me. “Vaginal discharge, Jessica?” I nodded. “It’s perfectly normal. It’s not green or yellow, is it?” I made a face. “Stop it. Yes or no.” ‘No,’ I said. “Then it’s fine. Five months it’s fine. I had it with you. What are you so afraid of?”
“I dunno. I’ve never been through this before.”
She smiled. “I have. Twice.”
“I heard,” I said, hopefully pleasantly.
“Did you hear about the 30 hours of labor? Oh never mind. That was Laura.”
I laughed. “That’s to hold over her, not me.”
She looked me up and down. “You gave me four months of heartburn….before you were born,” she said.
“Banana’s killing me with that lately,” I said.
“Try putting a pillow under your upper back. It relieves the pressure on your esophagus.”
“Seriously? I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll give it a shot.”
She gave me a half-smile. “Amazing what you can learn when you ask. So what are we doing today?”
“You tell me,” I said, fearing the answer.
“I just want to spend time with you.” I felt awful. “Have you gone crib shopping yet?”
“Laura offered me Tuck’s,” I said. She grimaced, probably because of what that meant for Laura. “But we’ll need stuff for the room,” I said, to make her feel better. “And a stroller,” I lied. Laura had offered me that too.
“Fine. So Mona said that Michelle is ready to burst…”
“She is so ready,” I said. I tried to figure out what not to say, what Michelle didn’t want broadcast back. “I think she’s been jumping up and down. I half expect a call today.”
“And that would be wonderful. I told Mona that I think it’s Monday. Joyce has Tuesday in the pool,” and off she went. I willed myself to pay attention. As I watched her, I had to smile. She was excited by all of this, by the idea that ‘the two little girls who used to play in my backyard are going to be there with their own babies soon.’ I thought back to Michelle and I playing hide and seek and had to smile. “What,” she said.
“Nothing,” I said. “Just thinking about me and Michelle. It’s happening, isn’t it?”
She touched my face and brushed back my hair. “It is. You look so beautiful,” she said. “Pregnancy really agrees with you.”
I appreciated that and thought it did, but it made me very aware of who I was. I joked, “would you tell me if I didn’t?” Before she could say something, “let’s hit Chelsea. There’s Buy Buy Baby and some other other baby stores there.”
We were walking through one store when she held up a circus-themed crib bumper. “What do you think of this?”
“No. Clowns are creepy. We’re going to scare banana.”
She rolled her eyes. “You and your father...enough already,” she laughed.
“Fine. How about this one?” It was trains.
“And if it’s a girl?”
“She can like trains.” I liked trains, I thought. “I liked trains. When did you get so sexist?” She stuck out her tongue.
We walked through the store, marking down what I wanted on a registry. She wouldn’t let me buy it. ‘God forbid,’ and she spat three time, ‘something happens. You don’t want it in the house.’ On the one hand, she was being ridiculous. On the other hand, I wasn’t superstitious but couldn’t imagine if something went wrong and I had to come home to a house full of baby things.
We went to lunch at Markt, a French bistro on 6th Avenue. “Thanks, mom,” I said.
She was looking at the menu. “For what?”
“I know French isn’t your thing. I just really wanted steak frites for some reason.”
She smiled. “Stop it. You’re pregnant. Until the baby comes, you get to choose. It almost makes up for insomnia, back pain and all that. After the baby, you’ll eat wherever you can eat fast.”
“Great...I’m looking forward to it.” I thought of eating with Tuck. Our choices were limited to any place with macaroni and cheese or chicken fingers. Maybe spaghetti and meatballs, if Tuck was feeling adventurous.
“Do you want to split the cheese croquettes?” I loved fried cheese, no matter the form. Not as much as ice cream, but a close second.
“Nah. I should really be careful,” I said.
“Careful about what? Are you having trouble with dairy?” She looked genuinely confused and concerned.
“No, not at all. I just don’t want to put on too much weight,” I said. “I’m blowing up like a balloon.”
“Jessica,” uh oh. She took my hand. “I hate to be the one to tell you but you’re pregnant.”
“Ha ha ha,” I said, twisting my engagement ring on my finger. “I’m only supposed to eat like 400 extra calories a day,” I said.
She looked at me, “Says who?”
“Baby Center. The Bump. And Dr. Andopolis says so. I don’t want to get so fat that I can’t lose it afterwards.”
“You’ll be fine,” she said, with a smile. “Stop worrying so much and enjoy your food. Six months from now, you’ll kill to have time to eat cheese croquettes and steak frites.”
“Great,” I said, “looking forward to that too.” The waiter brought over the bread basket and I took out a roll. I wasn’t sure that I wanted it but I wanted her to not look at me like I was starving her grandchild. A couple came in with a two year old boy, who was dragging a Thomas the Tank Engine backpack on the floor. His mother looked at me and gave me a half-smile as if to say ‘soon.’ The waitress came over and put a booster on a chair. His father went to lift him up and he said, ‘NO’ and tried to climb in on his own. The chair fell over and he looked like he was about to scream. My mother looked at him and then at the floor and said, ‘you put a hole in the floor! You’re going to have to fix it,’ which made him laugh. His father said, ‘thanks’ and looked at me. After two minutes, the boy started to fuss and they took an iPad from the bag. They put on a video and he calmed down.
“We never did things like that,” my mother said.
“What? Do you have a problem with it?” I asked.
She laughed. “Are you serious? I would have killed for an iPad. We just had crayons for you two.” Then she said, with an eye roll, “your father is so excited for this. He has not stopped talking about it. God only knows what’s coming from the Giants today.”
“He’s just excited.” It made me feel good, picturing my father dragging Danny through the team store. “He was this excited for Tuck too.” She just laughed, a small laugh. “Besides, every baby needs a jersey. Or four.”
Our food came. She had agonized over ordering. ‘Do I want tuna nicoise or chicken paillard?’ Then, to the waiter, ‘well, what do you recommend?’ ‘Oh, that looks interesting,’ pointing at another table. She went with salmon.
“So, what’s new at the center?” My mom worked at a family services center, volunteering with children with learning disabilities. She had been a clinical social worker before Laura was born.
“Busy. It seems like lately there’s been more kids with learning disabilities. A lot more dyslexia for some reason.”
“Do you think it’s the parents trying to get kids extra testing time? Game the system?”
She laughed, “My clients do not have the resources to game the system. These are the kids from,” and she listed a couple of towns near her with poor and minority populations. “They’re probably underdiagnosed, not over.” We talked about ADHD and autism for a while.
“Do you think there’s more now or did it just go undiagnosed before?” I said, dipping my french fry in mayonnaise. I don’t know why. I used to hate mayonnaise but had developed a taste for it lately.
“Both. On the one hand, I think, even from when I was a kid to when you were a kid, the rules changed. When I was a kid, the weird kid was just weird. You, he had issues, whatever that meant. Now he’s on the spectrum. On the other hand, with all the chemicals and hormones in the food and everything, it can’t be a good thing.”
I blurted out. “It scares me.”
“I read all of this stuff and I’m afraid the baby will have it.”
She laughed, “I firmly believe that they should ban all pregnant women from reading for the duration of their pregnancies.”
I blushed. “I’m serious. It scares me. What if something is wrong?”
“Nothing is wrong, Jessie. My grandchild will be fine.” She didn’t even spit three times or knock on the table.
“Funny, mom.” I thought about her work at the center. I was proud of what she did. “I’m proud of you, mom.”
“You’re doing a good thing? Those kids need your help. Me? I protect the rich and powerful from the other rich and powerful.”
“Speaking of which, how is work?” She said, pushing around her spinach. When she didn’t like something, but knew it was good for her, she’d push it around. Apparently, according to Danny, I did the same thing.
“Busy,” I said, dipping my steak in bearnaise sauce. “Very very busy.”
“Please tell me you’re not still working crazy hours,” she said.
“It’s fine, mom. I’m fine. Besides, it’s bonus time,” I said.
“Jessica, that’s money. This is time. You need to relax.”
“I am relaxing. I did yoga and swam yesterday. That’s very relaxing.”
“That’s not what I mean. What I mean is in a few months, you will not have any time and you won’t for at least eighteen years,” she said, smiling. Jesus, I thought, let me get this one out before we rebook the room. “You will kill for a nap. You need to take time for yourself. The money will always be there.”
“Uh huh, mom. Yup, remember the money tree in the backyard?” When I was a kid and asked them for money, I was told to go to the money tree.
“The world doesn’t begin and end at Sagman Bennett, Jessie.”
“What does that mean?” I was getting aggravated.
“It means that we’re very proud of the work you do too, but it’s not the only thing in the world.”
“It’s my world,” I snapped. “I want to be partner. That’s what I’ve been working for.”
“You will make partner. You will get your bonus. But, it’s not just you anymore,” she said, putting her hand on my belly.
“I know I’m pregnant, mom,” I snarled. “And they know I’m pregnant.” Lately, I had felt like, while they weren’t taking cases from me - yet - they weren’t giving me the good ones. It felt were assigning me low grade junk, the kinds of cases you gave to an associate to prove herself. The sort where, if she did well, it helped but, if she lost, the damage could be controlled. “And I’m not going to let them use that against me.”
“Jessica, you’re getting yourself agitated over work. Over nothing.”
“It’s not nothing to me. It’s what I do. It’s who I am.” I rubbed my tights out of nervousness and frustration, so much so that, when I touched my arm, I could feel the static electricity
She looked at me. “It is what you do. It’s not who you are. Or at least it shouldn’t be.”
“Meaning?” I had to stop myself from pulling on a pill on my dress.
“Meaning there’s more to life than a bonus check. Than a big house or a boat.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? Big house? Boat? Hmmm, who could that be?”
“Oh stop it. That’s not what I meant.”
“Yeah, it is. You meant exactly that. You just don’t get it. You don’t get what’s important to me.”
She gave me a nasty smirk. “I’m sure Evelyn gets it though.”
“Yeah, she does. She encourages me. She’s proud of me.” I almost brought up how she wanted me to run for office.
She took a deep breath and paused. Very slowly and clearly, she said, “I am very proud of you, Jessica. I always have been. I am sorry that I am not an attorney,” I noticed that she used that and not ‘lawyer’, “and that I can’t discuss motions and cases and procedure with you like she can. But, make no mistake, I have always been very proud of you.” Her face was angry but I could see tears. “I am acutely aware of what she is and what I am not. But I also know what’s important. Do you?” I looked down at my plate and began cutting my steak like I was disposing of a body. I couldn’t taste it but I was hungry. “Jessica,” she said. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to hurt you. I’m trying to help.”
I didn’t look up. “I’d hate to see what you’d do if you wanted to hurt me.”
To her credit, she didn’t respond. Instead, she went to brush my hair out of my eyes, the way she did when I was little. I moved away from her. “Jessica, I want you to have everything you want.”
“You mean everything YOU want.” I was in full bitch mode.
“No, everything YOU want. I just don’t want to see you kill yourself to get there. A bonus won’t do you any good in the hospital.”
“I know myself, ma. I know what I can do.” I still hadn’t looked up. I pushed away my plate. “I’m done. I think I want to go home, ma.” I felt like crying.
“Jessie, please. We were having a nice day. I thought you wanted to go shopping for Spain.” During the week between Christmas and New Years’, we were going to Spain, Barcelona and Madrid. I tried not to look at her, but I did. I saw the little strands of gray at her temples, creeping up on the brown. I could see the worry lines around her eyes, and the tears forming, and knew that I was the cause of them. I should have stopped. I should have accepted what she said, even if I was going to ignore it. I should have mumbled, ‘fine,’ eaten my lunch and continued shopping. If I had been able to be honest, I would have recognized why she said what she said. But, I wasn’t able. I was angry.
“I need my rest, remember?” I snapped.
“Jessie,” she said, dabbing her eyes with her napkin.
“Don’t you want to beat the traffic?” I sneered. We sat in silence until the check came. She didn’t even try to speak. I could see the fear in her eyes. She went to pay and I grabbed it. “You know it’s all about money with me…”
She began to cry. I had won. Although, if I won, I felt pretty awful. “Jessie, please.”
I went to get up. My leg had fallen asleep. I hadn’t told her but Dr. Andopolis had told me that there was a pinched nerve in my thigh. It was apparently not uncommon during pregnancy, depending on how the baby was situated, but I was told to keep off it as much as possible. That’s why I had stopped running. I stumbled a little and braced myself against someone’s chair. “Sorry,” I said, to the man sitting in it. He looked at my stomach and smiled. My mother went to grab me. “Ma, leave me alone!” The other diners turned. Nothing like a stumbling yelling pregnant woman for your lunchtime entertainment.
“Jessie, please,” and she went to take my arm.
“I will be fine,” I said, rubbing my leg. “I just want you to leave me alone.” I limped out to the street, and hailed a cab. “Bye, mom,” I snarled.
She surprised me and pushed her way into the cab. “No, Jessica.”
“Whatever. Your car’s uptown. Fine.” I immediately turned to look out the window, too angry to look at her.
She started rubbing my leg. “Is your leg bothering you?” The rubbing felt good, emotionally and physically.
“No, I limp because I always wanted to be a pirate and I’m practicing for a peg leg,” I said, not taking my eyes off the street.
“Ha ha, Jessica. I’m serious.”
“Yes, my leg is bothering me.”
“My calves bothered me something awful with Laura,” she said.
I went to say something about how mine were too, but wasn’t interested in giving her the satisfaction. Instead, I just said, “uh huh. Sorry.” She kept trying to speak and I wouldn’t answer. We got to the building and I pointedly paid for the cab. “Anyway, ma. Love you,” I said, giving her a kiss. I never left them without saying ‘I love you,’ no matter upset I was. Somewhere, I knew that one day would be the last time I’d say it and I didn’t want to miss that because of a fight.
She went to follow me in. “Jessie, please.”
I held up my hand. “I’m tired.” The doorman stared at me, like ‘you bitch.’
She slumped. “I love you too, Jessica,” and she walked away.
After she left, I beat myself up. She didn’t get what I was going through but I still felt like shit. Then I thought, ‘she started with Evelyn. I didn’t. She did.’ Then I thought, ‘but you could’ve stopped it. And you didn’t. You could’ve lied and said that you’d relax.’ I stared at the ceiling for a while. ‘Why do you care if she hates Evelyn? They don’t see each other all that much. Besides, you have to get along with them, she doesn’t.’ I picked up my phone, flipped it around and put it down. I did this three times before I dialed her. I hoped for voice mail. “Jessica.” No such luck.
“Sorry about before, ma.”
“Me too sweetie. I’m just worried about you.” She paused. “You remind me so much of Richie.” Richie was my mother’s brother. He died at 35, before I was born. I never knew what from. All I knew was that, when his name was mentioned, my grandparents would immediately change the subject.
“Richie?” I was confused. I almost joked, ‘was he pregnant too?’ But some things were not open for jokes, Richie being first.
“You are so much like him, it scares me. He was smart like you. He was funny like you. He was Grandpa Harry’s favorite like you. And he pushed himself like you. And he wouldn’t let anyone help him until,” and she started to cry. I wanted nothing more than to hug her and I couldn’t. And it was all my fault.
“What, ma? Until what?”
“Until we couldn’t. Until he was too sick.” I never knew what killed him. I tried asking Grandma Rosie once and that was the only time that she got upset at me. She said, “children don’t need to know those things.”
I took a deep breath. “Did he have AIDS, mom?” There I put it out there. He wasn’t married. It was 1982. He lived in the city. It wasn’t unreasonable.
She regained composure. “No. Yes, he was gay. But, no, it wasn’t AIDS. He had lymphoma. Not that it matters in the end.” I could hear the catch in her voice. She took a second to compose herself. “He died too young. And he wouldn’t let me help. Every time you say you’re fine, I hear his laugh. I hear, ‘I got it, Barb. The position of crazy lady is filled’...he meant Grandma.”
“I figured,” I laughed, to break the tension.
“‘But, if we have an opening, we’ll keep your resume on file.’ Well, anyway, he had it all under control. Right until Sloan-Kettering.”
“Jesus, mom. I didn’t know…” I felt like throwing up.
“I know that. And, before you say anything, I know what you’re going to say. And, no, I’m not comparing pregnancy to...what he had. You know your middle name is for him.” In Jewish tradition, you named a baby for someone who had died. What it meant in practice was you chose a name you liked and found a relative who fit.
“I thought it was Uncle Ruby, I said.” My grandfather’s uncle.
She gave a quick cough. “That’s what I told your grandparents. It was Richie. She would have said it was a kaynahorah,” bad luck. “And you take after him. I just hate seeing you kill yourself for nothing.”
“It’s not nothing. I just want to be partner is all. I’m just trying for it.”
“Jessica, despite what you may think, I want that for you too. That’s what you want. I am very proud of you. Very, very proud. You are a wonderful woman.” That felt strange to hear. “And you will be a wonderful partner. But, let me ask you, if they cut your bonus by ten percent, would you and Dan be on the street?”
“No, but banana is coming and I remember someone joking about how expensive we were. We need the bonus.” I joked.
“Jessica, stop joking around. Would it change your life?”
I wanted to say that she didn’t get it. That, if you worked ten percent less, you got twenty percent less, if you’re lucky. How you were only as good as last month’s billing. That a pregnant woman may as well quit. How I shouldn’t care about it but I did. I didn’t want to go there with her, not now at least. So I lied. “I hear you, mom.”
She laughed, “you’re lying. I know you’re lying. I really hope you’re better than this in court.” I could tell that she had had enough.
I blew a raspberry at her. “Well, anyway, sorry I cut the day short.”
“It’s OK,” I could hear the lie in her voice. But, unlike her, I let it go, being the bigger woman. Literally and figuratively. “It takes two to tango. I didn’t mean to start on Evelyn.”
“It’s fine,” I said, letting it end there, for both our sakes. “So your calves hurt?”
“It was awful. It felt like I was running a marathon every time I walked more than from the front door to the bedroom.”
“I know,” I said. “It’s killing me. Jeanine, Mike’s secretary, told me to drink lots of water. It helps.”
She laughed, “Of course, then you have to pee.”
I was smiling. “Yeah, well, I’m doing that all the time anyway. I’m going to get a computer in there soon. Between that and the constipation…”
“Thank god, I didn’t have that. Well, not as bad as Helene, at least. I thought she was going to explode with Jordan.”
“Oh, yuck, ma. Now, when I look at him, I’m going to see poop.”
“Well, too bad. If you don’t like poop, wait a few months.”
“You know, you read all these books and they tell you what a wonder pregnancy is,” I laughed.
She said, “It is. I wonder where my body went. I wonder how much I can actually pee. I wonder who thought this was a good idea. But, in the end, it’s all worth it.” I started to tear up. “You’ll get through it. Everyone does.”
“That’s what they tell me,” I said.
“That’s what I’m telling you,” she said. “You know what? For someone so bright, you’re not very smart.”
“Since you were a baby, it’s always been ‘don’t worry about me. I can do it myself.’ Well, this is the time for everyone to worry about you, to do for you.” she laughed. “Use it to your advantage.”
“Yeah yeah. Can I get a do-over on today? I need stuff for Spain.”
She laughed, “we’ll see. Next Saturday?”
I took a deep breath. “OK. I love you mom.”
She sighed. “I love you too, Jessica. Don’t ever think I don’t. One thing, save the food jokes for your father and tell him the same. Please.”
December 9. I was twenty four weeks pregnant. The baby was now, according to my app, a cantaloupe and I was visibly pregnant. I looked like I had a basketball under my shirt and my breasts were two cups sizes larger.
That morning, at about 10 AM, Danny and I were sitting on the couch, reading and watching ‘Sports Center’ with the sound off. My phone rang. “Get that please,” I said. It was on the other side of the coffee table charging and reaching across, with my ever growing bump, was getting harder. Besides, I decided that I was pregnant, Danny wasn’t and that he could therefore do things for me. To his credit, he did most of it with a smile. The only charge was that he would kiss my belly every time and say, “say ‘daddy,” to see if he could get the baby to kick.
He kissed my belly and smiled. “Thumper kicked. Thanks, Thump” We didn’t know what we were having so, given its tendency to kick at inopportune moments (sleeping, meetings, etc), it became ‘Thumper.’ Plus, that was gender neutral. I didn’t want to know. Sammie told me, ‘you’re being ridiculous. You live in an apartment. You have to get it ready,’ but I didn’t want to know. Maybe I was silly, but I liked the idea of a surprise. Besides, between Michelle, Sammie and Laura, I’d have enough clothes, no matter what. I went back and forth on whether it was a boy or a girl. My mother said that the way I was carrying, all in front, meant ‘boy.’ Evelyn said, ‘I had a dream it was a girl.’ Yoram said, ‘maybe we shouldn’t put labels on it.’
He looked at the phone, “Carrie?”
I said, “Jill’s friend, Emily’s mom?” He rolled his eyes and handed me the phone “Oh hey, Car. Oh please, you don’t have to thank me. SHE,” and Carrie laughed, knowing what the meant, “is welcome any time. I’m glad she had a good time at the Guggenheim, that age you never know.” Danny went into the bedroom. “Oh, that is so nice of you.” He came out, dressed for a run. “Danny, Carrie invited us to their holiday party on the 23rd.” He gave me a look like ‘huh’ then shrugged and said, ‘OK.’ “I can’t wait. Now, I just need a festive enough mumu.” I laughed, “thanks. I don’t feel beautiful. I feel like a parade float. I couldn’t even go to the Westside around Thanksgiving. Next thing, Al Roker would be doing commentary on me. Well, I can’t wait for the party. Just let me know what to bring. Yes, Jill and I would bring something to our own hanging. Love you,” and I hung up. Danny stared at me. “What?”
“What nothing. So, Chappaqua on the 23rd. I’m going for a run,” he said, abruptly.
“Sure,” I said. I hated that he could go for a run and I couldn’t but I was proud of him. I may have gained 20 pounds but he was vigilant about keeping fit. He joked ‘no baby weight for me. I won’t lose it in three months.’ “Remember, we have Michelle and Amanda at 1.” The Wednesday after my mother and I had gone shopping, she had the baby, a boy. I won the pool.
“I know,” he said, shoving his keys in his pocket. “I will be back in plenty of time,” he said, in what sounded like a growl.
I got up and gave him a kiss. “Are you OK?”
“Fine. I just want to get a run in. OK?”
“Sure. Have a good time. Wish I could join you,” I said, as the door closed.
He came back from his run around 12:15. “Hey honey,” he said, giving me a kiss. “I needed that.”
“I’m glad” I said. “Now you need a shower. Go. Come on. I want to get to Michelle and Amanda.”
“Please,” he said, teasing me by waving his armpit in my face like a child. “You want to see the baby.”
“Whatever. Go shower.”
We went over to Amanda and Michelle’s around 1 o’clock. Michelle met us at the door, holding the baby. Sebastian Andrew Richards-Maniscalco. 7 pounds, 3 ounces. 19 ½ inches long, 17 ½ of which was that name. Michelle had gained about thirty pounds during her pregnancy and lost about 15 after she gave birth. Like Sammie after Charlotte, she looked tired. Her hair was pulled back and she was wearing a maternity shirt and leggings. “Sorry,” she said, “I just don’t have it in me to dress up.”
Danny gave her a kiss, “Oh please, Michelle. You look beautiful.”
She smiled, “You’re a shitty liar, but thanks all the same,” she said, handing me the baby. “Here you go, Jess. I know that’s who you came to see anyway.”
I ignored her, taking him in my arms. “Sebastian,” I sang. “Who’s the baby with the longest name? Who’s the baby who’s going to need extra time for the SAT just to bubble it in? You are. You are.”
Amanda walked in and said, “You are such a freak, Jessie.” and gave me a kiss. “How are you doing?” She, Michelle and I talked for a little while about leg pain and constipation, while Dan sat on the couch, checking his phone.
“I’m not the one who gave him the name that uses a whole rack of Scrabble tiles,” I said, kissing her on the cheek. “How are you guys doing?” I knew the answer. They were tired. I asked in the same way you say, ‘how are you?’ Conversational filler and social nicety. “Do you want us to take Sebastian for a walk? You can rest.”
Michelle gave me a look that said, hopefully, ‘you would do that?’ while Amanda said, “Thanks, but I think we could both use adult conversation.” I could see a fight brewing behind Michelle’s eyes.
I sat down on the couch, with its burping towels and stuffed developmental toys covering it. I rested Sebastian on the bump and just stared at him. “Hey, Sebastian. Say hi to baby. I bet you two are going to be best friends,” and I looked up at Michelle, who smiled then yawned. “Like me and mommy.” He yawned and then moved his little hands. I was entranced.
He started to fuss and Michelle said, “do you want to feed him?”
She was breastfeeding and I said, “um, mine aren’t working just yet and are yours detachable?”
Amanda laughed, “Mona and Carl are coming in tonight to sit, so Michelle expressed.” Then, she said, “hey, Dan, why don’t you give it a shot?”
Danny looked up. “Sorry, what?”
I handed the baby to him and said, to Michelle and Amanda as much as him, “weren’t you listening? Amanda asked if you wanted to feed the baby.”
He looked surprised and then smiled, “don’t you want to do that?”
I smiled and said, “I’m going to have plenty of chances soon enough.” I thought I saw a flicker of annoyance cross his face and then he said, with a smile, “sure. Hand him over.” He looked at Sebastian and said, “hey, buddy. Let’s have some guy time. You and me.” He looked at Michelle and said, “got any pizza?” She rolled her eyes. “Beer?”
I watched Danny feed him. He did all the right things. He smiled. He talked to him - remember ‘Go Dolphins. Boo Jets’ - and he even burped him. But, he kept looking at us and saying, ‘I’m not an idiot. I did this with my niece.’ And he kept giving me strange looks.
That night, we were on the west side, at the big theater on 68th. We were going to see the new Paul Thomas Anderson movie that everyone was talking about. It starred Daniel Day-Lewis which meant everyone already had the Oscar trophy engraved for him. We had invited Amanda and Michelle but they both said that, ‘we’re getting a night off. We want to talk to each other, not sit in a theater for three hours.’ Michelle told me later that they spent most of dinner yawning and talking about the baby.
We came out of the movie and Danny laughed, “I can’t believe that I let you drag me to this.” He never liked Paul Thomas Anderson movies. He said, ‘they’re boring. Like they’re visually interesting but they are soooo long.’ “How did I let you do this to me?”
I patted my belly, “How did I let YOU do THIS to me?” I laughed. We were walking out of the movie. “It wasn’t that bad,” I said, “come on. The cinematography was fantastic and he has to win the Oscar.”
He smiled and said, “yeah yeah yeah. Right, Thump?” he said to my belly, when I heard, “Jess?”
I looked up and it was Lori and Steven. I hadn’t seen her since that day at the diner. I hadn’t spoken to her since she canceled plans on me. She had lost about 40 pounds and looked much better. Still far from beautiful but better. “Lor?” We each looked the other up and down. “Ohmigod, how are you?” I said, faking it and giving her a peck on the cheek.
She smiled, air kissing me and giving me the same fake smile. “Fine. How are you doing? How far along are you?”
“Five months,” I said. “Fine. Tired. Getting big. I think I gained all the weight you lost. You look amazing.”
She looked at me for a second and said, “Thanks. Mazel Tov.” I noticed that she didn’t reciprocate and I looked at Danny, who betrayed no emotion whatsoever.
“Mazel Tov,” Steven said. We stood there for a second and I could see in his eyes that there was something going unsaid. For whatever reason, my instinct kicked in and I looked down at her left hand, on which there was a diamond. I picked up her hand. “Mazel tov to you guys! When is the big day?”
She smiled, although smirked might be a more apt description. “End of the month. December 30.”
Danny gave me a look and then said, “that’s terrific! Where?” He gave her a hug and she tensed up. I wondered if she remembered all that she used to say about me.
“Abigail Kirsch in Westchester,” she said, never taking her eyes off me.
“That’s really great, Lor. I’m really happy for you.” And I was. I feared for Steven, but was happy for her. This was what she wanted. “That’s a beautiful ring,” I said. “Good job, Steven,” giving him a fist bump.
He hunched up his shoulders, which he always did when things got tense which, with Lori, was often. I could see that he caught the look Lori gave him and he made a noticeable effort to relax. “Thanks.” I could see him thinking about what happened when he asked why we weren’t invited.
Danny said, “do you guys want to get coffee?”
Steven said, “OK,” and Lori cut him off with a look. “I would love to,” she said, in the same insincere tone Jess said Lori’s mother would use when Jess got dressed up, “but I have to be up early tomorrow. I have things to do for the wedding. Check with the florists, shop for bridesmaid’s gifts, you remember, Jess…”
Bitch. “I totally get it, Lori. I have to shop for our trip to Spain, it’s our babymoon. Then, when we get back, it’ll be getting ready for Thumper here,” I said, patting my belly and hating myself for the totally catty bitch I was being. “But we should definitely get together. Call me when you get back.”
She smiled, “I will.” She wouldn’t and neither would I. I imagined that, other than chance meetings, this was it.
“Tell your parents Mazel Tov for us,” I said, sweetly.
We walked away. I went to take Danny’s hand and he pulled it away. “Hello?”
“What?” he snapped.
“You pulled your hand away!” He reached over and grabbed my hand angrily. I pulled mine away. “Don’t do me any favors. What’s wrong with you?”
“What’s wrong with me? Seriously?”
“Yeah. What’s wrong?”
“My oldest friend is getting married.”
“Lori? Your oldest friend? Really? When was the last time you spoke to her?”
“That’s not the point,” he grumbled.
“Yeah, it is. She’s such a good friend and you haven’t spoken to her in two years at least.”
“That’s your fault!”
I stopped on the street. “Excuse me?” I bounced on the balls of my feet to keep my legs from tightening up.
“You heard me. It’s your fault. You drove her away!”
“I drove her away? Do tell. How did I drive her away? She’s the one who drove me away.”
“You wanted her to,” he said, getting angrier.
“No, I didn’t.”
“She’s a Debbie Downer,” he said, in a mocking tone. “She canceled on me. I’m not calling her. You could have called her.”
“Are you fucking serious?” I said. Out of the corner, I could see couples looking at us, the women staring daggers at Danny while the men all but said, ‘better you than me’ and practicing their ‘I know, what a prick’ speeches for later. “She cancels on me. She gives me shit about losing weight and my clothes, she doesn’t call, but I drove her away.”
“You made her feel bad. And now we’re not going to the wedding.”
“She calls,” and I had to pause and think pronouns, “me an emasculating bitch and you passive-aggressive and I made her feel bad? She gives me shit about what I eat and I made feel her bad? I feel pretty fucking bad right now and it’s your fault, you asshole! And all you care about is a fucking wedding? Fuck you. I’m going home,” and I hailed a cab. One pulled up and I went to get in. He started to follow me in. “Fuck you. Walk home,” I said, slamming the door. The cab pulled away and I cried. I hated that he and I had fought at all, but over Lori? She had wanted to drive us apart and she did, at least for tonight.
I came home and sat on the couch, a pillow pulled up against my stomach, and I cried. Forty-five minutes after I came home, I heard the key turning in the lock. “Hey,” Danny said, coming in. His eyes were red.
“Were you crying?” I said.
“Yes. Does that make you feel better?”
“No,” I said. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m sorry that I was an asshole to you,” he said, sitting down next to me and putting his hand on mine.
“What happened? We were having a good night and we saw Lori and you lost it. What happened, Danny?”
“That’s it. We saw Lori.”
“I don’t understand,” I said. “We haven’t seen her in over a year.”
“Uh huh,” he said, tears forming in his eyes.
“Uh huh, what Danny?” I said, hugging him. “I don’t understand.”
“You have Sammie and Michelle and Robin. You have my sister’s friends. You have my SISTER. Everyone loves Jessa. You have everything and,” and he cried.
“And what, honey? Please don’t cry.” My heart dropped. I felt awful.
“And when I saw Lori I realized it. I have nothing. She and I were best friends since we were nine years old.” I wanted to say you were co-dependent frenemies that brought out the worst in each other. “She was my bridesmaid,” which sounded absurd coming from him, after all these months, “and I always figured, if she ever got married, that I’d be hers, maybe even her maid of honor, but now she’s getting married and I won’t even be a guest. I know that sounds ridiculous to you.”
I thought about it. “It doesn’t, Danny. I didn’t mean to drive her away.”
“I know you didn’t,” he said. “I’m sorry I said that…”
“You’re not just saying that because I’m pregnant?”
He laughed, “No. I mean you left and every woman just glared at me. I thought they were going to beat me up. You have everything. You have your old friends. You have your new friends….”
“You have lots of friends too. Mark, Larry, everyone.”
He said, “It’s not the same.” It wasn’t. I remembered back then. You were close but you didn’t talk. I also remembered every time someone’s wife or girlfriend was pregnant. All anyone said was a variation of ‘good luck, you’ll need it.’
I looked at him, “Are you jealous?”
He blushed and looked away, “No….”
“It’s totally normal, you know. All the websites say that.”
He took a deep breath, “Do they cover when your husband used to be you?”
“Wow,” I said, in shock, “I guess I never...I just thought...I thought you were happy about this.” I felt nauseous. “I mean, it’s not like we can do anything about it…” He went to touch my arm and I reflexively pulled it away.
“No no no,” he said. “I am just fucking up left and right tonight. I don’t mean that. Not at all. I don’t want to be pregnant. You are so much better at it than I could ever be, would have ever been, it’s not funny, it’s just…”
I thought for a second. In his eyes, I saw the old Jess. The one who felt like an afterthought. Jill’s younger sister. The judge and the doctor’s other child. Dan’s wife. She was never that to me but you can’t make someone see what they don’t want to see, no matter how much you do. I took his hand. “I get it.”
“I feel like an idiot,” he mumbled. “Do you ever think about it?”
I looked at him. “Sometimes. Not often. I’m just trying to get through the day without having an accident. I have nightmares about it every so often.” I had a dream about Spain. We were at the airport and the customs agent checked my passport and said, ‘you are not Jessica Silverman, sir,’ and then he took me to a room where everyone pointed at me and laughed. I took Dan’s hand. “I’m sorry if you feel like I’m taking all the attention.”
“Stop,” he said. “You’re supposed to. You’re pregnant. You’re mommy. Me? I did one thing.”
I smiled, “And you did it very well,” I said, in a deliberately patronizing tone.
“Haha. I feel even stupider. I know you didn’t drive her away. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t. You’re entitled to your feelings. Can I tell you? It hurt when she told us it was the end of the month. It really did. Even when you know something’s over, it’s weird when it actually is, y’know?”
“Yeah. Please don’t be mad at me.”
I smiled, “Well, how do you suppose you’re going to make it up to me?”
He took my right leg in his hands and began rubbing it. “I saw you bouncing up and down. Calves bothering you?”
“Yes,” I said, “that feels so much better. Thank you.”
“I am really sorry.” Then he smiled, “That went really well. We wouldn’t come to your stupid wedding anyway because we will be in Spain, because I AM HAVING A BABY, BITCH and then, once we get back, we have to shop for THE BABY I AM HAVING BITCH WHICH YOU ARE NOT.”
I waved my left hand in his face. “Poor Steven, poor poor Steven,” I said, laughing.
“I know. Poor guy. He looks miserable. And it’s only going to get worse. I can’t even imagine how Bridezilla she is. Please tell me I wasn’t that bad.”
I laughed. “No.” Then I laughed some more.
“What?” He said.
“I’m trying to picture you in a wedding dress...yecch.”
“I love you, Jessa.” He leaned down and kissed my belly. “You too, Thumper. Ow!”
“He kicked me in the face.”
I put my hand on my belly, “Good Thumper…Are you really OK? Do you want me to call her to get together? I will...” I didn’t want to, but would for him.
He sighed, “No. You were right about her. I guess it just hit home. God, I’m a mess.”
“No more than me,” I said. “Give the pregnant woman a kiss.” And he did.
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.