I have to stop calling him Fred. This is not because we're not going to name him Fred, or something like that. He, if he stays the he that we believe he is, will be named Fred sans fail. No, I have to stop calling him Fred because it's making a problem right now.
It's making me mechanical.
I found this out by not calling him Fred for once. I found this out a few minutes ago lying on my couch, drinking some cold water. Cold things and sweet things (and also hot things and...anything I ingest at all) make this child move around. Evening does it, too, makes him move. The operative word in this paragraph, though, is "child".
There's a human child in there. It's not as obvious as you might think. It's particularly easy to forget, weirdly, if you are the person carrying the child. This whole thing can just seem like a large, semi-permanent medical condition wherein your midsection expands and a little constellation of other symptoms gather around it, and this midsection does some occasional flips and things. And even though you know it's a baby, your baby, it just gets to be background noise. Also, it's just par for the course to fall metaphorically asleep and sleep through your life and organize yourself in such a way that you aren't rousable, aren't disturbable. Par for my course, at least. You may be a wide-awake, blinking, vividly present monk type who eats a wild strawberry and enjoys it with every cell while a tiger chases you over a cliff to your death and you feel that, too. My waking moments are few and far between, I'm afraid, as much as I love them.
But I at least had one this evening, and it happened when I was able to strip away or at least manage in time not to add unnecessary language to the moment when the child I'm carrying moved in response to the cold water. Bang. Awake. Me. I was.
I comprehended that there was a human child in there. Not "my" child, because that puts a whole story on to the situation, a story that I already know and makes me fall asleep. No, a child. A human child. Not mine. Just in me. A child, shifting around, trying for a better position or reacting involuntarily to the cold. I was more moved by "a" child than "my" child, because "a" child is all children, everywhere. Helpless. This was a flash of something primal. Throw a child upon the earth without its parents or someone to care for it and it will die. A child in nature. Small limbs, confusion, need.
This activated something in me so much more maternal than the phrase "my child" or even more instinct-killingly, the name "Fred" does. Naming the child is necessary, but it's also distancing. You start relating to some imaginary idea of who this child is. It's the difference between an empty picture frame and a picture frame with a random photograph of an attractive model that you haven't taken out yet. Calling this baby "Fred" before we know him feels like sticking the frame up with the photograph of the model in it and imagining that this model is our loved one.
I'm getting very large, and it's physically painful in ways that are new to me. A few blood cells have burst inside the skin on my stomach, leaving some tender red dots here and there. These red dots exist, and I struggle when I walk sometimes, because of a child who is curled up in my middle. A person. Another person. The other person I keep forgetting about. A person is dangling off of the front of me, encased in my skin.
I know that you know that. But it's news to me.
I'll tell you something nice that's come of this realization. I've been talking about this pregnancy a lot, naturally. I get self-conscious about that, and also self-conscious about simply being a pregnant woman - particularly a pregnant woman with another child, already. I'm thrown so centrally into my identity as a mother. Or worse, or more tritely, a mom. A mom! Hi, I'm a mom. Just a mom! Oh, you know us moms. Recommended by Dr. Mom. It's easy to feel that being pregnant and discussing it, or being a mother and discussing it, or just being either of those things at all is somehow inherently ridiculous or trite. I keep looking at myself through other people's imaginary eyes and getting bored or irritated with my very existence.
But my small moment of awakeness and accompanying burst of fierce maternal instinct to care for this human child within me cured me, at least for a bit. Mothers are ubiquitous, yes. "Moms." It's not unique. It's not "special". It is, however, extremely real and can cut all of the civilization out of you in a heartbeat. You are dropped right into the middle of the wilderness, an internal wilderness, and just like the child in utero reacting to the cold water, you respond to the child's presence involuntarily. You reach for it.