Wednesday, February 12, 2014
An Octopus Thrown Onto Land
As soon as your mother was pregnant, I subscribed to baby updates from Babycenter.com. I thought it would be fun to follow along with your physiological development. I have this habit, when baking, to peek into the oven here and there to see how the bread is coming along. So every week, Baby Center sends an update with a description of fetal growth. How the organs are developing, how the brain is developing, when certain behaviors begin to occur, etc.
This morning, however, I had a surreal experience. I received an e-mail, accompanied by a picture of a fetus crammed into a uterus. "Your pregnancy is 26 weeks old," the title read. "14 weeks to go!"
Seeing that e-mail made me understand better an unsettling feeling I've had since the day you were born. It feels almost like you are stuck in some liminal state between born and unborn. A time, in full-term babies, that exists for just the flash of an instant: between birth and the cutting of the umbilical cord. But you? Everything about you screams: "I don't belong here, yet."
When I watch you move, there's almost a kind of disbelief to your gestures. Your arms flail too fast and too far because there is neither liquid to slow them or the soft barrier of the womb to stop them. You open your mouth to gulp down amniotic fluid, but it remains agape a little too long, as though you are surprised at how thin the fluid is. You remind me of an octopus thrown onto shore: a swift predator that jets around deftly in the ocean where it belongs, but a stranded pile of goo on land.
In the months before you were born, I remember sitting often at my computer, rifling through artistic renderings of embryos and fetuses at various stages of development. 8 weeks. 10 weeks. 15 weeks. 21 weeks. I'd smile and mutter, "So that's what you look like right now, little proto-baby." Then I'd squint at your mother and superimpose those images over her belly. Now, when I look at you in the NICU, part of me feels like I'm STILL looking at those pictures.