When I was pregnant with Zoey I was ugly. Bloated, broken out, rashy, oily, peeling, peeing like a lap dog at the sound of every doorbell, a cautionary tale for doing it. You must be having a girl, somebody at work once commented, and when I asked why she said that being pregnant with a boy makes you glow while a girl steals your beauty. I didn't even have it in me to feel slighted. She was right: I was a beast, my nose somehow twice its size. My face felt different when I smiled, although I did not smile often.
I became addicted to Afrin and Babycenter when I was pregnant, breathing through my mouth while I whispered aloud names, all of which ended in a question mark. Once a month I got a prenatal massage and the masseuse would push her finger into the yeasty loaf of my ankle before she would agree to work on me. Please plump back up, precariously perched on the table like a bead of boba tapioca, I would close my eyes and pray, not so much because I was afraid of edema but because I so desperately wanted to be touched. I craved satsuma tangerines when I was pregnant, would buy them in bulk and pile them on my desk like post-its come unglued, the fleshy sections falling apart they were so ripe. At night I would lie awake in bed trying to remember which side was best to sleep on, where was my liver, something about my kidneys, and why it was all so important. I hardly slept. One night in the third trimester, between clumsy traipses to the bathroom, I dreamt that I unzipped my belly and pulled my baby out to play. The baby cupped my face and cooed; I laughed. It was a joke, a secret, sshhh, something between us, and I was so sad when I realized it was time to zip my baby back in. When I woke up, my nipples were oozing colostrum.
Last night I made stir-fry, the vegetables over-steamed, loose, the rice overcooked, crunchy as maggots, the kitchen a mess, the faucet still dripping, my stomach flat; I was not hungry. Why is there always so much shit on the floor? At bedtime, the blessed hour of 8, after filling a cup of water, after finding the step-stool, after brushing the teeth, the tongue, the hair, after filtering through the pile of diapers to find one with a picture of three princesses, not one, four diapers rejected for the royalty of being too blond, I bent down to kiss my baby goodnight. I love you Mama. I love you most. No, I love you most, in the warmth of each other's breath we played our game of modification, on and on, more and most, the best. But then Zoey cupped my cheeks with her hands and cooed: Most bootiful, and I breathed it in and kept it there, this old wives tale of misplaced modifiers, of things stolen and then given back in bounty. It is mine, this secret, to pull out and play with, to zip back in for safekeeping. *Slightly creepy felted womb from here.