Laurence hates that I call our unborn child “the creature”. It apparently sounds like something gooey and mean out of Alien vs. Predator, nothing cuddly, cute or even human. First he suggested “critter” as a reasonable compromise but I inconveniently wouldn’t have it on the basis of it conjuring up the cast of Bambi for me, not at all reflecting the strangeness on my insides. Finally, he gave up and has taken to calling the baby “boo”, wincing whenever I refer to “the creature”.
I fully expect my heart to break with joy at the sight of someone so tiny, fragile and, after it’s been given a few days for its features to become un-smooshed, cute. In fact, I already feel a strong connection with the creature. From the day five pregnancy tests confirmed our news (the doctor claimed that was a record) to the sight of that itty bitty heartbeat on the screen to last night when I realised that my protruding belly was taking on a distinctly baby-bump shape, I’ve been in love.
Still, it doesn’t feel like I’m carrying anything remotely cuddly. An alien life-form has taken over my body. Some strange kind of parasite is making my breasts so painful I have to stop in my tracks and tell myself to breathe when I’m at the supermarket. I was ready for the morning sickness (got it), the exhaustion (boy did I get it), even the varicose veins which run in my family but thankfully haven’t hit me yet. Instead, I’m vividly dreaming that I’m a hunted witch, spending more of my bedtime hours awake than asleep and suddenly finding that no seated position is comfortable. These things I hadn’t bargained for.
What is it with the creature? Does it not know that mummy needs to sleep in order to earn a living so we can pay for luxuries like rent and indoor heating? No, the creature is wrapped up warm in my innards and doesn’t notice the sub-zero temperatures we’re dealing with outside. And, on the subject of “what is it with”, why on earth does the creature like lemons so much? My lips are dry and sore with biting into them but nowadays they taste better than Phish-food ice-cream.
The name-calling thing seems to me to be part of the pressure on women to find pregnancy the most wonderful experience of their lives. Ever ever ever. Of course, I’m not going to deny that on one level this is true. Carrying another human life inside you for months and months, physically preparing it to meet the world is, as ideas go, pretty cool.
But it’s hard. And when women do admit to having a rough time, they usually share their war stories of 36-hour labours and how many times they vomited in the car park at ASDA with glints of glee in their eyes. There’s a kind of pride attached to suffering for their little bean or bump (I knew one woman who called hers ‘bubble’) that I find nothing short of bizarre.
Let’s call pregnancy what it is, wonderful but inconceivably weird, beautiful and, at times, a frightful, yucky but necessary experience. And, in that vein, let’s lose the overly-cutesy nicknames for our fetuses.