They told her there would be problems. There were already complications. She’d been confined to bed rest, her swollen belly resting on a curved pillow she tucked between her spongy thighs. Daytime television already bored her, the bright figures with their asinine banter and helmet-like hair. Soaps were too confusing – and dull – and she just couldn’t stomach the mentally unstable women appearing on Dr. Phil. Only Jeopardy! was a relief to watch, but even that became monotonous after a few weeks.
Still, the boredom, the sacrifice of her independence and freedom was worth it. She could feel the pebble of life growing in her, and now she rubbed her hand over her tight abdomen.
Yes, it was worth the complications.
She pushed back stringy black hair from an unwashed, freckled face and reached over to the nightstand. Dan left a tray for her every morning before he went to work; today’s selection was brittle toast and peanut butter. She snapped off a corner to pop in her mouth and leaned back into poufy, goose-down pillows. The remote, her constant companion these days, rested next to her on the twisted sheets.
She’d recently come to the conclusion that this sliver of leisure time would be her last for the foreseeable future. Once the baby came, out would go Tracy of Sleeping In, Midnight Movie Premieres and Luxuriant Baths accompanied by Bestselling Novels. In would come Tracy, the Mother. She couldn’t wait.
Wiggling her toes in excitement, she allowed herself one bubbling giggle. She’d been so lucky to get pregnant in the first place, she thought, surfing through channels so swiftly they flashed by in a rainbow-like blur. All of her friends, bless their hearts, were still trying. Junie had just come to terms with IVF, Maude had suffered her second miscarriage a few months ago. But Tracy, she’d been blessed within weeks. Of course, Dan hadn’t known they’d been trying, but he’d come around. And he’d come around again, after the baby was born.
Yes, this baby was going to be perfect.
Dan still needed to get started on the nursery, too. He’d been reluctant to take on any projects, and the stack of books she’d given him lay unread on the floor next to his side of the bed. She knew he’d been avoiding them. The spines hadn’t even been cracked.
She sniffed, settled on a rerun of “A Baby Story” on TLC. It seemed appropriate (though why women got their pregnant tummies and enlarged breasts encased in plaster to paint and hang over their fireplaces was beyond her; how weird). She snuggled down into the pillows and pulled a soft blanket over her legs. When the phone rang, she reached out a hand, stretched to pick up the handset.
“Tracy, dear, it’s Mom.”
“How are you feeling, honey?”
“I’m fine, Mom.”
“Just…have you given any thought to what the doctor said?”
“He didn’t say anything. The baby is perfectly healthy.”
“Well, honey, that’s not what Dan said.”
“Mom, who cares what Dan said. He’s barely putting forth any energy over this.”
Tracy snapped off another piece of toast. Crumbs scattered over the unmade bed.
“But, honey, Dan told me what the doctor said about the baby’s problems.”
“What problems? There are no problems.”
“Tracy. Are you listening to yourself? The baby has defects. Cerebral palsy. Who knows what else?”
“Defects? What kind of word is that, Mom? Jesus. No, she doesn’t. Leave me alone. I’m very busy right now, and I don’t have time to talk.”
“Wait, Tracy, please. I’m concerned about you. I just want to–”
Tracy clicked off the call and tossed the phone on the carpeted floor, just out of reach should someone else call. She was done talking for the day. The only one she felt like conversing with was her sweet little baby.
She watched the flickering screen before her, watched as a woman gave birth to a red, squalling newborn. That would be her in just a few weeks. She was giddy with anticipation. (Although her baby would come out plump and pink, just like in the movies.) She’d already spent hundreds of dollars online shopping for adorable little girl outfits. Satin dresses with frothy lace and matching bloomers. Pink and purple onesies in soft organic cotton. A turquoise tulle skirt with matching slippers. A pink terrycloth robe with a hood sporting hippo ears.
Now the computer sat on a tray in the corner of the bed, its screen black and blank. Dan had taken her credit cards, forbidden her to keep shopping for a baby he supposedly didn’t want. Said he didn’t want to take care of. Couldn’t understand why they hadn’t terminated the pregnancy when the test results came back.
Tracy wiped at the hot tears now streaming down her puffy cheeks and dropping off her chin into the folds of her neck. Their baby was going to be perfect. Just perfect.
Humming a lullaby, Tracy opened a jar of cocoa butter and rubbed it over her stretch marks.
“I love you, baby,” she whispered.
Then she puckered her lips and sent it a kiss.