When I hit the long-awaited 12-week mark in what would prove to be my first successful pregnancy, I rushed out and bought a triple-pack of Gerber's one-piece sleepers. Size newborn, in non-gender-specific colors. I hit Barnes and Noble for a copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting and, taking the book to the register, I tried to look like a person who was purchasing it for someone else. As if maybe, if I let my guard down and wore the expression of someone who was newly pregnant and optimistic about it, I would jinx the whole endeavor.
My sister had cautioned me not to buy anything at all until I was at least twelve weeks. Waiting longer would be better. She was looking out for me, of course, worried that if things didn't work out, I'd have tangible reminders of what I'd dared to hope for. This was practical and very wise, but I was a person who really, really wanted a baby. I tried to ignore my condition not to guard my hopeful little heart, but because I believed that wanting a thing too badly was the surest way to lose it.
After all, I had so little proof. A little queesiness. A pink line on the pregnancy test stick. A blinking dot on the ultrasound screen. Could a real-live human--only the size of a grain of rice at this point--actually be growing inside of me?
I've treated my writing aspirations with the same white-knuckle restraint. If I wanted it too badly, it just wouldn't happen. I wrote on the sly, literally hiding away in closets and attic knee-walls, perched atop a pile of scratchy pink insulation.
When I was pregnant, I became an obsessive food label-reader. I quit eating hotdogs and feta cheese and tuna. I never, ever slept on my back, and I regularly took my prenatal vitamins even though they made me horribly nauseous.
Amazing what we think we can control. What good-luck rituals we cling to. On some level, I knew it was completely ridiculous to believe that my not eating hotdogs was what was keeping my gestating fetus alive. That my baby would be born, healthy and perfect, if I kept myself back from stocking up on too much dreft detergent. That writing where no one could see me would somehow make the writing better.
We try not to get our hopes up. We try not to be too audacious, to think too much of ourselves.
The irony is, of course, that these little rituals are fueled almost entirely by hope. By a bloated--and deluted--sense of our own power.
Of course, writing a book and carrying a baby are completely different in a number of ways. My body really did put that little person together with little help from my consious self, but I have to engage in a whole different level--I have to work like hell--to get a book or a story or even, sometimes, a sentence together.
And while I feel that, in either case, it really is important to keep our expectations in check, I also think there's something to be said for hoping. Essentially, to me, writing anything is about hoping it into existance. It's about building the baseball diamond and waiting for the players to emerge from the cornfield. Or about building the arc and waiting for the rain to start. Buying the three-pack sleepers and waiting for the thing inside me to undergo untold numbers of cell divisions, the growing and growing and growing--all those months of hope--into a tiny creature large enough and strong enough to inhabit what I've prepared for it.