Chapter 9 The Monster Within
By Chris Wilson
It has to be said that there are some things that happen in life that that nearly all of us would much rather avoid, as they may be painful, destructive, parasitic or just plain revolting. Pregnancy, especially for larger animals such as ourselves, encompasses all of these unpleasant values, so before we get going lets get a couple of things absolutely straight. As a couple or individually, depending on individual preference and circumstances, you may well look forward to the tiny patter of feet during infancy, and the wonderful years ahead when this child of your dreams develops to stand shoulder to shoulder by your side. What you are not going to enjoy, unless you are a dedicated masochist, is the misery you will have to endure before these happy days and years occur.
Sorry all you mums and dads to be, it is going to be nine months of pain, uncertainty, progressively increasing change, and for the mother a mortifying destruction of personal pride and privacy; and there is nothing, but nothing either of you can do about it. Call it mother nature in the raw, call it plain vindictiveness, call it what you will, it is our cross, and we have to bear it, otherwise we, as a species, would simply die.
How does it all start, well most of us have got a fair idea of how such things occur, so I doubt whether sex education needs to be part of our equation, but let us say that with a hump and a grunt, and a sticky little lump, and the dirty deed is done. That’s all conception is really, so now we move on to when a woman first announces she is pregnant, what is the guy to do then? The best thing to do is to ask him, so let’s turn to our old friend Bob. There he is gently snoring his head of. It is spring, love is in the air and all is right with the world.
Sunday morning has always been special for Bob and Sue, especially since they have been married, as this is the one day in the week that they can spend together. As such they have long decided that the day shall begin with breakfast in bed, followed by a day of absolute serenity where nothing unpleasant or unhealthy will ever occur. As we join them we find Bob still asleep under the duvet, while Sue quietly opening the door and carrying in a tray. Do we smell fresh coffee and croissant, or is the air perfumed with cinnamon, fresh bread and honey? Surprisingly not, and this is strange, for this is what they eat every Sunday without fail. As such items are not present, and as no pleasant aromas fill the room, then what exactly is in on the tray. We do not have to wait to long to find out, for as she places the tray on the bed she kisses Bob, smiles, and whispers just one single word in his ear.
Bob emerges from the duvet like a bad tempered giant sloth that has been woken far too early after a particularly heavy night on the beer. He is not a morning person, and now that he has been rudely awakened all he wants is coffee and food. As he is still sleepy it doesn’t occur to him that he cannot smell anything, so quite casually he looks at the items that have been placed before him.
This is the last casual act he will do this Sunday, and as he looks at three objects carefully laid on a plate before him, it slowly dawns on him that it is unlikely he will be doing anything casual for years. On the plate lie two knitted woollen bootees and a curious kind of a stick. Bright blue at one end, and with an enclosed clear panel at the other, he cannot read the script that seems to be held within, but all too soon the message becomes painfully clear. Pregnant, that’s all it says, just pregnant; but on reading that little word Bob’s life seems to crash around his ears. He has heard of what happens during pregnancy, the hideous facts have been whispered into his ears many times before, but up until now it has only been a word. Never mind, the foul deed is done, and now he and Sue must face the future as one. He looks up at Sue, she seems to be taking it very calmly, quietly, he wonders why.
The reason is actually very simple, as Sue has been planning her pregnancy for months; it’s just that she has decided to keep Bob in the dark. She loves Bob very much, but she knows that any mention of a baby will result in Bob getting out a calculator and proving to her that such an addition to their lives would both break the bank balance, and prove inconvenient in a bewildering variety of ways. In addition, as time has gone on, and her body clock has been quietly ticking all the time. Finally he has proved very much unaware of the clear messages she has been given him so, regrettably, more covert measures have had to be employed. Pills have been substituted; vitamin uptake and folic acid intakes have been increased, as well as a host of other measures to ensure a positive outcome. Such measures, as we see, have succeeded, and so it is that Sue now looks down at Bob with a new kind of assurance in her eyes.
Twenty minutes later she wishes that her stomach could have had the same assurance as her eyes, but all to no avail, morning sickness has arrived and, echoing the first spring cuckoo outside their bedroom window, it heralds the start of the first of three trimesters that Bob and Sue will have to endure. On this particular occasion the first thing that has to be done is to clean up, and this is a job that Bob certainly does not enjoy. Once eaten breakfast, he has always believed, should be both enjoyed within and retained within the body; for at least a few minutes anyway, and if by some unpleasant chance retention is impossible, a little direction as regards ejection should occur. This does not include throwing upon on your husband’s bared chest first thing on a Sunday morning.
Mercifully no such unpleasantness lasts forever so they move on, only for Bob to ask, quite reasonably, how such a thing happened. Some discussions between husband and wife are for their ears and their ears alone, and on such a delicate if urgent subject we should respect their privacy, but let us say an understanding is reached and from then on normality, whatever that may come to mean, is regained. Then comes the question of “phoning mother”. The phone is picked up, and the fun and games begin.
Bob’s parents are very laid back about the whole thing. They have a lot of time for Bob and Sue, and though they feel that Sue has been a little sly as regards her method of conception, they feel that at least now she will feel most of the physical and maybe mental pain. As regards Bob, they reckon he has had life just a little too easy for some while now and therefore it is time for him to toughen up. In their experience there is no better way to do so than by living with a pregnant mum. Lida, however, is a very different proposition, as Bob and Sue always knew she would be. No sooner than Sue says the word pregnant Lida starts to complain.
She wails that she is going to be a grandmother, and how could Bob and Sue such a thing to her; she simply isn’t ready. Sue is very cross, and tells her so in no uncertain terms. She reminds Lida about her present of a pregnancy bible, and of her present in return, asking her, very openly, which she would rather be i.e. a mum or a grandmother, and so it is that that Bob and Sue’s pregnancy is in full swing.
Very quickly Bob realises that all the books, articles, and advice they have been given are useless, and that it is impossible for him to understand just what Sue is going through. He can clean up the morning and all day sickness, he can mop up the tears, and sweep up the broken crockery caused Sues mood swings, and he can be there, if need be, when Sue wants him by her side, but he cannot enter her mind. He wishes he could, because it seems to him that more than one stranger has entered the family home. There is a monster inside Sue and it seems to be taking over both of their lives, and such is its power Bob feels that something else might be going on. Never mind, the books say that if Sue can just hold on until the second trimester then relief, temporary relief, will be at hand.
Sue on the other hand is feeling incredibly weird and irritable. Deep down she rationally knows that she really is to blame for her current situation, but then at present, what has that got to do with anything. Bob was the sperm donor, and he should have known better, therefore he is entirely to blame. So cue the tears and flying teapots, it’s not only salty water that will be dropping on the ground! However mum is also in the firing line. Sure she told Sue about the dubious joys of pregnancy, but it seemed so much easier when it was just words. Now her waistline is going haywire, she feels the taste of her own and the babies stomach are permanently wrapped around her tongue and tonsils, and worst of all everybody, but everybody, keeps on giving her apparently useless advice, or even worse they empathise. There she sits surrounded by mountains of books and healthcare literature, none of which she feels even remotely applies to her, and if she turns to her parents, and her nearest and dearest, what help does she get there? Her father just steps back into the shadows saying it’s women’s work; her mother just cackles with laughter and makes jokes about pregnancy, while Bob is the worst of all.
He not only gets more advice, but also has the cheek to tell her that he knows how she feels. As if he can ever know how she feels! He isn’t pregnant, and he isn’t vomiting all day long. Worse soon follows though, as within the week her outrageously happy family doctor gleefully points out that she is bearing twins. This is all Sue needs at this point, and she can’t even have her customary large glass of Gin. She soon pays her doctor back though as, through shock, she vomits again, all over the doctor’s nice clean white coat. Sue grins maliciously, that will teach her to give Sue such joyous news. This is the final act of Sues first trimester period, and somehow she finds such an act incredibly well trimmed as the sickness stops, and now she begins to think about food. Sue is hungry, very hungry, so God help anyone who now gets in her way.
In some respects Bob finds that living with Sue has become much easier. The anytime and anywhere sickness has abated, she now seems to be in tune with the rich summer sun, and more than ever they can get a real look at the twins. He does have two problems though, and one is definitely more pressing than the other. His longer-term thoughts turn towards bringing up the twins. One child, he feels, was acceptable, if a little unexpected, but twins are a different matter altogether. Never mind, he is sure they will survive get there in the end; but he is not too sure about the kitchen cupboards, fridge, and freezer. There is a strange animal guarding them all, and such is the power of this life force that anything that goes into such areas disappears without trace, never to surface again. As far as Bob is concerned it is as though a massive interstellar black hole has moved into the kitchen, and is voraciously consuming every item of food, and every emotion, that it possibly can. The universe has always fascinated him, but this is one phenomenon that he wishes would go away!
That animal of course is Sue and within her the rapidly growing twins, and though loving Sue as much as he will love the twins, he wishes they were not so perpetually hungry. Additionally he prays for the day when Sue and her daily diet might revert to how it was before the pregnancy arrived. Over the last six years he has got used to going to the supermarket with Sue, and strange though it was at the beginning, he has even got used to both what Sue likes and also to her manners and peculiarities of shopping; but now all that has changed. Now she patrols the supermarket shelves with all the clinical brutality of a tiger eying a herd of potential prey. As they approach the supermarket her eyes light up and she leans forward slightly, and as she picks up the jumbo trolley she seems to check the wheel bearings for acceleration and trim. Then comes the awful explosion. She enters the supermarket, and finally spots the shelves.
Laden with goodies, and securely fixed to the floor, neither the shelves nor their contents are any match for Sue, and God help any poor shelf stacker or security guy that gets into the way. She swarms around the store grabbing and snatching at anything her fingers can reach. One hand fills the trolley while the other dives into a huge bag of Bombay mix she has just grabbed, but not paid for, from aisle one. Junior staff members scatter or run, security staff hide behind the loo rolls, while some poor devil of a manager, comes over, opens his mouth, and tries to remonstrate with Sue. Then he sees her wild-eyed pregnant gaze, and quietly walks away. He has children himself, and the memories of his wife’s pregnancy and birth are all too recent and severe.
Mercifully such a trip comes to an end, but not before the checkout moment has had to be endured. While Sue has actually been shopping, Bob has been more concerned about Sue’s safety, and the safety of all those around her, rather than worrying about what Sue is buying, so it comes as a bit of a shock when he finally sees what he and Sue are about to consume. While he has been picking up old ladies and children that Sue has casually brushed to one side, and apologising to the ambient staff for the new mayonnaise display she has just destroyed, Sue has been extremely busy. Now as all the food is lined up on the conveyer belt, his heart sinks way down into the ground. He can see he will need a new bank loan, but will he need a new stomach as well? Throughout the pregnancy Sue has vindictively insists that what she eats he eats; after all, she reckons that, in marriage, everything should be shared. So it is that though on more meagre rations than Sue, he has eaten pickled onion and boiled egg curry and drowned in soups and potions until then not invented or discovered by man.
He just wishes she hadn’t bought that sack of coal, as they don’t even have a fire.
Never mind, he heroically prizes the nigh on empty bag of Bombay mix from her hand, albeit briefly, so that it might gets scanned. Then he gets out his wallet and prepares to pay. The cashier, a lovely lady in her forties, just looks at the food, then across towards Sue’s belly. She looks up at Sue, and smiles.
“ Twenty six weeks?”
Sue shakes her head
The lady smiles then just slowly shakes her head. She hands Sue a tissue as she can see Sue is a bit sweaty. She looks at Bob, smiles even more, then hands him a scanned bottle of brandy; his need, she feels, is greater than hers. Eventually they arrive home, after a stopping of on the way for an Indian take away, and once all the food is unpacked it is interesting to see how Sue behaves. During this period of the pregnancy she is actually very happy indeed. Yes she is always hungry, but at least what she eats stays down, and the good thing is that she is discovering some fascinating new combinations of food. God only knows why the twins are guiding her in this direction, and its true that none of her clothes fit any more, but all in all she’s ok; she is just not to sure what will happen next. Even she has heard of the third trimester, and somehow she senses that that will not be fun.
How right she is, for all concerned, and bang on cue the third trimester arrives. By this time the twin’s bodies are developing very quickly, and they are letting Sue know all about it whenever they can. Sue is by now huge, and experiencing all the joys she has been expecting. Back pain, heartburn, restlessness, sleeplessness, constipation and haemorrhoids; she has got the lot; as well being messed up emotionally. Let’s go into the house and see how she is coping. The answer, for all to see, is not very well. As we join her she is lying, or half propped up, on the marital bed. She is very hot, she has posed two questions, and she is crying; and through her tears she is seeking an immediate answer from Bob who is despairingly sitting by her side. She has asked him the two questions that he has been dreading, and now he has to decide what to say.
” Am I fat!” She asks him, and.”Do you still love me?
As far as he can see he has four options.
He could tell her that she is not fat, only pregnant, and that he does love her; but that carries risk of being accused of lying, blindness or sheer hypocrisy.
He could tell her, diplomatically, that he will love her when the birth is done, and that the bump, which is there will soon go away. He considers this carefully but keeps this card in reserve.
His third option is absolute honesty, but one look at Sue tells him that’s out of the equation.
Finally, of course, he considers saying absolutely nothing. The last option is, of course impossible so in the end the diplomatic option wins the day.
Of course he is sworn at, but at this stage of the game she cannot easily hit him so, all told, he escapes quite easily, but once the tears are mopped up, they realise they are going to need a little help from outside. Sue grabs a leaflet about birthing classes she has been reading, and hands it over to Bob. He reads the leaflet carefully, and then looks back towards Sue. Maybe it is the time to enrol.
It is very easy to recognise a birthing class, as we only need to look at who is there. At the front of the room stands the facilitator or organiser for the group. We know that she is in charge because she has all the equipment beside her, she is the only woman present who, on this particular occasion, does not look like a pregnant whale, and finally there is a combination of overdone joy and panic in her eyes. Why so, because she knows that she is going to terrify one half of the group, and get unknown and possibly destructive feedback from the other. So as she surveys the silent expectant group before her, what does she see?
Immediately before her lie a pod of extremely harassed, and pregnant whales. They are hot, sweaty, and ready and waiting to kill, and she has a sinking feeling that she might be their next victim. Behind them stand their partners, and what a bunch of terrified rabbits they seem to be. For those who have not been to such classes they try and prepare both partners for what is eventually to come. The classes cover embryonic and maternal development, breathing and relaxation, planning, birthing labour signs, birthing styles, and pain relief; as well as a host of other related goodies. This is all very laudable, but even if we casually observe what is going on the cracks begin to appear. If we look closer the chances are we will start laughing, as well as thanking God that we are not personally involved.
The organiser clears her throat and then she begins. Her first task is to welcome the group, and then to state that she hopes they are all enjoying their pregnancy, as well a looking towards the happy day to come. There is not even a laugh in the room, let alone a smile. This is going to be a difficult group, but nobody actually hits her, so she carries on. The class soon gets better though, for as the evening, and as the classes progress the class divides precisely as she expects.
The women, God bless them, are fantastic, they are having a wonderful time. At last they sense that someone is on their side, and that person actually understands how they are feeling inside. Sure they laugh at the non chemical pain relief during labour and eventual birth, and they are tickled pink when it is suggested that their respective partners should coach then during such a time, but, all in all, they remain relatively cheerful for most of the time. The husbands however are not doing so well. She knows that they are nervous even before they begin, but when she shows them their partner’s anatomy she sees them going very pale. Slowly the group progress’s, and gradually all seems to be going well.
But then things go wrong, and all the trust and control she has earned is rapidly flushed away. She is discussing men’s support during the final birthing moment, but looking at the attempts being made by the dads as regarding helping their partners, the organiser secretly thanks every deity that she can think of that none of the dads would come near or deliver her child. She therefore decides that in order to improve the situation her special birth video should be shown. Dim the lights, cue the action, and everybody stand clear.
By now the mums to be have lost all sense of responsibility, so laughing fit to kill they cheer when the baby emerges, weep for joy as yet more pain killers are pumped into the mums extended veins, and cackle with joy at both her language and the body of her spouse lying, out cold, on the floor. The guys however are shocked and silent, and one even tries, unsuccessfully, to crawl out of the room. They cannot believe what they are seeing, and inwardly they swear that they will never watch the film Alien again. At this point the organiser gives up and draws the evening and the sessions to a close. She has done all that she can do; now these poor saps will have to manage alone.
Surprisingly most couples do actually manage to get there in the end, but not without a few more terrors, comical moments and misunderstandings. So it is that once more we rejoin Bob and Sue. Actually we never left them, for they were at the classes we have just described. It was Sue that leading the pregnant posse during the video, and it was Bob who was trying to leave the room, but she soon had him back by her side. We now rejoin them shortly before Sue is about to give birth. She is in the hospital, Bob is by her side, and the doctor and midwife are quietly looking on. Let’s see what happens next.
Let us imagine we are looking at an Edwardian print where a birth has just taken place. There, in a spotlessly white hand embroidered nightdress lies a super radiant, slim, and amply bosomed mother. She is cool and fresh, and she has golden tresses of hair that softly caress her shoulders. Beside her stands a midwife who cradles a smooth clean Botticelli cherub that gently, and silently, smiles back at her. Looking around the room we see a home sweet home print on the wall, and floral print curtains, which softly frame two slightly opened windows which are themselves half buried in a jasmine clad cottage garden wall. The husband is also present, as any good husband should be, and he stands by the mother’s side. The two are deep on love and, exchanging soft lingering glances they are glowing with happiness and pride. Well that’s the painter’s point of view, and that’s Edwardian morality, now let us turn to reality and the present day.
There is no cottage, no jasmine, and no floral curtains; there is only a delivery room with a slightly anxious medical team standing by. Sue, of course is there, but she is hot, sweaty, bad tempered, and despite several injections she is still feeling the pain. Ever since her waters have broken back in the ward she has found her self in a most undignified position. Here is a time when she is stark naked from the waist down, feeling very vulnerable, and in desperate need of privacy, so what do the medical services provide. A harshly lit, cold, clinical delivery room, a pair of stirrups through which she is told to place her feet, and a huge crowd of doctors, nurses, and midwives. It seems that twins are not a common occurrence in this neck of the woods so, without her invitation, everybody has rushed in to get a good view.
Where Bob by the way? Oh he is there all right. You can tell who he is, as he is that white-faced rabbit holding her hand, and yes, that’s right, he does look as though he is about to be sick all over the floor. Never mind, what is she to do now? She turns to the medics and lifts an enquiring eye. As she is doing so the pace quickens, and then as things get into full swing so does the absurdity of the instructions they are giving to Sue. First she is told to breathe, which even through her pain Sue admits would be a good if slightly obvious idea. But then she is told to push. Now if your legs are strapped up and split asunder then how on earth are you supposed to push. Sue tells them so in a very Anglo Saxon manner, only to be told that there are students doctors present, so can she be more cooperative and a little more restrained. Sue points out that it’s rather difficult to co-operate under the circumstances, and then states that if her language offends anyone, then all the onlookers can simply leave. There is only one person she wants to see, and that’s Bob, and where the hell is he anyway.
He is of course on the floor, but recovering from a vomiting and fainting fit; he once more stands by her side. She sees him, glares, and then, in accordance with tradition, forbids him from ever coming near her again. As far as Bob is concerned he has no problem with this request, as at that moment the baby’s head starts to appear. He takes one look at the emerging baby, another at Sue’s lower abdominal anatomy, and inwardly makes a vow of celibacy there and then. If this is the result of sex, Bob thinks, he certainly won’t be going near Sue again!
Finally both of the twins emerge and Sue, looking at both of them, wonders whether or not they were really worth all that pain. We all dream of the perfect baby emerging from the mother’s womb, but Sue’s twins are far from perfect, and she wonders, for a brief moment whether God would forgive her if she lobbed them out of the window and onto the tarmac, four floors below. Both of her babies are red, wrinkled, and all too soon voracious in their demand for food. It has been a long day though, so Sue is kept in for a good nights rest, while Bob is quietly urged to come back in the morning.
“Things will seem better in the morning.” both of them are told.“ Just get a good nights sleep, that’s all you need right now”
So it is that the day and our chapter end. It has been a long journey, and at times an extremely messy and painful one as well, so let us leave Sue and Bob now, so they can sleep and rest for a little while. When shall we see them again, why in the morning of course; but that is for a new chapter and a new day. Who knows what stories the break of day will bring