“Sick” has always been one of my favorite Shel Silverstein poems and I’ve always read it in a whiny complaining voice, which explains why it comes to mind now that I’m thirty-nine weeks pregnant. Everything I say now feels like I’m uttering words to my own version of the poem.
I have never been one to wallow in the sickly mindset. Luckily my A-plus immune system banishes my annual cold in a few days—and most of the time I ignore it (a la Monica in the Friends episode where she denies being sick as she disgustingly coughs and sneezes on everyone and everything). But this pregnancy … oh, it has had me feeling sick for the last 273 days.
“It’s for a good reason,” they say. “It will all be worth it,” they reassure me. And I have no doubt—but it’s still a long time to feel like shit every day.
In the course of the last 273 days, the feeling of shit has varied in flavors, but the common denominator has been the same. No glowing skin or luminous hair or fabulous nails. Just nausea, vomiting, heartburn and now heaviness and tightness that makes me feel like I’m wearing a girdle securing a watermelon around all my organs twenty-four hours a day.
My muscles feel like they’ve completely atrophied. I am thankful for my wrought iron bed so that I can use the headboard like a disabled handrail when I pull myself out of bed. I’d like to think that I was strengthening my abdominal muscles when I raise myself, like some Rocky-worthy exercise where he puts twenty-five pounds of weight on his chest and does sit-ups. But alas, I think my abdominals have retreated somewhere behind my stomach or lungs, both of which function at partial capacity at this point.
Sleep, oh sleep, how I used to love you. But somehow my body is readying my schedule for a newborn with frequent trips to pee—or to toss and turn and toss again. They tell me to sleep on the left side, so I try, but then I get restless and venture to the right side guiltily. Then it’s back to the left, where I have to tuck a blanket between my legs, and under the heavy belly.
My reflection never fails to shock me. My shadow is like an exaggerated monster. How did my petite frame become this huge? The baby daddy says he loves the shape … but I’m part Humpty-Dumpty, part Weeble Wobble.
Then there’s the way others perceive me. I pass by strangers in the street and their eyes are drawn directly to my belly as if it’s an eye-to-belly magnet. This must be what it’s like for women with big boobs. Eye-to-boob contact rather than eye-to-eye. And speaking of big boobs—where was that when they doled out the pregnancy side effects?
Full-term pregnancy, how lucky that I am here but you are the antithesis to comfort.
by Shel Silverstein
“I cannot go to school today,”
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I’m going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox
And there’s one more--that’s seventeen,
And don’t you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut—my eyes are blue—
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I’m sure that my left leg is broke—
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button’s caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained,
My ‘pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is—what?
What’s that? What’s that you say?
You say today is … Saturday?
G’bye, I’m going out to play!”