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The Onion Baby

Science is amazing.

It has enabled many professionals who wear white coats and stomp around looking like big shots to view developing babies at all stages of growth. From the clump of cells that resembles a burrito, to the dinosaur looking thing with a tail, to the final weeks when the baby looks like a baby, science people are watching.

Watching and judging.

They then, through a series of intense and precise experiments I can only imagine cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, pinpoint the exact fruit or vegetable the baby resembles most. This is very vital to new mothers-to-be, because without this information we would have no idea what to hold in the supermarket and get weepy over. And while the importance of this strange yet oddly moving rite of passage is not lost on me, I have recently found that there is a dark side to the produce path.

At week thirteen, two different Web sites declared that my baby was the size of a peach. “Well!” I remember thinking, “A peach! That is quite a sizeable object. That explains why my belly is starting to look like an engorged puffer fish. I have a peach inside of me. Peaches are big … big and juicy. Mmmmm … crap. Now I want to eat a peach.”

Next week the same scientists from the same Web sites told me my baby was the size of a lemon.

Wait, wait, wait—what just happened? Where did the lemon come from? Did my peach’s head fall off? Is that a stage I missed in my development books? At week fourteen your baby’s “starter” head falls off, making it smaller than the prior week. How did my baby go from a big, rustic peach to a weenie little lemon? Wait, that’s not fair. There is nothing inheritably wrong with a lemon. No one’s trying to downplay the lemon, lemons are great but I mean, come on. I started at a peach. I have held a peach in one hand and a lemon in another. I know which one is larger.

The next week, week fifteen, we go from a lemon to a navel orange. That makes sense, we’re back to peach size. Maybe the baby regrew its head. And that’s good, it’ll need a head for later on. We then move to an orange and the following week brings up to an avocado. Not much growth but hey, any growth in a storm. Oranges and avocados, it’s kinda like comparing apples to slightly different apples depending on the time of year.

But then, as we transition from week sixteen to seventeen, the baby’s head apparently falls off for the second time during gestation because it shrinks to the size of an onion.

What is going on?! Why are babies constantly losing parts and turning into small food? It puts a lot of pressure on me and my uterus. As a first time mom with some growing body concerns (my fat pants are my new skinny jeans and there is a lot of hair I don’t remember from before), I don’t need this constant flux of new eatable images. If I get used to thinking there is mango inside the ever growing house of belly I can look at my stomach and convince myself that my bump looks exactly like a mango. Size, circumference, everything I need to do to put my worries aside. This is the kind of logic I am using in order to cling to the last bits of sanity that are falling out of my head in at an alarming rate. I will stare and stare until I am convinced the baby is healthy, happy, and of the appropriate size and weight.

However, even my nutty, happy-to-push-aside-reality brain has trouble with this imaginative reasoning when I have to switch from “Oh! I’m happy I’m beginning get to bigger” to “Why I think I’ve shrunk and that’s wonderful!” Because, see, I know I’m not shrinking and so do my underpants, which are making the move from full coverage to thong rather quickly. I am not part of a fabulously rich duo with our own name blend. My husband and I cannot afford a personal sonogram machine, we cannot a purchase a private baby psychic, and we were not offered a conception plan that included a warranty. We are growing this child the old fashion way, chock full of Hamburger Helper and brownie bits. It’s a gamble at best and while every book and every article I read can assure me that a woman of my age with my genetic background has an obscene chance of a perfectly normal, healthy baby … it’s still scary.

There are many things about pregnancy which are terrifying. The spotting, the cramping, the nausea, the complete and bone shaking exhaustion—all physical signs that you are now, in some very real ways, fragile. I’ve read some articles in which many well meaning granola type ladies claim that these are the times we woman should feel most empowered. Perhaps it is my lack of tepee or it could be my dependence on Starbucks espresso blocking my charkas, but I’m more cautious and far more dependent on the kindness of strangers than I ever was before. There is also a jarring realization that you are suddenly not alone in the machine you’ve been using and abusing for the whole of your life. Your mind frame shifts from “Well, I’d like to have a drink/take a chance with these questionable leftovers/eat mercury from a smashed light bulb” to “HOLY CRAP I CAN’T EVEN EAT LUNCH MEAT? ARE YOU SERIOUS?! MY BABY IS GOING TO BE BORN WITH SIX HEADS!”

And these are the rational fears.

I don’t want to even get into the endless spectrum of irrational, unfounded concerns. Suffice to say that my current top three are as follows: zombies (as in they will attack while I am pregnant and who wants to deal with that mess), someone kidnapping the baby from the hospital, and finally my cats step on my belly wrong and somehow smush the baby’s head into pancake shape.

The access to endless information is a blessing and a curse. It has allowed me to figure out what I really can eat and what I need to avoid. Its given me pictures and descriptions of what my child looks like from the time of conception to my current week and reminds me that no matter what crazy symptom I’m burning my way through, I am not alone. Information has also sent me into a tailspin of panic where I spent a day on the couch with my feet up on pillows crying because I was afraid to stand up and shake the baby out. It’s all a matter of temperance, give a little (cold cuts aren’t going to kill you or the baby), take a little (stop drinking).

I’m just going to ask the food scientists to stop adding to my worry list.

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