Here’s something obvious: transitions are difficult. Here’s something that’s been less obvious to me until recently: I am terrible at dealing with them. Other people, I notice, are okay to talk about their in-betweens, their messier moments, their reorganization projects and bad hair days and photos from middle school. Sharing helps. I think that’s the logic. I, on the other hand, go radio silent. I grit my teeth and tell myself that I’ll get through it, and I will talk about it on the other side—when I can do so gracefully, when something has been learned, accomplished.
If I could describe pregnancy in one word, it would be exactly that: transition. Everything that was once static changes constantly now. My body, our home. I no longer recognize my own belly button. Rearranging our furniture, bringing in new things, purging old things, has become a weekly ritual. In small apartments, there is little room for extraneous items. If, one year ago, someone had told me that I’d be selling my own desk to make way for a dresser filled almost entirely with onesies, bibs, and tiny headbands, I’d have thought them certifiable—how can onesies (the smallest of which look like they belong on a doll) take up an entire dresser?! Yet, here we are.
When I need stability, I turn to the kitchen. My appetite has always been a grounding force, unwavering, intuitive. Now enter pregnancy with its dietary restrictions, its food poisoning fears, its obsession with weight gain as if you’re a prize pig at the county fair. Everyone gets an opinion on what and how you should eat. What to Expect When You’re Expecting recommends that pregnant women get multiple servings each of 12 (count them) different food groups daily. One of which it patronizingly labels “yellow foods” instead of something helpful like “foods containing beta carotene.” Meanwhile, the doctor (with the help of the CDC) provides you with a long list of what you should not eat. Foods to fear, though they wouldn’t put it that way.
Risk, it turns out, is the common denominator for so many of my favorite foods. Oysters, cured meats, raw and smoked fish, funky cheese. The list goes on. I despise an overworked ingredient. I spent half my life thinking I didn’t like eggs until I tried one poached. I was twelve. We went out to brunch, celebrating something I can’t remember now. I ordered a stack of potato blinis and smoked salmon with a poached egg on top (still kind of my ideal brunch situation). I sliced the egg down the middle with my fork, popping the bright-yellow yolk which dripped languorously down the sides of the stack. Instant love. Runny yolks have this way of wrapping themselves around the other ingredients on your plate, enhancing them with this fatty, sumptuous gloss. I never understood why, with that knowledge, one would ever eat an egg hard boiled.
As you might imagine, reader, it’s not without a bit of shame that I now ask waiters for my yolks to be cooked through, my burgers to be medium. I also ask questions about pasteurization and the type of milk used to make certain cheeses (us pregnant ladies also cannot have sheep or goat’s milk unless cooked at high temperatures). I ask quietly. Sometimes I use air quotes. Anything to distance myself from the nearly unrecognizable orders I’m placing these days. Generally, I consider myself to be a fairly timid person. For isntance, I won’t ride a roller coaster unless it’s very, very small and probably designed for kids under 12. Being a fearless eater, I suppose, has been a point of pride I’ve lost these past months.
None of this is to say I’m not grateful, or excited. I do realize how lucky I am to be pregnant and that the hardest parts of this pregnancy so far have been nuanced and mostly centered around food snobbery. It’s just to say that I’ve not felt exactly at home in my own skin these days. And I have no takeaway, no lesson to share from this experience that has so far been both magical and disorienting, that has made me feel both more connected to and at odds with my own body. My point, I suppose, is that sometimes one has to report back from the mess, the in-between. And so this is my attempt to do just that.