My belly has become a spectator sport. We sit around watching as egg-shaped mounds appear and vanish as feet press outward and pull back. The baby rolls and heaves, thumps and flips.
The baby is a ship-at-sea, and I am the wave. It is a hula dancer, and I am getting hip-checked. Together we are lopsided, we are unpredictable, we are interesting.
“I like to think I have a pretty good imagination,” my husband says. “But I will never understand what that feels like.”
“It feels exactly how you would think it feels,” I tell him. “Think of if you had another living being inside your skin, moving around. It feels like that.”
He blinks more times than I think is appropriate for someone who does not have a gnat in his eye. “Yeah, no. Hm-mm. No idea.”
Which is weird, because I thought I explained that pretty well.
Though I suppose there are plenty of feelings I can’t imagine. What it’s like, for example, to stand atop Mt. Everest, triumphant, even as the cold slowly devours your toes and the air stabs at your lungs every time you try to inhale.
You can try to explain it to me, if you’ve been. You can show me the pictures, compare it to something I’ve experienced. I might even think I understand. But I won’t really know.
I know other things, though. I know the feeling of stomach muscles being stretched beyond capacity from the inside out, as though you accidentally swallowed your personal trainer.
If you had a personal trainer.
And they were the size of a leprechaun.
Or the feeling of let-down, of milk surging through your body like a previously undiscovered superpower.
Or this feeling: You have slept three out of the last 72 hours, your baby is fussing for no reason you can discern, and you’ve just realized there is something on your shirt that can only be, let’s face it, poop. A stranger or acquaintance or distant relation, well-rested and properly dressed, chooses that moment to ask, “So, are you going to have another one?”
(Mostly it’s a feeling of wanting to box that person about the ears.)
(If they are lucky, you will grit your teeth and say, “Why? Is this one NOT ENOUGH FOR YOU?”)
(Or, okay, you might tell the truth, and say, Never, or Absolutely, or We’ll see if we all survive this one’s infancy first. Depending on what the truth is.)
We each only get one life. We can’t feel everything. But every day something, always something. Maybe something shared, or maybe something that is yours alone, maybe something that no one else will be able to imagine, but that doesn’t make it any less felt, or any less real.
And just so you know: right now? It feels like there are feet in my liver.