At eight months pregnant, my wife is not so fond of people impulsively rubbing her belly. I understand her position perfectly. If there were something about my belly that made people want to reach out and paw at it whenever the whim struck them, I can imagine that I would be sensitive about it too. Fortunately, my belly is completely uninspiring; people would rather soak their hands in a bowl full of leeches than cop a feel of my spare tire.
Though my wife is rather reserved when it comes to sharing her baby bump with the fawning masses, she can’t seem to have my hand affixed to that bump enough. I believe she would glue my palm to her navel if she thought it practical.
This baby kicks, punches, and generally bounces himself off the walls of the womb with remarkable energy. I don’t remember this much activity with the first pregnancy. My wife seems intent on sharing every one of these movements with me. I’m all for feeling the baby kick, when it is convenient for me to sit next to his mother and gently place my hand upon her belly. I am all about the miracle of life, and I agree that it is thrilling to feel tangible evidence of our forthcoming bundle of joy.
However, I don’t think that I should have to come running from a different floor of the house to dive at my wife with my arm outstretched in order to feel the movement, before it’s too late, every time the baby hiccups. Yet, this is what is expected of me. At any time of the day, I might hear the alarm, “Quick! Quick! The baby’s awake. Come feel him.” True to my duty, I drop everything and comply, only to get kicked in the hand for my trouble.
I originally thought I was obeying the mother when I came running to get my feel, but it was explained to me by the mother that I am actually being summoned by the baby himself. “He needs skin-on-skin with his daddy,” she said, ignoring the fact that my hand was resting upon her epidermis.
It was further explained to me that, beyond needing to feel his daddy’s touch, this baby needs to hear his daddy’s voice every day. “Have you talked to your baby today?” I get asked by his spokeswoman as she thrusts out her belly button like it’s a walkie-talkie. Even in the privacy of my own home, I feel a little shy about speaking into a belly button. And what kind of conversation do you strike up through the uterine wall? “Read any good books lately?” On top of that, the kid can’t seem to figure out the intercom system, so I can’t even hear his replies.
Still, I do the best I can at meeting this baby’s many needs. I must confess though, there are times when his movements are so visually shocking that I must pull back my hand in horror. My wife is a petite woman, so any big movements make her belly fluctuate profoundly. Many times I have anticipated seeing an alien hand pop out of her to grab hold of my puny, human wrist. At other times the movement merely resembles the massage balls revolving beneath the cover of a shiatsu chair. This image is less frightening and I can usually be convinced to put my hand back.
Even though I value these last couple months of being able to sleep at night and not having to change diapers, there’s a growing desire within me to have this baby come out and face me eye to eye. Then he can tell me directly what his needs are. You never know if you’re getting the straight poop when you’re working through an interpreter.