Think of the worst charley horse you ever had. The mind-bendingly excruciating pain probably twisted you senseless for about 30 seconds, then it disappeared, leaving nothing but the ghost of the pain. Sarah says that her Pregnant Leg Cramps are like a six-hour charley horse—times a thousand.
This is a woman who once tore up her knee on the slopes at Steamboat, and insisted on skiing down to First Aid on one her good leg. She’s got an insane threshold for pain. I know she wouldn’t be whining if these cramps weren’t absolutely brutal.
No one knows where these leg cramps come from, and as a result no one knows how to get rid of them. Some say it’s a lack of potassium or calcium or deficiencies of salt or vitamin C in the pregnant diet that brings them on. Others argue that it’s the result of the extra weight she is carrying, or lowered blood circulation. Whatever it is, if Sarah wakes up in the morning and stretches, and it usually brings insane muscle spasms that last all day. I’ve gotten over my fear of Sarah’s feet and rubbed them every time she asked me to, but no matter how much you rub, nothing helps.
* * *
Wasn’t looking forward to today’s ultrasound. Not sure what the point of it was, apart from reversing course and finding Babu’s gender after all—a temptation neither of us wanted to face. There was something nerve-wracking about the process this time. Both of us felt it.
In came the ultrasound technician, a big guy with a ponytail and a shit-eating grin, which did nothing to allay my anxiety. He proceeded to tell us, apropos of nothing, that his name was Jean-Pierre, he was half-French, half-Italian, and he had suffered severe nerve damage in his arm from years of doing ultrasounds. Furthermore, he took ballet as a kid in Italy, and has encouraged his American kids to do the same, only to have them laugh him out of the room.
“We don’t want to know the gender,” Sarah blurted out as Jean-Pierre began to lube up her stomach. He raised his eyebrows.
“Is that rare?” I asked. “People not wanting to know ahead of time?”
“Very,” he said, running the scanner over Sarah’s slippery belly. “Some people don’t even ask if the baby is healthy, they just want to know if it’s a boy or not.”
The scanner whirred and whizzed, and sunk into Sarah’s stomach like it was a hotel pillow. I realized I was grinding the hell out of my teeth.
“You’re very slender,” Jean-Pierre said. “Most of the women I do are obese, and I have to push down hard to make it through layers of skin. Or I have to put it in their belly button. Too much McDonald’s . . . I won’t let my kids eat McDonald’s.” I was beginning to feel sorry for these kids of his.
I looked up, and there Babu was on the TV screen, looking every bit like a person. We saw ten fingers, ten toes. Its nose. Its spine. “It has your butt,” Sarah said, squeezing my hand. Jean-Pierre smiled and measured various things, then printed out more photos for us to put on our fridge. Everything, it seemed, was in order, and I was loosening up. Maybe this was going to be OK.
“Your baby weighs 15 ounces,” Jean-Pierre said. “Fifty-fourth percentile. That’s good. If it’s in the tenth percentile or lower, you’re going to have problems. And if it’s in the 90th or above, you’re going to give birth to a moose.”
A moment later, as we were all staring raptly at the screen in silence, Jean-Pierre stopped. The room suddenly got very cold.
“Oh, my God,” he said.
“Right there,” he said.
Right where? What? What’s wrong with my child?
“Look at that,” Jean-Pierre said, jumping up and pointing to the screen. “Your fetus. He’s . . .She’s . . . It’s . . . making the devil sign with its fingers.”
He was right. After my heart started beating again, I saw that it was, indeed, making the devil sign with its fingers. The kid, crammed into a noisy, stifling space where it could see nothing and only hear muffled noises at best, looked like it was yukking it up in the parking lot of a Slayer concert.