I was so careful when I was pregnant. Never mind having quit smoking months before I conceived; I gave up lunch meat and fish and soft cheese; rare steak and peanuts. I wore gardening gloves to garden and refused to go within 15 feet of the cat litter. I avoided sick people, got my flu shot the day they came out. Not just alcohol, I gave up communion grape juice (but made sure I was at church every Sunday). I refused Tums and slept sitting up when the heartburn got bad. I lost 15 pounds in the first three months from ‘morning’ sickness but refused to take Diclectin, which has been prescribed since 1957 and is safe as houses.
I gave up coffee. (let that sink in for a minute).
I figured you couldn’t be too careful.
The night that my blood pressure hit 210/160, the night they told me I had to give birth even though Gabriel was going to die, there was a woman in the bed across from me. She was, oh, probably somewhere between 35-37 weeks pregnant. She didn’t know how far along she really was. She’d had no prenatal care. She didn’t take the vitamins because she didn’t like the way they tasted. And would they hurry up and take the fetal monitor off her, because she really wanted to go and have a smoke.
She went home with a healthy baby, you know.
I’ve told you about how I held my son in my arms and sang him lullabies while he gasped for breath and suffocated to death. I’ve told you that there is no fear after that. There is nothing the world could do to me that would hurt more. There is no other way to break me. When you put back the pieces after something like that, you live without fear.
Up until that moment, I had done everything out of fear.
The Cree, the Ojibwe, the Salteaux, they talk about this creature they call the Wendigo. It’s a sort of folklore monster that comes out in times of famine and strife. It’s a cannibal, but no matter how much it eats, it’s still hungry and lean. However much you feed it, it cannot be satiated. I think the Wendigo also eats fear.
You give up fish and cheese and lunch meat. You will do everything in the pregnancy books and add in edicts from a few more random old wive’s tales besides. You will feed fear. The Wendigo will stay hungry. Your mother will still carry her only grandson down the morgue. The baby that you did everything right for. It was not the things that you were frightened of anyway.
I wear my seatbelt. I care about triglycerides and A1Cs. In these days of a pandemic, I wash my hands and practice social distancing. But when Facebook tells me that it plans to hide its basement? When Twitter tells me it sanitizes boxes before allowing them in the house? When Instagram tells me it sterilizes its clothes with a flamethrower? When I hear the muttering of old wives’ tales and the murmurs that you can’t be too careful?
I see the Wendigo behind you.
You still can’t feed it enough.