“It’s not a fucking walk in the park.”
– Madonna, on pregnancy and childbirth.
Well, except on those rare occasions when it is:
This summer in Moscow is nothing like last summer in Moscow. For one thing, I don’t wear heels (I don’t even know where all of my high-heeled shoes went, at this point – and may have to hire a detective once they become relevant to my life again). I don’t stay out until 5 a.m. I don’t fall asleep on the grass in the park. Somebody’s little feet feel as though they’re pressing up against my ribcage on occasion. The owner of the little feet is an entirely new person.
Occasionally, this person gets the hiccups or turns awkwardly. The latter causes me to stop dead in my tracks and gasp, while the people in the street pause to look at me in horror – and their faces say, “Is a woman about to go into labour right in front of me?! Will she now start screaming and watering the sidewalk with amniotic fluid? Goddamit, I knew I shouldn’t have left the iPhone at home!”
I am mostly hysterical, but every once in a while I smile – and now we have photographic evidence. I miss my husband – he is filming. I have packed a little backpack and put it by the door.
At this time of year, the nights get watered down early. Because I don’t sleep much, I greet the magical turning point at which the night sky suddenly becomes a not-quite-night sky. Something rich and strange. Having moved away from the center, I notice that the grass here smells like grass is supposed to smell in the morning.
Because of finances, I haven’t really invested in much maternity wear. Thankfully, a surprising number of my clothes are somewhat stretchy. People greet me at social gatherings – when I manage to crawl to one – and say things like, “Well fuck me, here comes Natalia, guess I have to put out my cigarette” or “At least it’s nice that you’re still going around half-naked – it means you haven’t lost your identity.”
A drunk actor who starred in one of the most controversial Russian TV shows to date (I suppose this was to be expected from the likes of him) called me “a walking advertisement for unsafe sex” recently. My husband made a big show of flying into a jealous rage. Then they made up and kept drinking.
Recently, I have discovered that my passenger has musical tastes that are similar to that of Dmitry Medvedev. I’m not kidding, nothing quite sets him off like Deep Purple.
I have discovered that I am an even bigger coward than I have previously realized. I have discovered that my capacity for love is bigger than I have imagined – and that it towers over me like a Stalin-era skyscraper, all resplendent and full of secrets.
I’m supposed to present a documentary drama project about the death of Liza Fomkina and her aunt at Teatr.doc next week, and I end all of my correspondence on the subject with a cheerful: “If I’m giving birth that day, I probably won’t make it!”
In reflecting on all of these peculiar changes, I have come to the conclusion that this could only have happened to me in Russia. It could only have been a Russian guy – who could do this to me. Clearly.