I’m sitting in the reception area of the casualty department of a hospital, waiting for my name to be called.
I’m reading Lyn Barber’s interviews in The Guardian on my phone. I love Lyn Barber; she’s inappropriate. Next to me, a lady who appears pregnant is sniffing back tears.
I say ‘appears pregnant’ because there is nothing worse that mistaking a lady’s pot belly for pregnancy. Sometimes it’s hard to tell these things apart; some potbellies look like pregnancies while some pregnancies look like potbellies. It’s all so confusing because you never know which one deserves congratulations.
Anyway, all the sniffing is distracting me from my reading. I turn to give her a furtive look; her modest belly is encased in a wonderful green dress. She has on a wedding ring, sandals and a big nose. That’s how I know for sure that she is pregnant: her nose. Her nose is not consistent with the rest of the features on her face; it sticks out like a clown’s nose.
Emotional pregnant women
I don’t mean to make fun of pregnant women, but come on – don’t pretend you haven’t seen those noses and thought to yourself, “Can she actually feel that her nose has grown twice its size, or is it only us who see it?”
I'LL HAVE THAT YOGHURT
Anyway, she’s staring down at her phone, sobbing and typing on WhatsApp. When a pregnant lady is weeping you feel like it’s your responsibility to the world and humanity to ask her what’s wrong. I think it’s male reflex because there is nothing as disconcerting as watching a pregnant lady cry, even if she’s crying because she can’t find her nail-cutter.
I ask myself, “Should I ask her what’s wrong or would that be intrusive? What if she bites my head off? Or screams ‘leave me alone!’” Because you never really know a pregnant woman’s state of emotion.
I don’t want her to think of me as creepy so I go back to my Lyn as her sobbing goes on unabated. Finally, I decide, you know what, I will ask her what’s wrong.
Just as I’m about to say something I see this guy rushing in, flustered and apologetic. He sits next to her and holds her hand and says, “I’m sorry, babe. Ngai, traffic was crazy!” And she says, “Kwani you used which route? I have been sitting here waiting for hours!” (Not true: she found me there and I hadn’t been there 30 minutes!).
“I used Limuru Road, it’s a mess,” the man, who I assume is her husband given that he has on a matching gold wedding band, says. She wipes her tears dramatically with a white handkerchief. The guy hands her a tub of yoghurt and she sulkily says she doesn’t want it.
“I think it’s unfair to keep me here waiting all this time and you know that I get dizzy sometimes,” she says. He leans into her and says, “I know, I know, but I left the office late and I came straight here. The only place I passed is the petrol station to pick you this yoghurt. Are you sure you don’t want it?” She hisses, “I don’t want it.”
I want to tell them, “Guys, if nobody wants that yoghurt I will have it.” Why waste a good yoghurt over a tiff?
I’m now eavesdropping because I can’t read Lyn any more with Pregnant Lady sniffing and wiping her tears, and her husband trying to placate her. It goes on for five minutes until, after seemingly reaching a compromise, the husband says, “Let me get a number,” and he goes and get queue a number from the machine.
IMMUNITY OF PREGNANCY
It turns out that he is the one who is sick and here to see a doctor.
Having officiated over two pregnancies in my life, I can tell you that it requires a level of superhuman patience to navigate that landscape. You also learn to start every sentence with “I can’t imagine how you feel…” while addressing her. I have also learned that the less you reply to anything she says, the better you will be at avoiding being shouted at, sulked at or stabbed in the arm with a fork.
However, I suspect that women sometimes overdramatise things during pregnancy – you know, take advantage of things to make your life a bit hellish. Often they will – from behind the immunity of pregnancy – do something preposterously selfish (and hurtful) knowing that you will take it on the chin.
You might occasionally catch her looking at you with thin disdain and envy for being normal as she struggles with all the hormones, the weight, the struggle to relearn how to sleep, the heartburn and swollen feet and, let’s not forget dear readers, the big nose. They look at you going about your normal life, still drinking your alcohol and snoring (and farting) in your sleep as they carry your baby and a small part of them hates you for it.
So they make sure they make your life is as uncomfortable as they can make it so that you share in their discomfort.
You should take it like a sport because no level of discomfort can match hers. It’s hard work carrying someone else in your belly for nine months, let alone someone else’s enlarged nose.