LC Van Savage
Gravid, Fruitful, Fecund And Yes, Pregnant
“Pregnant” was a word simply not mentioned when I grew up a
century ago. If I’d said that word in the presence of my
family or any of their peers I’d still be grounded. It simply
wasn’t done. “In the family way” or “in a delicate state” or
the offensive “knocked up” or, heaven forefend, “in trouble”
all were allowed, but “pregnant”? Never. How weird is that?
If someone we knew was that way we could ask about
it---maybe once if we were over 14 years old. I remember
screwing up my courage for days getting ready to ask my parents
about a family member whose belly was really jutting. I was in
the back seat of our Buick and I said with elaborate
casualness, as if I really didn’t care very much at all, “So,
is Aunt Ruth going to have a baby or something?” Sudden
silence. Cold silence. I got “The Look” from stepmother, you
know, “The Look.” Every person who’s ever been a child has
received The Look. The one I got that day shot between my eyes
and through my head like a well aimed steel javelin and I
quickly realized I was in way too deep and couldn’t possibly
save myself. The words had been said and they hung in the air
like so many swords of Damocles, ready to drop and kill me.
Well, what was done was done, so I sat there bravely, staring
out of the Buick’s window and praying for a huge, fiery, fatal
crash at the bottom of a 2000 foot cliff. Eventually a most
icy, “Where did you get THAT idea?” came rasping back to me
from the front seat. “”Well,” says I, knowing I couldn’t
possibly get into any worse trouble, “umm, well y’see, I mean
her belly is so, kinda, you know, big.” I then found myself in
real, real deep trouble because you see, “belly” was another of
those totally forbidden words. Talk about your basic double
whammy. I shrank back into the seat and remained silent and as
invisible as a human child could, knowing I was a goner and
that it’d take an act of God to get me safely out of this
pickle, so I silently promised him I’d never say the word
“pregnant” again and I also promised I’d never get pregnant if
I could just be spared, just this once. I never did get the
answer to the Aunt Ruth question. Well, at least not that day.
About two weeks later cousin Suzy arrived, Aunt Ruth’s
belly went flat and I realized then that she had in fact been
“in the family way” all along. I was at least savvy enough to
know that Suzy had not been discovered under a cabbage leaf,
nor had she been dropped from the large beak of a passing
stork. No, I was way hipper than that and knew, with a little
help from my friends, that when a woman’s stomach begins to
swell and swell that likely a new and very annoying family
member was about to bawl onto the scene and ruin everything.
Oh, and if this were not a family newspaper I’d let you readers
know how my peers explained the act of conception to me.
Blecchh. I’m still nauseous.
We’ve come a long way with this pregnancy thing.
Women today make absolutely no effort to cover their growing
internal offspring. Not in the least. They are big, proud and
gravid and they are not about to hide that fact. They will
even happily pull up their shirts to show the world their huge
bellies, popped belly buttons and ropey stretch marks. They
wear normal and very tight T-shirts that barely and often don’t
cover the Big Bump and no one cares.
At least when I was preggers with our sons, we’d
gotten past the time in history when “proper” women stayed home
as soon as they began to “show.” That had to have been a real
annoyance to everyone involved. I mean, what if she began to
show at around 2 months? That meant 7 under cover, and this was
Anyway, we pregnant ladies wore pants that had big
elastic stretchy fronts which we covered in big horrid
maternity shirts, many with flutter sleeves, all in gaudy,
awful patterns. Or we wore wonderful, full tent-like dresses
which I loved. I’d been lent a huge pile of them, jumpers, sun
dresses, formal wear by a good pal named Dot, but after our #1
son arrived, I reluctantly had to give them back to her so she
could gestate her #2.
Dot and I lived in the same apartment building on an
American Military base in Landstuhl Germany while our husbands,
Dick and Mongo played at being Second Lieutenants in the US
Army. All the new young American wives on the base in Landstuhl
were getting pregnant and I clearly remember one day walking
through the village and seeing a beautiful US lady in short
shorts and a big shirt, very pregnant, and the German women
passing her, parting from her on the sidewalk, gasping and
staring at her in strong disapproval. I think back then that
pregnant women in Germany were still in seven month hide mode
and so seeing that tall American lady sauntering down the
Strasse with her great legs, short shorts and large shirt,
being very obviously mit Kind was terribly shocking to them.
But the mothers-to-be of today stand tall, proud and
big and don’t seem to want to bother with maternity clothes.
They just get some bigger T-shirts and let it all hang out.
Some of those big shirts say the word BABY on them with an
arrow pointing down. OK, no need for that, ladies. Most of us
If no husband is on the scene, hey, who cares? The focus is
on the baby as it should be and the words “bastard” or
“illegitimate” are now relics of a bygone time. OK, “bastard”
has moved to another status, or maybe it was already there. Who
cares? Those of course are filthy and disgusting names to call
an innocent little baby who had nothing whatever to do with his
or her conception.
Marriage as we all know is no longer a criterion
required to have a family. No need, right? I mean look at all
these examples we have to show us the way; Brad and Angelina
What’s Her Lips, Goldie and Kurt, Charles and Camilla. OK,
Queen Mommy put an abrupt end to their living together in royal
sin on the British tax payers’ tab, but the list of famous
unmarrieds is long. But it is incredibly hilarious to me to
hear about a couple’s “getting engaged” while the little
mother-to-be is great with child, or maybe even already in
Things are different now. Not worse. Just different and I
really don’t find any of this to be shocking or even terribly
interesting anymore, although when I was very young, most of
us youngsters wondered a lot more about when and where and how
babies are made in the first place, and was it fun?
But haven’t we come a long way?! No one any longer
stares judgmentally at an unringed finger on the left hand of a
pregnant woman and it’s about time. Babies are gifts. They
could not care less if Mom has a ringless finger and neither
should anyone else.
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