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March 18, 2009

Dispatches

Via Crooked House, I came across a post about pregnancy at Moonlight Ambulette with an excerpt from the short story “Another Marvelous Thing” by the wondrous Laurie Colwin. “For the past two months her chief entertainment had been to lie in bed and observe her unborn child moving under her skin. It had knocked a paperback book off her stomach and caused the saucer of her coffee cup to jiggle and dance.”

My unborn child is not yet so mighty, but staring at my fascinating stomach has already become a kind of pastime, and I don’t think I’ve really come across any other literature yet that so encapsulates the experience of being pregnant. Or at least in a way that doesn’t border on the nightmare, and I’m aware that pregnancy can indeed border on nightmare, but so many of these books and stories exploit pregnancy for its literary effect rather than capturing the moment for itself. I’m thinking even of very good novels– Novel About My Wife by Emily Perkins, for instance, The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing, or The Edible Woman does a bit of it. Of course there are also numerous books in which woman dies in childbirth or botched abortion (which I seem to keep picking up unknowingly), or where she miscarries at three or four months (or whatever month I happened to be at when I was reading said story or book [writers beware: a miscarriage is not a plot device.])

Oh, but Laurie Colwin. I should go back and read A Big Storm Knocked it Over and Happy All the Time, both of which depict pregnancy, I remember. The baby kicks punctuating The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant managed something of it too. Perhaps Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer, but there pregnancy was more a metaphor than anything else.

Anne Enright has called motherhood “the place before stories start”, describing her surprise at finding it was not the sort of journey that one could send dispatches home from. Is this the problem then, I wonder? Who else has managed to send home some dispatches all the same?

3 thoughts on “Dispatches”

  1. Charlotte Ashley says:

    I’m looking forward to reading about pregnancy now that I have experienced one. Nothing I read before I got pregnant in any way prepared me for the churning, active, lurching thing that was growing in me. My whole belly would shift when she rolled over. Bystanders raised their eyebrows at me. Who knew?

    Clearly I should write about it myself! 😀

  2. Stephany says:

    I don’t remember this happening so much with Luke but this new baby does somersaults All. Day. Long. It’s very disconcerting.

    I reserved a couple of Colwins at the library but unfortunately they don’t have that one.

  3. Kerry says:

    As far as I can tell, my baby hasn’t slept in at least nine days. This sets a worrying precedent. I’ve been trying to sleep train in the womb, but it’s not happening.

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