At almost nine months pregnant (I’m pushing 35 weeks), I’ve been thinking a lot about Oedipus. Not because I’m carrying a son whom we plan to abandon in the mountains shortly after birth in order to avoid a prophecy that he will kill his father and marry his mother. That’s what happened to Oedipus, and he did in fact, kill his dad (not knowing that this stranger was his father) and marry his mama (Jocasta, the world’s first cougar). To the contrary, I am having a girl whom I hope will have less violent tendencies than Oeddy (and probably will, right? It’s the testosterone that makes them predisposed to violence?). Also, as far as I can tell, there are no mountains near Miami Beach.
But every time I look down at my massively distorted feet, I think of Oedipus, whose name means “swollen foot” (it has the same root as edema, get it?). His ankles had been pinned together so he couldn’t crawl (see, his father may have actually deserved the patricide), causing swelling to his feet and ankles, so his adoptive mom named him Oedipus or Swollen Foot. (This makes her sound mean, but she wasn’t; it’s sort of like his Native American name, or maybe an attempt to embrace a particular trait, a la calling someone “Tiny” or chanting “I’m here, my feet are swollen, get used to it!”)
Anyway, my feet are so swollen I can only wear flipflops and two pairs of shoes (one of which are basically leather flip flops, and the other which were a gift and used to be one size too big). My hands are swollen too, especially at the knuckles. I now wear my wedding ring on my pinky, and I can’t make a fist. (My bff pointed out that the lack of fist-making ability must put a damper on my effectiveness at all the Black Panther meetings I like to attend, which is a strong point, but it also makes it hard to chop carrots or take a Britta pitcher out of the fridge, for example.)
But it’s the feet that are the greatest indignity (I would shake a fist at them if I could). I thought the whole point of shoe fetishization was that, no matter how much weight you put on, your shoe size wouldn’t change, so even if your wardrobe became muu-muu-centered and matronly, your shoes could remain fabulous. But with pregnancy, you get to wear muu-muus with flip flops, or at least I do, because in my case, my feet look like they were sculpted by Botero. (I always used to fear his statues of rotund women, men, even cats–now I know why; it was a premonition.)
When I was a child and the ice cream man would make his musical way through our neighborhood, we’d run after him and I would always buy a frozen treat that consisted of foot-shaped ice cream on a stick. There was a gumball where the nail of the big toe would be. As an adult, I see that there is, in fact, something creepy about ice cream that seems to cater to foot fetishists, but at the time I thought it was just a great two-for-one: ice cream AND a gumball. Anyway, once again, buying those was a mistake, a premonition, because my feet look exactly like said sicko pop, only less appetizing.
At my 32 week checkup, I complained to the doctor about the swelling in my extremities. “Look at my feet!” I wailed.
“They look pretty normal,” he said. “You could always wear Crocs; they’re pretty comfortable.”
“No, doctor, I could never do that,” I said in the tone of Queen Victoria not being amused. It was rude, but I have worked at fashion magazines! And Crocs look like Smurf shoes, only not the cute pumps worn by Smurfette but the scary clogs worn by Papa Smurf and Woodcutter Smurf and all the other members of the fashion-bereft Smurf patriarchy. Those beings don’t even wear shirts for heaven’s sake. And I like my life to be shirt and shoes required.
As we left the hospital, my husband said, “Did you notice the doctor was wearing Crocs?”
The irony of all of this is that, as my fashion choices are narrowing, a whole new wardrobe world is opening up for my future daughter. Having bought her nothing but an embroidered dress in Cartagena and a fleur-de-lis onesie in New Orleans, I have spent the last four days laundering an entire closet’s worth of clothes given to her by her grandmothers and various relatives and loved ones. I’ve washed miniature cargo shorts, a navy onesie that reads “I”ve got grandma on speed-dial” and hand-smocked and embroidered linen dresses my mother-in-law had made in Nicaragua. Our baby has block-printed playsuits and socks that look like ballet shoes and a jewelry box that actually HAS JEWELRY IN IT! I know mother love is about loving another being more than yourself, but I’m 36 years old, she’s not yet 36 weeks in utero and my daughter already has a better wardrobe than I do.
It might just be time to throw in the towel and buy the Crocs as I prepare to live in our baby’s sartorial shadow. And a large shadow it may be; according to the sonogram at our 32 week appointment, she was already 5 pounds 3 ounces, which means she either has to arrive before her expected due date or we could be looking at a nine pounder.
This concerned me until today, as I took to the internet to confirm my memory of Jocasta’s life, and saw that a 16 pound, 2 foot long baby boy was just born (by C-section) in Texas. His name is JaMichael, but they call him the Moose. Maybe “Oedipus” isn’t so bad after all.