It's summer, it's hot, I'm at least 21 months pregnant, I think (I'm pretty sure, anyway. It's my third, so I'm not really keeping track), and all I want to do is build stuff. Well, I should be more specific about that; all I want is for my husband to build stuff.
Let me explain something. I'm huge. Not huge as in, "First I'm going to say I'm huge and then everyone feel free to interrupt me with a big chorus of 'NO's' and 'OMG you're TINY's.'" I'm huge, OK? Like a bear. Like a big fat bear whose arms and face are also pregnant with children of their own. When people see me on the street, they wince in pain, because I just look like I hurt. And I do. Teenagers look away and pledge themselves to eternal abstinence. My mere presence is so visceral that I give vagina-phobes the instant vapors. And why shouldn't I? I'm like an overripe papaya that's about to fall to the ground from its own weight and split open on the sidewalk with its seedy innards spurting all over the place. Gross. I mean, I get it, it's the Miracle of Life and everything, which is "beautiful" in the abstract. But it's also frankly kind of gross.
If I were a pickpocket or a purse-snatcher, I would rob me. And honestly, I'm so tired right now, if you just came up to me and asked me for my wallet with your eyebrows furrowed, I'd probably just give it to you.
Are we clear?
But, one of the cruelest tragedies of late-stage pregnancy is that not only are you fettered with a body that moves with the speed of a cruise ship easing out of its berth, you are also burdened by a relentless desire to "nest." Requiring tools, and equipment, and physical effort and stuff.
"Nesting" can take many forms, all of which I seem to have simultaneously. Truthfully, I think it's kind of funny and adorable, how pregnancy returns us in many subtle ways to an animal state. It's not like I'm out scouring the park for twigs and discarded feathers to adorn the walls of my home. I'm a Waldorf-loving Earth Mom. I already have all of those things. You're much more likely to find me heaving myself up on a teetering stepladder to fetch the spare wall paint for random wall touch-ups or deciding that now would be a great time to get my face into some Scrubbing Bubbles fumes to bleach the grout. (Sorry, fellow Earth Moms. Sometimes when a crabby pregnant lady develops a homicidal vendetta against shower mold, only the most toxic chemicals will do.)
I also make a lot of casseroles. I'm supposed to freeze them for when the baby comes so that we'll have lots of food on hand for when no one feels like cooking. But we just eat them. After all that cooking, I'm too tired to make dinner.
One person who doesn't find my nesting instincts charming and amusing on a primal level is my husband. He has been dispatched no less that five times in the last three weeks to build unnecessary furnishings and playthings for our growing brood, with me looking over his shoulder the whole time quietly cheerleading.
I mean, he likes building things and doing yardwork at our place upstate and all that, it just takes him a while to get there. And he only enjoys doing it on his own terms. He likes to disappear, for instance, on a hot summer day, for maybe five hours or so. When you find him, wild-eyed and shirtless, covered in clumps of sweaty mud and insect bites, you must approach him gingerly.
"What were you doing back there?" you ask gently.
Why, you don't know. You never knew you needed any "leveling" and when you scan the yard everything looks pretty much the same as it did before. Best not to ask questions. Sometimes it's a trench, sometimes it's some awkward pruning, one time, a random pond -- a project that morphed into a summer-long battle against pH imbalances in the water, koi (which became an all-you-can-eat buffet for the local raccoons), and grateful mosquito parents looking for the ideal stagnant breeding ground, until he finally filled it back in and we were able to resume our marriage.
Because we are on our third child, we already have all the equipment that we truly need, so now we are on to the stuff that we don't need. Like gazebos, and playhouses, a new toddler bed (just because we don't feel like using the one we already have) and wagons and things. Stuff that gives us the illusion of control, so that when the baby comes, we will have lots of extra things to put people in and places to go to play in and be distracted and not cry and freak out when someone new usurps all the attention.
This, of course, is absurd.
Everyone knows that we can build all the play structures in the world, but if our children see one spider skitter across it, they will not return to said structure for years to come, even if it did take their father 10 sweaty, frenzied man-hours to install a working sink in that fucking play kitchen.
So it's just not that alluring for my husband to have to put together specific useless things meant solely to satisfy my need for some semblance of baby preparedness. But I have to say, he does a great job of pretending to be OK with it.
Here is how it goes in our home:
Me: Do you mind putting this [ludicrously complicated] children's play barbecue together? I think the kids will get a kick out of it.
Him: [Well, I was planning to hollow out an old tree today to make a dugout canoe for no reason, but ...] No problem!
And then, at around the two-hour mark:
Him: Oh Goddamn it. What the HELL. This is PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE.
Me: Are you OK in there? Do you need me to come in and read the instructions?
Him: NO. There is not a HUMAN BEING ALIVE who could COMPLETE THIS TASK. It's ALL IN TAIWANESE.
Me: I can see right there that it's in English.
Him: It's a BAD TRANSLATION. And all the holes are drilled wrong!
Me: Is everything upside down and backwards?
Extra long pause.
Him: [Quietly] Yes.
Everything is always upside down and backwards, at least for stage one of the building process. But eventually, with a lot of food and beverage support and my continued whisking away of the children, the job gets done, and it is always perfect.
As I write this, in fact, he is beside me ordering a giant cedar play structure (his idea!) that he plans to erect somewhere in the woods behind our little house. I assume it will require clearing brush and stumps to some degree, perhaps digging holes and even, maybe, "leveling" with purpose. A friend of ours just built a similar structure and his wife told me that it took him no less than 30 solid man-hours of expletives and marital strife to complete the task. But it looks great, and I'm sure their children have played on it for at least 30 minutes since it was built (three months ago), which greatly exceeds our minimum requirement for deluding ourselves that we are doing something our children will appreciate. I won't see him for days, maybe even weeks. It's possible that I will have to give birth alone, while he wrestles with the lean-to mini-rock wall that has temporarily been installed upside down and backwards. And I can honestly say that I don't mind one bit. Bless his lovely heart.
Samantha Bee is the Most Senior Correspondent on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," and the author of "I Know I Am, but What Are You?" (Gallery Books).