I go to more than one place on a regular basis for the singular purpose of making myself more visible. I will get my nails done or my face steamed or my hairs cut.
I sometimes buy the brightest scarf on the rack.
This allows common pedestrians strolling down the street to notice me without involuntary startles or rapidly avoiding eye contact.
It’s okay now. I’m me, I’m here, and I don’t mind sharing a friendly smile across the elevator.
So when a beautician, a young newly-married blonde thing, announced her first pregnancy to me accompanied by hormonal fireworks in her eyes, I took a deep breath and paused there.
“Some people are so insensitive!” she explained, “They see my belly and go on and on about how big I am and how much weight I’m gaining. I guess I’ll just work really hard to get back to normal after the baby comes.”
How do I tell her?
No one else will bother.
But there’s something about having a new baby that no one tells you and it really helps to be prepared with the knowledge that for the first year after your baby comes you are no longer visible.
You walk into a room holding a baby and no one looks at you.
They hold conversations with you while staring, cooing and poking at your bundle until you give the bundle up and then you will be talking to their left ear.
You are just the baby display. The handles that prop up the cuteness. You could be wearing a burka and no one would notice.
I was wearing a burka. Nobody commented.
I started using this to my advantage.
If I wanted the last cupcake on the table, I just waved the baby in the general area. While everyone converged on the infant, I swiped half the buffet.
And hid it in the folds of my burka.
Well, it was more like a muumuu; a giant all purpose burp cloth that I just tossed in the wash every night. It was like wearing a nun habit, but way too late for the vows.
You do know real clothes are pointless, yes? You’re getting assaulted from within as well as without, because if you’re nursing and any baby within ten miles starts to cry…your body attempts to feed it.
I missed a girlfriend’s wedding once, because on the way there, I drenched my best dress in milk and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
And jewelry? Painfully true. When they are finally sitting up in your arms, baby’s favorite little game is “rip mom’s earrings right out of her ears”.
“Girlfriend,” I began calmly, “I would enjoy the attention while it lasts. Once the baby is out, no one will notice you again. Eat all the food you want and concentrate on a healthy happy mom and baby.”
She looked undecided.
“No, really,” I went on, “I somehow have maybe two photographs of myself over the span of fifteen years but heaps of pictures documenting every month of each child’s life. I’m sure I was there, just nobody can prove it.”
I could see her inner debate, insisting her pregnancy glow would bloom into mother-hood glow.
Moms don’t glow.
They sweat, lactate, hyperventilate and fade into the tapestry.
“Here’s the clincher,” I ended, because really I guess you need to see it (or not) to believe it, “the cuter your baby, the more invisible you’ll be. I dressed my babies in nothing but diapers and onsies. Their cuteness levels were so high, even disguised in overalls, that people never looked higher than my kneecaps. True story.”
I wiggled my freshly painted toenails.
From the kneecaps down, I look pretty good.