Sample text for The Sweet Potato Queens' guide to raising children for fun and profit / by Jill Conner Browne.

Bibliographic record and links to related information available from the Library of Congress catalog

Copyrighted sample text provided by the publisher and used with permission. May be incomplete or contain other coding.



Holy Shit!

The Cutest Boy in the World is a Man Who Can Fix Things. The man can fix anything -- anything -- even if he broke it first, he can fix it. He can build anything, unclog anything, hang anything, patch anything, retool, replumb, and/or rewire anything. (This is only one of his many gifts -- but it's the one we're talking about at the moment. And the value of a man with the ability -- and willingness -- to fix things cannot be overstated.)

At times, even he is agog at his uncanny talent for fixing things -- especially when it comes to electrical stuff. He says that as many times as he has performed the (for him) simple act of, say, installing a new light fixture and switch -- he never ceases to be amazed when he flips the switch and the sumbitch actually works. This would be on account of Electricity is just a huge mystery of our universe. Yeah, yeah -- there are countless electrical engineers and other geeks who can explain till those proverbial bovines have their much-touted homecoming how it works, but nobody knows WHY. I mean, what a weird force of nature and how bizarre that we just take it for granted every minute of our lives -- we just accept that if we plug it in, it works. I swear, you could make yourself crazy if you spent much time contemplating it -- so don't -- just every once in a while allow yourself a much-deserved moment of "holy shit" when the lights do, in fact, come on.

Well, in my opinion, getting pregnant is just like that. From the time you are a fairly small human, you have heard tell of how this is accomplished -- and talk about bizarre. It is pretty earth-shattering news the first time you hear about it, no? But everybody pretty much knows what goes where and the potential outcome of it all, and on the surface it would seem to be pretty simple -- I mean, even the dumbest dog on the planet has figured it out on his own, so how hard could it be?

Why it works is the big fucking (excuse the pun) mystery. Conception is easy to explain, but copulation is mind-boggling, even to people who've been doing it for more than fifty years -- it is just such a weird thing to do with another person if you really stop to think about it. (Probably best if you don't, though -- could be off-putting. And it seems to me that the Creator of the Universe could have made the whole thing a bit more dignified -- but, then again, He could prolly tell right off that we were destined to take ourselves way too seriously and, boy hidee, is this ever a surefire remedy.)

When you first hear the news -- either in the corner of a school yard from a smug classmate who really does have the SCOOP of the century or from a squirming parent who would rather be set on fire than have this Discussion -- no matter where the info comes from, on one level you are completely floored, terrified, embarrassed, and confused, and on another level some part of your humanness just accepts it as fact.

More likely than not, no matter where your info comes from, the focus of it will be on CON-CEPTION and, more important, the fact that most of the rest of your life will be devoted to the CONTRA of it all -- what all can and should be done to avoid conceiving -- and we'll discuss the volumes of misinformation about that later.

But when somebody tells you about sex for the first time, they're not ever telling you with the thought in mind of helping you figure out how to get pregnant -- correctly surmising that, even though you're only ten, even you have got sense enough to know that you prolly oughta hold off on starting a family.

Nothing exists in the universe that can actually prepare you for that incredible moment in time when your very own eyes see that your very own personal urine has changed the color on that dipstick. You have been peeing since time began for you -- never giving it much thought at all except in unusual circumstances that could involve anything from dialysis to Porta Potties, or the lack thereof -- and now, all of a sudden, that regular pale warm stream that flows from your nether regions has delivered what is no less than the absolute Death Knell to what used to be your LIFE.

It matters not whether you are forty-five and have been hoping with nothing short of desperation to conceive or sixteen and utilizing nothing but desperate hope as your means of contraception -- that moment when you know with absolute certainty that you are, in fact, a Pregnant Woman -- I'd have to say it's the single Most Stunning Moment of Your Life. You've heard about it for years -- and you've been following the steps like every other creature on the planet and nothing has ever happened -- you've flipped that light switch to no avail for so long you've become accustomed to the dark, and now, all of a sudden, the same little flip of the same little switch has made some kind of cosmic connection and WHOOOO-DOGGIES, EVERY LIGHT IN THE HOUSE CAME ON!

HO-LY SHIT and then some! From this moment on nothing in your life will ever -- EVER -- EVER! -- be the same.

Who knew it would ever really work? I mean, I still don't actually believe that airplanes can fly -- I just suspend disbelief every time I get on one and somehow I magically end up in another place when I get off. It came as a complete and utter shock to me that my having sex would ever result in an actual baby, growing, even more shockingly, in me.

I was thirty-five when it happened to me for the first and only time. Now, suffice it to say that during my thirty-five trips around the sun I had also simultaneously made quite a few trips around The Block, so to speak, and not one of those trips had produced anything tangible. Truth be told, a whole big lot of 'em didn't produce much in the way of IN-tangibles either, but substandard sex, while disappointing, is not generally found to be life changing.

And then all of a sudden...I can't think of anything that sounds big enough to put here. It's like one of those other consequences your mother has threatened you with your entire life -- "Don't do that, you're gonna put your eye out" kinda thing. Parenthetically speaking, I had long wondered why the absolute Worst Case Scenario is Mother's only one. You never get a "Don't do that, you might get a bruise" -- no, it's always certain mutilation.

But we discovered that, quite often, really, Mama was Wrong. Out of her sight and supervision, we may not have exactly pushed the envelope, but we at least went up to the sticky part -- and none of the bad things Mama had warned about happened to us. We double-headed on our sister's bike and our toes did not get cut off in the spokes. We crossed the street from between parked cars and our heads were not smashed like pumpkins beneath the tires of the oncoming vehicles. We went into the deep end and did not drown -- even though our danger of same was compounded by the fact that it had been somewhat less than thirty minutes since we had eaten. We spoke to a stranger and he did not snatch us. We went to bed with our hair wet and we did not wake up with pneumonia.

How could this be? It seemed to us that Mama was just a big chicken who was afraid of absolutely everything and apparently did not know shit-diddly about anything.

Threats regarding anything to do with the opposite sex were no less foreboding. Our mamas didn't actually say it, but they certainly left us with the distinct impression that virtually any contact with a boy would lead immediately and forthwith to pregnancy -- not to mention insurmountable shame and utter degradation. That anybody ever had sex after such admonitions is purely a testament to just how reeeeally swell sex is.

A young Queen from Starkville, Mississippi, had her jets significantly cooled for a goodly spell by her mother's assurance that should a boy fondle the breasts of the young woman, milk would squirt out. Mothers, bless their intentions in the world.

Eventually, most of us would come to test Mama's accuracy in this and other areas as well. We would find a boy we thought irresistible and kiss him till our collective lips nearly peeled off our faces. And 99 percent of us waited to see if we would, in fact, become pregnant. Such was the state of mis/disinformation we got from our mamas -- it was not unusual for a twelve- or thirteen-year-old girl to be worried a year after the kissing that she might one day just "turn up" pregnant.

People in the South are always -- to this very day -- "turning up" pregnant. Well, I say "people" -- it's really only ever women, even down here. But that term has served to confuse and alarm many a Southern teenager, I can attest. There was never any kind of time line attached to this turning up so as far as we knew -- the pregnancy could present itself at any time, without warning, and months, even years, after the childish act of supposed indiscretion.

But, as we now know, nobody ever turns up pregnant from kissing, and as that fact made itself known to us, we ventured out a bit farther on the, ahhh, limb and found it sturdy enough as well. For instance, French kissing. I had no idea what this was when, as a geeked-out seventh-grader, I first heard it mentioned in the girls' locker room at Peeples Junior High in Jackson, Mississippi. Confused and consumed with curiosity, I came dutifully home and asked my mother whatever could this French kissing thing be. And Mama looked very grave as she told me that it was "an invitation to a Lower Level." That was the sum total of the explanation I got for "French kissing." I went away and pondered on it for a while. My later attempts to extract from her any elaboration on the subject (for instance -- by "lower level," what did she mean? Lower on one's person? Or did it refer to one's social status that would no doubt be lowered if one accepted such an invitation -- see above re: pregnancy, shame, and degradation) yielded nothing. Apparently, that was all Mama knew or was willing to reveal about the subject because she held firm to her one line: It's an invitation to a Lower Level -- and that's all you need to know about it.

Hmmmm...but I thought I needed to know a whole lot more about it. I thought I might just need to know all there was to know about it, and I was pret-ty danged sure there was more to know about it than Mama was lettin' on.

And as it turned out, there were a whole bunch of folks in my circle who were every bit as confused and curious about this French kissing thing as I was. Luckily, there were at least a few who were not quite as confused as the rest of us -- they led the way and pretty soon we were all going to parties at Gail's house. I'm not sure Gail had parents -- you couldn't prove it by any of us -- she appeared to be a cute adolescent girl, normal in every way except that she owned her own home -- and thus, she was able to host these incredible make-out parties and we lived for them.

If you're entertaining on a budget, I can offer this as a very inexpensive and very festive party idea. There were absolutely no refreshments served -- so that's a huge savings right there. Only two songs were played on the stereo all night -- "House of the Rising Sun" and "Ebb Tide" -- so no big outlay for tunes. The lights were off the whole time -- so no need for decorations not to mention zero strain on your utility bill. "Seating" was not an issue since couples were simply splayed out on, around, and under any and all surfaces, regardless of whether or not they were actual pieces of furniture intended to be occupied by human bodies.

Upon entering through the darkened kitchen, everybody somehow paired off with a member of the opposing sex and immediately fell to making out -- on chairs, sofas, countertops, on the piano and under it. The only action was mouth-to-mouth, but I can tell you, it was as entertaining an evening as I have ever spent in my en-tire life. (I blissfully shared spit and space under the Steinway with the dark-eyed heartthrob Conner Smith.) And I'm quite certain that all attendees would concur with this summation.

Although, come to think of it, it is prolly more appealing to the seventh- and eighth-grade set than, say, anybody three or more years out of puberty -- but you know your crowd better than I do, so you might toss out the idea and see what they think. I will tell you that at our thirty-fifth class reunion, those of us who lived long enough to attend were STILL talking about Gail's parties -- so I'm just sayin'...

And that's how I came to know for a fact that French kissing will definitely not cause you to turn up pregnant.

Still had some untested areas, though. There was much talk -- MUCH talk -- about these assorted "bases" and who all had "been to" which ones. More confusion and WAY more curiosity -- and even less info forthcoming from Mom. She had never heard of any "bases," there was simply no such thing -- that was just "kids talking." Hmmmm.

Well, they were definitely doing that and plenty of it -- but it wasn't eggzackly a documentary-type discussion that was going on, and it appeared to me that nobody was really that much better informed than I was -- except that they had at least somehow heard about the "bases" from some source that was currently unavailable to me.

I did have this older seester -- Judy -- but there was six years' difference in our ages, so at the time that I was reeeally needing this info, she was already off at college -- practicing up, night and day, with all the info she knew, and our relationship was not yet at the stage where we would openly discuss the most intimate, minute details of Life as we knew it. So I was clueless and without hope.

Luckily, everybody else was pretty much in the same boat -- although we were all totally pretending to one another that we knew stuff. It was as if we had picked up a foreign dictionary and memorized a few words phonetically -- but the definitions were also in the foreign language, so all we had was the words themselves sans meaning. Kinda like thinking you're saying "Which way is the restroom?" in Spanish but what you actually said was, "Go away, I do not speak Chiclets."

But, then, the worst was when some of our older seesters actually did tell us some words and what they meant -- for instance, boobs and twat. But we thought that our clever older seesters had made up these words theirownselves in order to talk in code in front of Stupid Grown-ups. And so we went around saying them all the time -- even formed a club -- we were the Twat Sisters -- and oh, how funny, funny, funny we thought that was because nobody in the world but us (and our big seesters) knew what a twat was, and how clever were we?

And we made up little membership cards with our names on them and everything and were just prancing around junior high school -- in the very early sixties -- talking freely and loudly about our "boobs" and "twats" and our little club -- thinking WHAT a great joke -- because NOBODY KNEW WHAT IT MEANT BUT US (and our big seesters). And, as it turned out, the principal.

Mr. Measells overheard talk of a "secret club," and at that time in Mississippi, all secret societies, sororities, and fraternities were forbidden to children in public schools, and the school officials took the enforcement of this edict very seriously. Luckily, the one who got caught with her Twat Sisters Membership Card was Not Me. It was my friend Debbie -- who was Miss Everything, all-American, girl-next-door, biggest-sweetest-smile-in-the-world cheerleader and well-known Good Girl, and so, of course, he totally believed her that there really was no "club," it was just a joke based on these few silly secret words that our big seesters had made up and shared with us.

Somehow he managed to keep a straight face as he advised her that they were not secret words at all and that pretty much everybody in the world knew eggzackly what they meant. And I imagine that it took a second or so for that happy news to sink in.

I am grateful to God to this very day that it was Not Me that had to have that conversation with Mr. Measells -- whom I towered over, even in the seventh grade. I loved Debbie to bits and would not have wished for her anything but the absolute very best life has to offer -- but man, was I ever glad she was the one who got caught. For one thing, one or two of the other Twat Sisters did not have quite the sterling sparkle to their reputations that Deb had (some even had pierced ears -- although Mama didn't know it and that's the only reason I was allowed to hang out with 'em -- "Only Whores Have Pierced Ears" was yet another Mama-ism), and had Mr. Measells not been so totally willing to accept as truth Debbie's account of the Twat Sisters Club and its origins, we might have all been suspended -- yet another offense that toted a tag of "insurmountable shame and utter degradation" in those days.

I mean...something like that would definitely go in your Permanent Record. In the 1950s South, we were informed in the first grade that a file bearing our name had been opened (our Permanent Record), that the information about our comportment would be duly recorded in said file, and that it would follow us all the days of our life. Once something was installed in your Permanent Record -- That Was It -- you could never get it out no matter what. We obviously lived in mortal dread of committing any transgression that could somehow wind up inscribed in our Permanent Record. No telling how many actual felonies were prevented by this threat.

If you had a black mark in your Permanent Record, even if it was for something you did in the fifth grade, you could forget joining Chi O when you got to Ole Miss eight years later, and if you thought the Junior League would turn a blind eye to such obvious criminal traits, you got several more thinks coming.

You would never be able to get a decent job -- because your Permanent Record would be the first thing any prospective employer would look at. And you could never get your hands on your Permanent Record -- it was a top-secret set of documents held by the school system, and they would release it only to other people who wanted to know what it said about you before they hired you or let you join their organization or gave you a loan -- you could never see the damning words in your Permanent Record, you could only suffer their effects.

Apparently, this, too, was a sham our mothers made up in their desperate attempts to civilize and control us. On account of I can name you at least 183 people -- male and female and everything in between -- who were, by anybody's definition, genuine thugs with Permanent Records a foot thick when we were growing up, and they, every one of 'em, not only lived to adulthood without losing any important body parts but went on to have mostly productive lives, and some of 'em were even able to join the Junior League (except the ones from South Jackson, of course -- some things simply cannot be overcome).

But, I digress -- big surprise.

It was the pure and spotless Debbie who got caught and her capture brought about the end of the Twat Sisters and there were no indelible black marks in anybody's Permanent Records regarding membership in that organization. And don't you just know that woulda turned the Junior League on its ear if they'da come across that little notation about a prospective member? Might as well have a tattoo.

When the mama of one of my former Queens first caught her first glimpse of the very large tattoo festooning the back of the young and wayward Queen, her response was a gasping, "Well! You'll never get in the Junior League with THAT!"

Every little girl grows up around gatherings of women -- which means by the time she reaches puberty, she's heard so many Labor and Delivery Nightmare stories, she's numb to them and any power they might have to dampen her burgeoning libido. Although at least a few of us did seem to make it to teenage in blissful ignorance of these tales. Okay, there was only one. Queen Tammy (her real name) was in her late teens before she was disabused of the notion that belly buttons just sort of iris'd open like old camera lenses and the baby just popped out, all pretty and pink, like a doll. I have never heard anything like this from anybody else on the planet before or since. I can only imagine Tammy's complete outrage when she learned the truth. But since she's the only one in the world who ever believed this yarn (and was it a yarn told to her or did she make it up herownself in the absence of any other data? I'm not sure), I don't think we have to be too concerned with making sure it gets refuted.

No, most everybody else got the scare tactics and, for anybody interested in attempting to dissuade a young girl from engaging in sexual activity prematurely, I would like to suggest -- in place of the tales of Four Days and Nights of Hard Labor, Surly Cruel Delivery Room Nurses, and Failed Epidurals -- try planting these seeds of horror in her mind's eye: big giant nipples and episiotomies. Oh, yeah. You want to make Abstinence more appealing -- clue 'em in on these nuggets of knowledge.

Had anybody ever hinted to me that -- with my olive complexion -- during pregnancy my own personal nipples would grow to the size of salad plates and turn black -- I can assure you, it would have given me Pause.

Most of our mamas spent all their time dispensing prophecies of degradation and ruin, and factual information about sex -- specifically contraception -- was never discussed. This was -- and still is for many -- considered to be Permission if not out-and-out encouragement to have unmarried teenage sex. It has been my observation -- and experience -- that hardly anybody needs encouragement to have sex. The hormones just sorta take over that job, unbidden.

And people -- of any age -- are going to have sex when they decide to -- whether they have any information or not -- and there won't be any parents around when they make that decision, so it's too late to be handing out facts then.

I know a sweet young thing who started having sex with her now-husband when she was just a young teen. Being the daughter of a policeman who apparently subscribed to the information-is-permission school of thought, she and her boy-lover relied solely on a contraception method that is as old as sex itself -- and was proven to be ineffective about nine months after the first time it was ever tried on earth by humans, and what did they name that kid? Was it Cain or Abel? That would be the ole jerk-and-squirt, or, if you're Baptist, the pull-and-pray. They thought themselves quite the self-taught sexual sophisticates -- until, of course, she "turned up" pregnant.

Sweetie learned about all the different kinds of contraception after her baby was born and she was married at sixteen to that young man who is now a preacher. And ten years later, she and her preacher man are remembering their own youthful indiscretions and asking themselves the burning question -- Wonder who rebels the most in life -- cops' kids (Mama) or preachers' kids? -- as they watch their daughter head inexorably toward Teenage. They're praying for the former, of course!

But whether you're a scared, uninformed teenager or a scared, fairly well-educated thirty-five-year-old, the common denominators are there: shock, disbelief, and not a little fear.

At any rate, when you first learn that you are, in fact, pregnant and you have the experience of 1+ 1 equaling 3 (or more!), it is simply astounding because something your mama threatened you with finally came true, and from that moment on, your mama is about to get just a whole lot smarter.

Try to Appreciate the Weirdness

Okay, so you get irrefutable proof that you are pregnant -- it takes a little while for that to reeally sink in and this is a pleasant and magical time -- moment, really -- in your pregnancy. Then your body starts to change. Now, if our mamas really wanted to scare us into abstinence, this is the info that they ought to have been putting out there.

I had that "pink cloud" of magical thinking about My Pregnancy for about a nanosecond before I began to detect the changes in my body. Somewhere around seventy-two hours after conception, I think, I gained about twelve pounds -- all of it on my back. Nobody mentioned this likelihood when they were trying to dampen my budding libido. See, when you're pregnant, your back goes, like, away somehow. The front of your body gets impossibly long and your back gets short and fat. This same look is replicated in beer-bellied men, by the way.

Okay, let me pause right here and say that I am writing this book for normal people who, during pregnancy, blow up like Fat Elvis, eat everything that doesn't run off, cry at cotton commercials, and make unreasonable demands on their spouses coupled with tearful threats to run away if these demands are not met. By the beginning of the second trimester, they have outgrown everything they own but one pair of blue sweatpants and a size 10X sweatshirt, but they don't care, that's all they feel like wearing anyway, and then they give birth to something smaller than a grocery-store chicken. If this sounds like you, you are my people.

I have nothing to say to women who gained three pounds overall, ran marathons in tiny, strikingly coordinated outfits all the way to the delivery room, and weighed ten pounds less when they went home from the hospital than they did before they even got pregnant. Well, there are a couple of words I could muster, but they have just been done to death -- I have nothing original to add. We might turn out to be kindred spirits, but we're gonna have a rocky start. There might be hope for you when we get to the part where they send you home with that baby -- that can be a great equalizer. Big difference between childbearing and child rearing, as we will see.

Before I got pregnant, my weight had been absolutely stable for years on end. Couldn't gain a pound on a bet. Ate like a field hand, gobbled like a hawg -- night and day -- and beer, I drank a lot of beer, too -- and I never, ever missed dessert (often eating entire pies at one sitting -- really) -- and the scales never betrayed me by so much as an ounce. This ability -- to drink and eat with fervor and delight with no corresponding weight gain -- does foster in one a certain smugness and a lack of empathy for others who have not received such metabolic blessings, and this is not something that is taken lightly by Karma.

And so it came to pass that not only did my entire body seem to be inflating before my eyes -- but the scale would reveal wild fluctuations on an almost hourly basis. I might weigh myself first thing in the morning and be only mildly horrified at the poundage -- only to pass the scale casually around noon and step on to discover I'd gained six pounds in four hours. Then, after exercising, I might weigh again and see that I'd lost five, but by bedtime there would be an additional several.

Suddenly, I was obsessed with the scale. I was weighing myself twenty-five to thirty times a day -- I couldn't stop myself -- and it was never good news. And so I made an Executive Decision (as a pregnant woman, you are The Chief Executive of your entire world -- literally, whatever you say goes) -- I decided that I would spend my entire pregnancy blissfully unaware of what the scale was saying about me -- and it was gonna have to say it behind my back if it was gonna say it at all. Because that's how I got on the scale at Dr. Rascal Odom's office every month -- backward.

I would lumber in and hold on to his precious nurse Connie's hand and step up with my back to the numbers, talking loudly to Connie all the while so that I couldn't hear the sound of her ooching the weights farther and farther across the bar as I packed on the pounds.

Not only did I refuse to look at it, I refused to listen to it -- no one was allowed to tell me what I weighed nor to admonish me in any way about it. Dr. Rascal, of course, expressed some degree of dissatisfaction with this setup initially, but I told him that I was not gonna come outta this deal with an eating disorder -- that I was sick of freaking out over the scale all day every day. I pointed out to him that I was over six feet tall, healthy, and slightly underweight when all this started, and if I had to pick somebody to be unhappy about my weight for the next nine months, I'd pick him, hands down.

If there were any other pregnant patients in the weigh-in area when I arrived, Connie would make every effort to herd them into another area -- mutiny was inevitable if my secret was revealed. I gained and I gained and I gained -- but at least I got to do it in peace. That peace was ultimately shattered, of course, when they sent me home from the hospital with a little baby girl who accounted for only a bit more than seven of the sixty-four pounds I'd put on during the manufacturing process.

I had seen hundreds -- thousands -- of pregnant women in my lifetime and heard countless tales of countless pounds packed on -- never to be lost again in this life. Never did I imagine it happening to ME. This would seem to be an important point missing from the Abstinence materials I've seen.

I did not personally experience morning sickness -- not ever, not one time. 0This, I believe, is because I staunchly refused to throw up and I advised the baby inside me in no uncertain terms that although we were currently sharing space formerly occupied by only me myownself, she was welcome to stay as long as she followed the house rules. I was not in the habit of starting each day with vomiting, and I had no intention of taking up the practice now -- if there were any sudden bouts of nausea around here, I'd know whom to blame for it.

Popsicles and chicken-fried steak were the objects of my intense cravings. The Popsicles were a new development and, for the first time since grade school, I ate 'em by the boxful. The chicken-fried thing was more of an enhancement of a previously existing condition. There is a restaurant in downtown Jackson called the Elite (pronounced by most Jacksonians, myself included, as the E-light) that serves THE best chicken-fried steak on the planet, and everybody in Austin, Texas, needs to just haul ass over here and try it for theirownselves and then go back home and fill up on water, 'cause they ain't got no chicken-fried steak over there that even comes close.

It is possible to order "double meat" at the Elite -- which is what I did about every other night during my en-tire pregnancy. I would order it with a big grin and tell the precious waitress that, after all, I was eating for two -- and one of us -- the one doing both the orderin' and the eatin' -- was great big and mighty hongry. It's really a wonder I gained only sixty-four pounds.

Oh, there was one other thing I ate a whole lot of and that was Frusen Gla;dje; ice cream, which I don't think you can even get anymore prolly on account of I ate it all up in 1987. It had about 95 percent butterfat or something like that and, man alive, was it ever good. The "reason" I was eating so much of it, though, was because it came in the cutest little plastic containers that I knew would be just so handy to have around for leftovers and such -- after the baby came. In retrospect, I suppose Tupperware would have been significantly cheaper and literally calorie-free. Not as tasty, though.

So that's another weird thing that happens to you when you're pregnant -- you lose your mind. I ate approximately 2 million calories' worth of ice cream -- for the little buckets it came in -- as if that made perfect sense -- and Queen Cheryl had huge memory lapses. Two of the more significant occurrences were once when she couldn't remember how to start the car -- which continues to be an important thing for her to know every single day of her life -- and the other when she went to introduce her husband to somebody and she couldn't remember his NAME -- which, in later years, became of no importance whatsoever.

Queen Ramona turned bad -- sooo bad. When she was real pregnant, around eight and a half months or so of Real, her husband decided they needed more life insurance. So the insurance guy came out to the house to get all the paperwork done and he asked the husband all the questions about his health and family history and whatnot, and he wrote it all down and then started with the same questions for Ramona. He asked her if she'd ever been turned down (this is where she went bad) -- she started batting her eyelashes at the guy and rubbing her big ole belly and she said, just as Southern as she could drawl out, "Why-y-y-y, no-o-o-o-o!" She let it hang there for a second, and then she looked all surprised and said, "Oh! You mean for in-surance?"

Every little pregnancy bonus that Mother Nature gives us comes with its own corresponding slap in the face with a wet squirrel. For instance, those of us who, in Normal Life, couldn't cleave on a bet suddenly find that in Pregnant World, we have tits for days -- big, voluptuous, cleaving breasts overfill our every bra. But most everything south of them grows exponentially at the same time, which is not nearly as entertaining for us, or for the spectators.

I heard just the other day from a sweet little young thing whose mother-in-law had advised her to replace her bikini underwear with something more substantial when she bought maternity clothes. Oh, little young sweetie was horrified at the thought, and she was quite certain that since her undies didn't come up to the area that was going to be swelling soon, they would fit just fine for the duration of her pregnancy. She thought mom-in-law was a silly dinosaur with no knowledge of modern panties. Figuring that this prehistoric woman is prolly about my age, I silently took her side and said nothing. I just hope the mother-in-law has the satisfaction of being at Wal-Mart with little missy the day her bikini falls down around her ankles. Pantie styles may indeed evolve over time, but pregnant bellies haven't changed much since panties were invented, or since pregnancy was invented, for that matter -- and what stayed up just fine prepregnancy is destined to be a boot-topper for those who choose to resist The Inevitable: Big Ones.

And, if you're still holding out, let me just tell you that once you experience the joy of a big, giant pair of cotton bloomers, you will never want little tiny panties again in this life. Yes, it's true. You will be Somebody's Mother and you will no longer give a rat's ass if your panties cover your belly button -- and you will care even less if they match your bra! I can hear your horrified gasping. I'm sorry to just blurt it out like that -- but somebody had to tell you. It's over. "Lingerie" is a sweet memory from your past -- that will seem more distant with every passing year of breast-feeding, diaper changing, carpooling, and room mothering.

You will never go into Victoria's Secret again -- unless, of course, you get a divorce -- but that's all covered in my other book. In this book, we're hoping that your baby-daddy will be around for the duration -- so with that hope firmly held, it's time to shop for grannypanties and get happy with 'em.

Another dual surprise -- half happy, half not really unhappy, but really surprising and bizarre -- is your hair. The hair on your head is all of a sudden perfect. You will have more hair than you've ever had in your life and it will be fabulous. But, true to her contrary form, Mother Nature has another gift for you. At the very same time that you are reveling in your new coiffure, a good ways down from your head, you will also find you suddenly have more hair than you've ever had in your life, and I don't know that I would say it's fabulous, necessarily. Not un-fabulous, I guess, but it's just so...unexpected. After puberty has run her course, one doesn't really anticipate any more changes -- "down there" -- and so when all of a sudden it appears that the little kitty is turning into a she-bear, well, it's just a surprise is all.

Of course, I vaguely knew about C-sections, but at no time had anybody ever made any reference, obscure or otherwise, to the possibility of any other sort of incision-type business associated with childbirth. Where were the people with this info? I never heard squat about it until I found myself in childbirth classes. Fine time to be hearing about this, I'm thinking. There were six youngish women, all sitting or lying on the floor with our pillows and our husbands, ignorant faces bright with anticipation, eager to learn about the last installment of our pregnancies, and all of a sudden the teacher/nurse starts talking about cutting us from stem to stern, as it were -- in order to try to avoid tearing. Tearing, you say? Whoa nelly, just hold the phone now, Herman -- tearing what? Ain't nobody never said nothin' 'bout no TEARIN' -- we ain't studyin' on nothin' bein' tore. Oh, and then the video started. Now, that right there is some surefire birth control, if you ask me. I can name you six women right off the top of my head -- from that very class -- that woulda backed out of the deal right then and there if they could have.

I was pret-ty sure after that class that I was gonna be needin' me a nice, predictable, well-thought-out Caesarean. My friend Queen Vickie was actually able to finagle herself one by devious means -- but she did it only because she was hungry. When she and David married, she'd already had two kids from her previous marriage to "the ugly little man." (There is apparently photographic support for this nomenclature.) It was several years before she and David were able to get pregnant (although, as she pointed out and we already know -- it was really only she that got pregnant) -- so she was known to her doctor as "one of his old mothers," and she assumed that, as such, she would qualify automatically for a C-section.

It was a particularly hot day in August when she woke up feeling like it might be a good day to have a baby, and when she called the doctor, he told her, yep, sounded like it was time, come on in. Thinking she was headed for surgery -- and would therefore be denied lunch -- she popped into the 7-Eleven on her way to the hospital to grab a quick Dr Pepper and some peanuts -- just to tide her over till suppertime.

Apparently, this behavior was not unusual. For some women, the onset of labor pains creates not only a mighty appetite but also a fear of famine, and all they can think about is getting a little something on the way to the hospital. My own personal seester, Judy, who gave birth to the wonderboy Trevor in the city of New Orleans, hopped off the streetcar and grabbed a cheeseburger on her way to the delivery room.

(I did, happily for me, end up requiring a section, and it was all planned out ahead of time so I never went into labor and did not experience the accompanying hunger pangs. I was, however, vitally concerned with the potential pangs of Others. Before dawn on the appointed day, I was up making ten thousand or so ho-made blueberry muffins -- not for myself, but for every shift of nurses that I might encounter for the next twenty-four hours -- in hopes of bribing my way into the hearts of any Ratchet-type nurses that might be on duty. I've always felt it was time well spent.)

Anyway, fortified with her peanuts and Dr Pepper, Vic made her way to the hospital, where she was met by her husband, David. David and the doctor decided it was prolly going to be a long haul and they prolly oughta fortify themselves with a bite to eat, so off the two of them went, downstairs to the cafeteria -- leaving her alone and already getting hungry -- in the labor room wearing nothing but her hospital nightie. They made sure the nurses took her clothes so she wouldn't be heading to the snack machines -- so apparently she was already under suspicion.

And wouldn't you know it? Her contractions stopped. But our Vickie decided, contractions or not, she had had herself enough of this business and she was ready to get this thing done. They had put the little band thingee around her belly that measures contractions, so every few minutes, she would squeeeeeezee her stomach really tight and hold it for a little bit -- in what she thought was a pretty good imitation of a genuine contraction -- so that weird little measurements appeared on the screen. When the doctor came back -- after lunch -- he took a look and said, well, he didn't think they were really contractions, but something was obviously going on -- so he went and did the C-section. When baby Sam weighed in at eight pounds, Vickie was sooo relieved. All she could think of -- after she set this ruse in irrevocable motion -- was what if he was tiny and underweight, and she had faked her contractions largely because she was hungry? I say, all's well that ends well and all that -- especially if it ends with snacks.

Copyright © 2008 by Jill Conner Browne

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Child rearing -- Humor.
Motherhood -- Humor.