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When Seat Belt No Longer Fits, Baby's Almost on Board

March 29, 2000|MARY McNAMARA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When you are in the ninth month of pregnancy, you start looking for signs that the end is near. That you are as large as you ever will be in this lifetime. That today, or tomorrow, or certainly by the end of the week, you will again be able to draw a full breath, bend over without a porcine grunt, sit in a manner not evocative of a professional bowler.

Some women say the truest sign is when your bellybutton pops out, like that little red button in self-basting turkeys. For me, it's when your seat belt no longer fits.

My seat belt no longer fits.

Well, it fits in that it clasps, and there seems to be the necessary give in the retractable shoulder belt. (A moment of thanks for that retractable shoulder belt, which, unlike the unforgiving lap belts of my childhood, does not leave a visible record of one's girth lying on the seat for everyone to contemplate.) But it no longer lies smartly between my breasts, stretched from shoulder to hip like a safety patroller's white harness. My Mother Earth silhouette, it would seem, has at last become insurmountable, and so the poor belt simply skirts the whole bulging thing, catching me right in the neck on the one side and the armpit on the other.

Very comfortable.

Now a rational person would simply add this to the endless list of physical indignities visited upon a woman's person during pregnancy.

I choose to look at it as a sign from God that this baby is on his or her way. Any minute now.

Because the car was my last bastion of normalcy. Once I got in the car (an elephantine maneuver of such unparalleled gracelessness that I will allow only my husband as witness), I could pretend that I was just like everyone else. I do not waddle when I am in the car, my thighs do not rub together, and I can go as fast as my peers and not have to stop every five minutes to gasp for breath. When I am in the car, the baby rarely uses my bladder as a punching bag. In fact, the baby likes it best when we are in the car; lulled perhaps by the song of the road, he or she is content to simply squirm and arch, a blessed reprieve from the normal gestational-delinquent behavior--the stomping up and down, the rattling of ribs.

Surely a wise and kind God would not expect me to surrender this one remaining solace.

It would be so unfair to all those other drivers, after all. In the few short days since my seat belt turned against me, I have changed. I have begun distinct driving-while-pregnant behavior. I am no longer content to wait in any line of any type for any reason and will only grudgingly allow others to merge in front of me.

Likewise, I take every automotive slight--the woman in the red Chevy who took my turn at the four-way stop, the guy in the black Lexus who wouldn't let me in even though my lane was suddenly closed for construction--very personally. In fact, I have begun taking plate numbers. Just so you know.

So far, I have not violated the law nor my own personal code of ethics by, say, taking a handicapped parking space, but if things continue as they have for much longer, I cannot make any promises.

On the other hand, I did recently tip a car valet $5 because he was kind enough to not only let me leave my car right in front of the door, but he also offered his hand to help me out.

And the appearance of the hero is almost always a sign that a happy ending is near.

Right?

*

I have begun distinct driving-while-pregnant behavior. I am no longer content to wait in any line of any type for any reason and will only grudgingly allow others to merge in front of me.

*

Mary McNamara is on maternity leave and plans to return this summer.

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