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Drowning in Estrogen

Saturday, September 12, 2009 at 11:46 PM EDT

I have a new girlfriend.

I’ve known J for eight years now, as we were both in the same classes at Antioch. We cooperatively suffered through four years of grad school, and were always friendly without ever really being friends. She seemed to me to be one of the cool kids, always a little bit on the fringe, always projecting this aura of self-confidence and a willingness to point out the flaws in the system. I was drawn to that, but was also juggling a life with a toddler, and then a newborn, and a husband and house… we were just at very different points in our lives, and we each had our own set of closer friends, and so we remained friendly, went to lunch a time or two, and then, after finishing classes, went our separate ways: I remained in New Hampshire, she remained in Boston.

In one of those twists of technology, we actually started to become closer after the geographical distance set in. She would read my blog; I would read hers. We were in touch more by email, and she sent a lovely care package when I was laid off, and we met at the Museum of Science in the spring… it just built, slowly.

Then she found out she was pregnant, about two weeks before I found out about my own delicate condition. And I warned her, right away, that this put her at risk for a much stronger and more permanent bond with me. There’s just something about sharing a pregnancy – many of my closest friends, even those I haven’t yet met in person, are women with whom I shared prior pregnancies, and I even feel a certain tie to celebrities whose bellies expand at the same time as mine. I completely lack this bond with people I meet after the fact – standing around at a kindergarten birthday party does not fill me with nostalgia and an instant camaraderie just because we happened to Do the Deed in the same year – but during the pregnancy itself, there’s just something about it.

Having been duly warned, she hasn’t scurried for the hills, and so we’ve been chatting online more, and yesterday, we took things to the next level. I had the entire day to myself – the kids were at L’s and Willem was working on his dissertation – and at Willem’s insistence, I was researching prenatal massage places in the area. I got in touch with J to see if she wanted to join in, and it took remarkably little arm-twisting to convince her. There’s a woman right here in Salem that offers a package deal kind of thing, schedule five massages in advance and the sixth is half price, and her studio is right on the beach… so inquiries have decidedly been lodged, there.

For the moment, though, it turns out, many places refuse to do massage in the first trimester, for fear of inducing miscarriage; I’m all kinds of skeptical about that, but am willing to err on the side of caution. So, instead, I made appointments for us to get pedicures at a local mall, to be followed by our first official maternity shopping expedition and dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.

It was just as girly and estrogen-intensive as you would think. In many ways, J. is light years ahead of me, lifewise; she finished the doctoral program that I walked away from, people call her “Doctor,” she is settled in the house she plans to stay in until dragged out kicking and screaming… and in other ways, I feel like I’m looking at myself ten years ago: new marriage, first pregnancy. Only she has the benefit of age and intent that I didn’t have… I think that means she’ll have to make a whole new set of mistakes from the ones I made.

So, anyway, it was wonderful, and I didn’t even begrudge the last-minute call from the kids asking to come home a night early, since it didn’t interrupt any part of my day. And now there’s a boatload of housework and chores to deal with here, but I have really comfortable – and, dare I say, stylish – pants to wear while dealing with it…