I haven’t really had the chance the flesh out any of my retrospective pregnant thoughts yet, so I figured I’d do it with one of my favorite poems of all time. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” has followed me throughout much of my life without explanation, and I recently found myself adding it as the very first poem in the poetry anthology I am making for Roland. Again, perhaps with little explanation, but I do feel like poems come like waves into our lives that way and we shouldn’t just let them sit there. Of course, Prufrock is by no means a pregnant poem. In no way does the character of Prufrock manifest itself in expectation or hope for anything at all. In fact, in many ways Eliot paints a melancholy and cynical state of being which is fine to stagnate there forever.
I thought at first that maybe I had it on my mind now again because it is a sort of masculine poem which captures several different male types within its lines. But then I remembered a line from the poem which went through my head almost daily while I was pregnant: “Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains.”
The subject of this line is this yellow smoke which we see sort of floating around a city for much of the first part of the poem. The line can live without the context of the remaining lines of the poem, I think, and that’s how it played to me during those months. I never remembered what it was that was lingering, only that one long, dragging, enunciated line. I hung my head into my first trimester bucket and walked very slowly through the halls at the learning center months later to the rhythm of it. But what did it mean?
I think now that this line forced something upon me in my pregnancy which I would not have otherwise considered. It pushed me to do what I did not want to do at any point during those months: to linger in them. Not only to stay put and to really live during the pregnant months, but to do it as smoke would upon pools of liquid (which are also stationary in their drains). Or, in other words, to really live those months as if I was made to be in them. I had to not only linger like something that moved freely and chose to stop some place for a time (the smoke), but I also had to just simply stay put in my natural place (a pool of water in a drain).
I fought Eliot’s line almost always. I grew sick; I grew tired; and more than anything else, I grew impatient. I did love being pregnant, don’t get me wrong. But I think I loved it because I knew I was being useful for a greater purpose always. I was the tool and the service toward my son’s birth and life beyond birth. Pregnancy was and is the most hopeful state of existence, I think. This line wanted me to live inside that hope and be that hope without expectation.
It took me many months, but I can pinpoint the exact moment when I was able to live inside that hope; when I finally became the pool in the drain. It happened when December 11th came and God said “Not yet.” And after saying, “Why not? Why not? Why not?” for a few days I realized that I was still pregnant and being pregnant was still the best. I still had my son running around inside me, going everywhere with me, and falling asleep with me at the end of a long day. He could hear me working and talking to new people. He could hear his Dad coming home from work and telling me how his day went. He could hear the CHVRCHES album I played in my car nonstop during those months.
I was able to really listen to that line eventually, not just on the surface, but actually in my mind and for myself. And now that line is still there, looking at the three of us and our family. So sometimes I look back and I say, “but I can’t wait to hear him laugh,” or, “but I can’t wait to take him outside in weather that isn’t terribly painful.” But most of the time I say, “Yeah, you’re right” and I stay put where nature led me: lingering smoke and a pool in my beautiful little drain.