It is a phenomenon that began the first month we were “trying.” While on vacation this summer in Quebec we were seated in a restaurant and my husband started laughing – above my head hung a large, rather grotesquely vivid painting of hugely pregnant woman in a red dress. As I anxiously awaited the day when I could pee on an informative stick, they only seemed to multiply. One would be standing beside me in the elevator, another would follow me onto the subway. It didn’t help that we live in a neighborhood that seems, in certain seasons, a kind of hothouse experiment in human fertility. There it was – there were pregnant women everywhere.

Now that I’m pregnant myself, I seem to see even more of them then ever, though my feeling towards them has changed. Before I knew I was pregnant I felt them taunting me with their fertility. “Why this old thing?” the beach-ball-bellied jogger in Prospect Park seemed to say, “It’s my fifth!” Then there were the tired-looking moms-to-be on the subway who would all but shout, “Hey you, you unpregnant, totally-normal, no-one-extra-living-in-your-guts plebeian – give me that seat!” Now, on the other hand, I see them all as cohorts, as if we were sisters in this bizarre hobby of ours. I find myself staring inappropriately at midsections. I’ll get all excited by a rounded stomach only to realize upon further examination that it’s plain old pudge, my interest in its carrier suddenly flatlining. A normal, I’ll tell myself, disappointed. Not in the club.

It is, for me, a silent club, since I don’t actually know any other expecting mothers other than a few scattered coworkers and the attendants of my prenatal yoga class, (none of whom I actually really speak to, mind you). Which is probably the very reason why I feel such kinship with this imagined clique. Do I really have anything in common with the chic Midtown business lady balancing her belly on stilt-like Manolo Blaniks? Probably not, though that doesn’t stop me from having to fight back a strange desire to run up to her and say, “Hey! Does it seem like you can feel your belly stretching sometimes? Are your nipples practically purple? Are you growing fur all over? Oh my god me too!” It really is so strong sometimes I almost can’t resist it, though I am generally not that kind of overly-solicitous, making-small-talk-on-airplanes kind of person at all. And yet, I worry that one of these days some rounded neighbor of mine is going to find herself assaulted. “Hey!” I will scream, pawing at her arm as she reels back in alarm. “I am also growing a tiny human! HOLY SHIT ISN’T THAT SO WEIRD? CAN YOU BELIEVE OUR BODIES CAN DO THAT?”

At the very least, I am thankful that the tiny human still lives inside, where she can’t yet be embarrassed by me.

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AMY SHEARN is the author of the novel How Far Is the Ocean from Here. She lives in Brooklyn with a husband, a baby, and a dog. Visit her online at amyshearn.com.

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