Pete was in the living room as I was looking through pictures of fetal development. I found an amazing, high-tech, biology-book worthy photograph of a baby at our stage of development, and marveled at it. I look at these pictures every other week or so, and so much happens in that amount of time that it amazes me.
I set the photo as our desktop background (replacing a glamor shot of an airplane flying over water) just as Pete walked into the office. I said, "Pete, look at this amazing picture. Can you believe that's how developed our baby is right now?" He looked at it and said,
"Ugh. That looks like a dead baby. And please don't change my desktop background."
(Okay, now that I'm writing this, I'm starting to think that my following reaction was completely justified. Well, almost.)
Feeling a rare sort of rage creeping up from my toes to my chest, I silently stood up and walked to the dining room, where I began rearranging piles of magazines on the table. I do this when I'm upset -- I pretend to clean things. Pete has forbidden me from pretending to clean the kitchen when I'm angry because he often has to play interference, catching plates and glasses that I accidentally drop.
Pete followed me into the dining room and said, "Okay, you're upset. Tell me why."
I took one of the magazines off its new pile, walked silently to the living room, sat on the couch, and pretended to read.
"Okay, you are very upset. Tell me why."
Since I was pretending, I decided to pretend that I was an adult and, rather than act out on the anger I was feeling, ask questions to understand where Pete had been coming from and why he had such a morbid reaction to a beautiful picture. I opened my mouth, took a deep, calming breath, and burst into tears. "What is WRONG WITH YOU?!?!?!?!" was my first resolution-seeking inquiry.
Pete took a step back. "Okay, now you're unreasonably upset. Go ahead."
"I am NOT being UNREASONABLE," I informed him, wiping snot from my nose and attempting to focus my eyes. The rage had reached my head now.
"Joy, it isn't a picture of our baby. And why do you look so crazy? You've been so good throughout this whole pregnancy... even more emotionally stable than when you're not pregnant. Where is this coming from?"
I stopped blubbering and snotting and coughing and eye-darting as he finished his sentence. This is what shock feels like, I thought. I gripped my magazine. "I want to throw this magazine at you," I said. "I want to THROW IT AT YOU but it wouldn't HURT ENOUGH!!!! More emotionally stable than when I'm not pregnant?!"
He started laughing. Laughing. He probably wouldn't have done so if there were any sharp utensils lying around, but since all I had was my magazine, he laughed at me. "Yes, you've been very stable. I hear all these stories about crazy pregnant women, and I thought, 'Holy cow, Joy's going to be a trip.' But you've been great! And I'm just saying, let's not go down this road here. Let's just go back to Super Pregnant Joy."
By now I was sobbing and hyperventilating again. "So because I'm pregnant, my feelings don't matter right now," I wailed. "And I suppose when I'm you know, uh, SCREABING [that was supposed to be screaming, but snot was in the way] in LABOR, you'll just tell me to, I don't know, walk it off or something."
He hiccuped a little trying to suppress his laughs.
"And for another thing," I said, "It's not your desktop. It's OUR desktop."
"What are you talking about?" He looked bewildered. "What about the desktop?"
"YousaidthatIshouldn'treplacepicturesonYOURdesktop," I blubbered, the sobs rising and rising. "Butit'smydesktoptoo,weShareit!!!"
"Joy! Just tell me why you're so upset."
He waited until my eyes stopped darting around my head, until my sobs settled into a slight sniff, until some of the anger seeped out of my ears and the ends of my toes.
"I was excited over what I think is an amazing picture," I said. "I didn't care what you thought about the picture, but I wanted you to be amazed at how developed our baby was. I wanted you to say things like, 'Look at its fingers! Look at its nose!' And you should have figured out that it was important to me, because I had made it the background photo and I called you over to look at it. And finally, you should never say, 'dead baby.'"
Pete nodded. "Okay, I understand now. And you understand that I did not intend to hurt you or to say anything bad about our baby. I love our baby. Our baby is great. That wasn't our baby. Whatever I said about the picture probably came from a place of ignorance. I don't know how they take those pictures, okay? I know now that it was really a live baby, and that white ghostly stuff was... I don't know... the placenta? You're laughing now because I said that was the placenta, so see? I'm ignorant. And I'm not going to tell you to 'walk off' the labor pains. And it is our computer, not my computer, you're right."
"Just.... stop talking," I said. "And we'll be find." [That was supposed to be fine, but there was some leftover snot in the way.]