Not many years ago (in the grand scheme of things), most of us were in diapers, not yet knowing what country we were from or even what a country was. We didn't yet know we were Christian, Muslim, Atheist, or whatever. We didn't know we were Republican or Democrat, male or female, or that we needed to fear and maybe hate one another, or that this might lead us to one day kill and die. As babies we looked out at the world with wide eyes, reaching out for anything we could grab, wanting to feel and understand it. We were open to learning and we trusted, even when it wasn't wise to trust. And then we became adults.
It is not bad being adult, but sometimes I wish we were all in diapers, or at least had something of the spirit of those babies who are.
In Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, there is the following description of Rose of Sharon, the Joad’s pregnant daughter:
Her round soft face, which had been voluptuous and inviting a few months ago, had already put on the barrier of pregnancy, the self-sufficient smile, the knowing perfection-look; and her plump body – full soft breasts and stomach, hard hips and buttocks that had swung so freely and provocatively as to invite slapping and stroking – her whole body had become demure and serious. Her whole thought and action were directed inward on the baby. She balanced on her toes now, for the baby’s sake. And the world was pregnant to her; she thought only in terms of reproduction and of motherhood.
Since at least kindergarten, when I would sometimes see one of the second grade teachers, Mrs. Remillard, leading her class down the hall toward the lunchroom, herself being led by a protruding belly, I’ve been captivated by pregnant women. It was—and is—the curves and expectation, the bodily transformation and the mystery of new life. While I never thought of slapping and stroking Mrs. Remillard (at any point in her life), I do remember keenly wishing I could touch her belly, to trace its curve and see if I could feel the baby kick, as some of her students had been invited to do.
Angela, a 26-year-old Nicaraguan, is the woman in this photograph. She works at a pharmacy in the town of Granada and was seven months pregnant with her second child when I took the photo in November. Recently I received an email from her coworker saying she had delivered a healthy baby (the email didn’t say if it was a boy or girl). One day, if I return to Nicaragua, I will take Angela up on her invitation to visit her home for a fish lunch, and to photograph her entire family. If interested in more pictures from the pharmacy, including Angela’s face, as well as a brief story of how we met, click on “A Pregnant Plea in Nicaragua.”