It was spring 1964, and my mother was smoking her Winstons even as her belly swelled.
“You’re going to have a baby brother,” she told me one night. She sat on my bed and I sipped from the glass of water she had brought me. I was seven, and already had a little brother and a little sister. In our dark bedroom, in beds nearby, they slept, while I learned about the baby growing inside my mother. She was so sure it was a boy, even though she had no proof.
“Go to sleep,” she said and left me. I put my head down on the pillow, trying to imagine the baby that would be here in the summer. It would be like a doll, small enough for me to hold, and I could give it a bottle. Then I called out to my mother again, telling her that I was still thirsty, but all I really wanted was for her to sit by my side once more.
That spring my mother and I would stand on the corner waiting for the school bus in the cool newness of those mornings, and I’d hold her hand as she chatted with other mothers. I’d hear her talk about feeling as big as a house. Her belly was popping out in front of her like a beach ball being blown up in slow motion.
One afternoon I came home from school feeling nauseous, and that night I leaned over the side of my bed and vomited into a blue plastic trash bucket, as my mother rubbed my back. Between bouts of nausea, I’d lie back on my pillow and try to sleep. My mother stayed, curled up on the bottom of my bed. I had a fever, and felt I was floating in a dark cloud, unable to see, and I asked my mother, “Am I dead?”
From Outside of Her, Chapter 3