She sits in the shallow baby pool, the water dancing across the tops of her legs and around her waist. She watches as the baby crawls under the spray of water coming from a giant frog’s mouth, laughing as it splashes the top of his head and his back. The sun makes her skin feel like it is crawling with needles and she moves farther into the shade. Underneath the water, her feet look bloated and swollen, her ankles reflecting at twice their usual size, looking as they had when she was pregnant. Seeing her ankles like that, she can imagine the way the baby felt as he kicked and flipped inside her stomach, how he would stretch his arms and jam his heels into her ribs and her bladder. She can remember the constant heat around her belly and the way her skin stretched so tightly she could see the thick ropes of her veins running across it. Pregnancy made her body swollen and soft like she had eaten something she was allergic to. It was something she had not been prepared for.
The baby laughs at the water as he scoops it in his hands and brings it to his mouth like he is about to take a sip. She shakes her head as he looks at her, smiling, and lets the water run down the sides of his palms. She has always been able to communicate with him without speaking, so in tune with him, it almost feels supernatural. She can have her back turned away from him and know which direction he is going or if he is about to run or climb on top of something that he shouldn’t. Once, at the park, she was in the middle of a conversation with another mom when she suddenly stopped, turned around, and grabbed the baby as he was about to slip through a set of bars that were set too far apart. After she grabbed him, she had calmly set him on the ground and continued her conversation as if nothing had happened. Motherhood can be so strange. Sometimes, she says entire sentences to him without speaking, and he will turn towards her and smile in response.
They are at this resort to get away from the cold weather back home. It feels strange to put on a bathing suit in the morning instead of snow boots. The baby will soon turn two and they decided to celebrate early since her husband was able to take time off work. When she looks at the baby, she can’t believe that he is not the tiny, mewling creature that she gave birth to not so long ago. Sometimes, her stomach will flip, and she will find herself double checking that he isn’t still in there, that she hadn’t somehow forgotten that she was still pregnant. She buys pregnancy tests off the internet that look like the litmus strips she used for science experiments in high school. She’s always checking to make sure that she’s not pregnant; it seems like something she might accidentally do. When she told her husband about her fear, he had looked at her like he hadn’t heard what she said, so she repeated it, and he had slowly turned away and ignored her for the rest of the afternoon. It was one of the ways he pretends that she is perfect. She doesn’t mind.
The baby continues to splash as her husband sits on a pool chair nearby, his phone pressed against his ear and his laptop open in front of him. His bosses laud him for how dependable he is; he is never out of reach, even on vacation. She waves at him and he bobs his head to show that he’s seen her, though his eyes remained trained on his computer screen. She takes a sip of the melted margarita that he bought her before he sat down. It has one of those paper umbrellas floating on top; the purple dye is leaking into the liquid below. It tastes like sugar and chlorine, leaving the sting of chemicals in the back of her throat. The baby laughs at the bubbles that shoot out from the small row of jets around the edges of the pool while she sips her drink and pretends that she is having fun.