"After weeks of chronic sleepiness and nausea, I slipped away from the lab and caught the boat to Panama City. I shouldered my way into Machetazo, the Panamanian equivalent of Kmart, and quietly asked the clerk for una prueba de embarazo.
"I slept late the next day and, after checking to make sure my roommate was nowhere in sight, cleared a small space in the bathroom. I set down the urine cup, dipped in the stick, and watched in wide wonder as the single yellow stripe turned to blue.
"Phone calls back home were prohibitively expensive, but I called Peter, my husband, to tell him the news. 'What have I done?' I wept. Alarmed by my volatile hormones, he sent me the standard pregnancy text, What to Expect When You're Expecting, which stressed how 'special' this time was for me. But I felt, as the months passed, just the opposite. Everything on the island was busy procreating, and no one made a fuss about it. Pregnant monkeys leaped from branch to branch without a visible hitch. Birds sat on their eggs, larvae crawled from plant stems.
"For whatever reason, I was unimpressed by the 'miracle of life' growing within me--the zygote which I'd taken in moments of ambivalence to calling F1, the first generation offspring of a parental cross. Its senses developed, my body changed. I went out on a fancy marine-research vessel but became so seasick that I had to be let off the boat. I couldn't take scopolamine now. Nor could I use DEET to keep off the chiggers. Nor could I drink, enjoy the occasional cigarette or stay up late. I wondered if the island's pregnant mammals altered their diet during pregnancy. Did their struggle to survive, to use Darwin's phrase, 'intensify?'
"Climbing a rope dangling from the branch of a Sterculia tree, 40 feet up, my breath came in short gasps. I like to think I'd have made it to the top if I weren't pregnant, but the fetus was stealing my oxygen. There was a constant battle between my needs and F1's -- for my blood supply, the nutrients I consumed and stored, the air I breathed. The fetus was my own personal parasite, and I had few defenses against her. She would stay inside me until my placenta had enough of her, and then she would be expelled. When my mood was sunny, I imagined our relationship, from that point on, would be entirely mutualistic."
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