Do Not’s (For Her)
Do not drink alcohol: this may hurt the baby. / Severe learning disabilities, physical abnormalities, and disorders of the central nervous system may result. / Do not drink caffeine (or maybe not too much; it is okay to sneak a sip, / here or there, if careful, she-of-the-morning-two-cups will argue). / Increased risk of miscarriage during the first trimester is associated with elevated caffeine intake. / Do not eat soft cheeses. Brie, Gorgonzola, Camembert, goat, feta, queso blanco will assuredly have Listeria. / (This, she finds toughest; no more / baked goat cheese dinners with him / to warm their wintered stomachs.) / Do not eat deli meat: again, Listeria. (She is vegetarian; this will be no problem.) / Do not eat fish / high in mercury: no swordfish or tilefish; no King mackerel to finish / roasting in the oven after a kiss / on the grill; no seven-spiced shark steaks or shark kabobs, / absolutely no shark fin soup when they eat high-priced Chinese. (Again, no problem.) / Do not eat uncooked fish or shellfish, / Which goes without much saying, he thinks, wondering what / the world must be coming to if that needs noting. / Do not drink unpasteurized milk or cider; Campylobacter, E. coli, Listeria, or Salmonella. / Do not eat salads / made in a store (Listeria, one more time). / Do not eat at salad bars, sayeth the March of Dimes, for fear of, / yes, Listeria. / Do not lick the spoon or tongue away / the chocolate batter from the beaters’ twisted metal / after making cookies or cake. Do not think / pregnancy is excuse to Eat for two; this is myth. / Do not panic; do not worry. Babies happen / every minute. Do not think / this list is complete, ma’am: / there will be more trouble soon enough.
Do Not’s (For Him)
Do not drink alcohol in front of her, / especially not beers, sun-kissed Hefeweizens or bitterly persistent pale ales. She will ask / for a sip, she will beg for a half-glass. / Say no and be strong: remember, this will hurt / only the least important person of this new three. / Do not drink caffeine. A long night’s sleep will never come / easily again; take advantage now. / Do not eat what might turn / her stomach; roasted salmon, a salami sandwich, too-heavily-garlicked spaghetti. / (At least brush your teeth before / trying to kiss her glowing, or faintly shimmering if it’s early on, self.) / Do not rub her belly and sing, I wish I had a watermelon, I wish / I had a watermelon. It is crass. / Do not force her onto a roller coaster. (Sudden stops can harm the baby.) Do not / suggest taking a sauna or dipping into a hot tub. (Raised core temperature is a no-no.) / Do not go for a long, romantic bike ride. (Her center / of gravity will have been wrecked.) Do not propose / a celebratory skydive. (This deserves no explanation.) / Basically, do not openly enjoy anything / she cannot do. Do not seem pleased / this list is shorter and more ridiculous. She will be carrying / the weight for as long as this marriage lasts, / for as long as this child is alive. And if she ever feels / terrible, broken-down, needing to unburden herself and says, / You did this to me, / do not, do not, do not say anything. Take the punishment / like a man.
Art by Matt Monk
Michael Levan has work in recent or forthcoming issues of Arts & Letters, Painted Bride Quarterly, Iron Horse Literary Review, Copper Nickel, and Ruminate. He is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Saint Francis and writes reviews for American Microreviews and Interviews.