Creative Nonfiction

Quantum Physics for Mothers

SUSAN McCARTY’s essays have appeared in Ecotone, the Iowa Review, Utne Reader, and elsewhere. She is the author of the story collection Anatomies (2015, Aforementioned Productions) and teaches at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.

WHEN I WAS PREGNANT, I learned that North Korea had finally developed a missile capable of reaching the United States, one that might someday carry a nuclear warhead. The improbable Donald Trump had met the news with taunts and jeers. Kim Jong-un was Rocket Man, a crazed Kubrick-esque villain.

My body swelled, and I listened to the reports on NPR with one ear as I held the line with the insurance company with the other. I was ordering my breast pump, a Spectra, to arrive a month before the birth of my child.

On the one hand, the news from North Korea was very bad, and I—who, as a child, after Chernobyl, had developed an anxiety disorder that would see me into adulthood—should have been worried for, if not my own safety, then the safety of the animal inside of me, which had been measured in increasingly larger fruits week by week (blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, kiwi, peach). On the other hand, it was difficult to feel much as the point of my interest raced inward.

Sure, Kim Jong-un might decide to nuke Seattle. North Korea burned with the masculine power of nuclear fission—world destroyer.

I wondered blandly whether I should buy potassium iodide pills and big jugs of water and store them in my radon-mitigated Michigan basement. I imagined giving birth among the spiders

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