Posts from — April 2012
I hesitated in writing this post, not so much because it will ruffle feathers (it might), or out of concern for my image. I wasn’t certain I trusted my ability to capture the essence of this experience; to take something that is stunningly beyond words and lay it gingerly in a fitting container.
The only thing that can sideline a force of nature is nature itself, and I’ve prided myself on rising to her provocations in glorious victory most of the time. This pregnancy gig is an Olympic-level competition, and I’m losing my ass.
As a girl with a chronic digestive disorder, reactive hypoglycemia, and a history of being both over and underweight, I regarded food and eating with suspicion. Eating the wrong thing at the wrong time unfailingly made me miserable for days, and when my low-rise jeans got snug I would budget calories with an iron fist. I felt better, physically and emotionally, when my stomach was empty.
Enter pregnancy. My appetite swelled to quarterback proportions. That lasted until the love-handles and nausea arrived; the circumstances that pre-pregnancy would have triggered severe rationing. Well. The only way to ease morning sickness once it starts is eating enough of the right thing.
I lost forty-eight hours over two bowls of butter parm pasta. White things are so evil. Quick protein is my best friend, and fiber is the sensible girl we take along just to share knowing looks over her outraged reaction to that bacon cheeseburger.
It was my father, fittingly, that delivered the first unsolicited comment about my changing figure. As the source of my pre-pregnancy nutritional strategy, he made note of the aforementioned love handles with palatable relief. Just as I started to adjust to sharing with an unborn life, I was faced with the sense of my body as community property; eligible for open observation and comment.
That moment of realization has all the eternal beauty of the moon and the stars, because it is precisely the exact moment that you begin to understand how motherhood is revered, but mothers are oppressed.
If you think I’ve fallen into hyperbole, I’d be glad to put a pdf list of all the things I can’t eat on a thumb drive for you. It starts with unwashed apples and ends with yolks that aren’t solid. If trying to force queasy, starving women into eating steaming hot lunch meat isn’t oppression, then what is?!
One well-meaning relative admitted to being worried about my drinking during the pregnancy. I mean, isn’t tequila good for bringing my milk in?
So, faced with the list, and the comments, and the responsibility I now have to my future child and thus the community, I realized what kind of mother I’ll be. The kind who doesn’t follow the rules to the letter, because when your father offers you a toasted Italian sub with extra olives, eating it is better than using its questionable status as an excuse for skipping lunch. Especially if it means being able to take a prenatal vitamin.
By the way, I haven’t thrown up yet, but extended exposure to the smell of tequila could change that pretty quickly. My repulsion to alcohol is that strong.
Drowning in a raging sea of hormones, exhaustion and queasiness is one matter- those physical changes are impossible to anticipate properly. Every woman that has ever daydreamed about having children has tried, so accepting those changes is a process, absolutely, but you welcome it. Even in the hardest moments, you’re working for a dream, so inspiration abounds.
What I was wholly unprepared for: an incredibly terrifying sense of vulnerability, and a mental fog so thick and cool that it rendered my brain a piece of cauliflower.
Being gently offered ice water and snacks by my sweet perceptive sister when she sees the color leaving my face and the angle of my jaw tightening carries all the bliss of ancient tenderness, but walking through the grocery store alone with the same demeanor is petrifying. Far from visibly pregnant, my condition is all liability and no asset in public. I move around in the world in a wary, guarded state, as if my own doctor’s office were one of the sketchy neighborhoods I wandered into outside of Phoenix in my first rental car.
Still more frightening: allowing a man certain that I am his dream girl to witness the very depth of my weakness, after catching only the merest glimpse of my strength, and furthermore, realizing that it is my own fear that threatens the sweetness of the soil. My heart is still absorbing the reality of his love and devotion. A thousand times a day I marvel at the joy he takes in planning for our future, and the grace he so happily extends me when I probably least deserve it. I’m not sure I could trust anyone else enough to need them the way I need him right now.
I dated men I never had to fully trust; hell, I married their king. No well-informed party could consider them trustworthy of another’s heart, so I was free to skip merrily down the path to heartache with carefree abandon instead of examining my fear. Those days are behind me, gratefully, as I am finally with someone who approaches higher love with earnest desire and as often as possible, a humble, willing heart. Its a gift and a skill only he could teach me, that just perhaps I could only come to learn through biological force.
When I had mono, I experienced a level of physical exhaustion on par with early pregnancy fatigue. Even in that weakened state, my mind was comfortingly intact- I made a habit of making lists, notes and reminders before sleep stole me away. When I could manage to hold my eyes open, I scurried to mark things off before the sandman knocked me over again.
My poor, hormone-addled pregnancy brain conjured but one lonely line in my planner for the last two weeks: my baby eats my words. I think it was the beginning of a mass thank you note to all the incredible family and friends whose inquiries and congratulations I’ve struggled to keep up with.
So all of this fear, change, realization and revolution doesn’t make pregnancy sound like a joyous labor of love. You wouldn’t be the only person to wonder if I haven’t discovered some unexpected tarnish on this holy grail of mine.
Except, as I approached the nine week mark, I woke up one morning feeling clear, strong, empty but not hungry or queasy, centered, focused and more like myself than I have since we conceived, before I knew why I felt so scattered.
In the privacy of my car, I wept. Not with relief or guilt, though there was some of that in there somewhere, but with fear, sorrow and longing. Having felt so lost, so unmoored, I thought that sensing my former self would be like coming home, and there was comfort in that familiarity, but greater than that was an eerie sense of what was missing.
That girl wasn’t a mama, she knew neither the pain nor the joy of growing a life, and she will never breathe again. She never could have imagined wishing to feel her stomach turn.
I would have paid for it in that moment. Thankfully, I only had to wait and believe.
April 24, 2012 2 Comments