Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A pregnant pause

Apropos of nothing, I swear to God.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why the general public is so hot to tell first-time mothers every possible pregancy/delivery horror story. The shit random strangers said to me when I was pregnant with Perp would boggle your mind. When I tell people that--even with the general total-body trashing, the tears, and pooping in front of strangers--I actually liked labor, they generally look at me like I'm insane. It's not that it didn't hurt like hell, 'cause it surely did, but it was so exhilarating, like just about nothing I've ever experienced. I don't tell them the stories I heard ("My sister's husband's cousin's neighbor's cleaning lady was in labor for three and a half months and she split in half!"). I tell them how amazing women's bodies are. I tell them how you can't just push hundreds of thousands of years of evolution (yes! I said it!) to the side with 150 years of medical "advances." I tell them that even if their heads say they can't do this, their bodies can. Can, can, can. And I tell them to call my doula because she's the greatest thing since sliced bread. Maybe better.

God help me, but I liked labor better than the pregnancy. At least I knew it was going to be shorter, and I was actually doing something, you know? Participating, instead of just toting a fetus around until it was ready to make a break for it. I hate waiting just that much. After having the Dude I realized that I am a full-fledged labor junkie and if it weren't for the first and third trimesters, I'd have like a dozen kids. I wish I could have them for other women. It's something I'm actually good at without trying. I just shut down and let my body do its thing and hey! baby!

There's a social taboo against complaining about motherhood or marriage without prefacing the rant with a disclaimer: "It's a blessing to be pregnant, but..." or "Don't get me wrong, I love being a mom." or "I adore my partner, it's just..."

I try really hard not to do this, because it seems like I'm apologizing for my feelings, I shouldn't have to. I try to avoid that as much as possible, if only so Perp grows up knowing that her feelings count as much as anyone else's. They're valid. They mean something. She shouldn't be sorry for them, as ugly as they may be. It's a sorry state of affairs that we feel obligated to include prefaces like that, ain't it? I mean, I don't apologize for hating olives: "I love the trees, I think they're beautiful, and I'd bathe in the oil if I could but I just don't like olives that much."

Maybe this is a generational thing, because it mostly came from women my mother's age and older. Most of the stories centeree around the horrible. I just don't get it. I didn't love being pregnant, but it certainly wasn't the worst experience in my life. I had a drug-free delivery and a third-degree laceration, but that's not what I concentrate on when I tell P's birth story. Okay, I do put some emphasis on the drug part but I'm proud of that. That's okay; I don't push it on other people, I just point out that it is possible, evenwith big-ish babies (8.8# and 9.2# respectively).

I think there's a natural desire to relate stories that portray one as a survivor. So no matter how minor the incident really was, coming across as some kind of superhero means embelishing. But just a leetle bit.

I also think that there's a small part in us that wants to either scare or prepare other women for what's coming up. I'm not sure which it is. I just wish that more of it could be about the first time your baby smiles up at you when she's nursing, or the first time he laughs a real laugh as you tickle his lips with his toes, or the first time her father holds her after she's born.

Perhaps what I wanted was for people to not volunteer these stories, but to tell them IF I ASKED. One woman passed me as I waddled across the habitrail at work and said, "Oh, I just loved being pregnant." It was all I could do not to snap back, "Then you can just finish this for me!" But I smiled and kept going. One look at my face should have told her I wasn't too happy but it didn't matter, she had her comment to make. Maybe that's it, in the end: the willingness of complete strangers to make each and every pregnant woman into a piece of public property to be commented on and to, as if she either weren't there, or was, like, paid to listen.

I don't recall getting any paychecks.


Lindy said...

I agree about the inappropriate pregnancy/L&D comments. I think I might be the guilty party from time to time though because for a while after my first delivery I was on a big "don't count on your epidural to take the pain away... be prepared" kick. My first labor and delivery was a pretty terrifying and horrible experience. But my second (drug free) was just like you describe. Totally exhilerating. It was truly horribly painful for about two hours, but other than that, I really enjoyed it. And even the bad two hours made me feel like a freakin' superwoman.

I seem to be getting the nicest comments lately about my newborn though. Lots of wistful parents talking about what a special time those first weeks are. And that's just what I need to hear right now while I'm in the throes of evening crying jags. And I'm really not being sarcastic.

But don't get me started on people's comments during my second pregnancy about how IMPOSSIBLE it was going to be to take care of two kids...

Devan said...

I agree. I heard tons of horror stories.
I actually like being pregnant and labor. Most people call me crazy. D included.
Good point about not apologizing for feelings. I do that too often.

S said...

Pregnancy and labor were both really hard for me, but I'm already wistful about it and want to do it again! My first birth was natural but very difficult (and LONG) due to a posterior baby. I know a lot more now, and hope my next labor will go much more smoothly. I almost want to do it all again because I think I could do it better, lol.

I hated all of the unsolicited questions, comments and advice I got while pregnant. In my 9th month I thought seriously about having a T-shirt made that said:

It's a girl
I'm due at the end of July
Yes, I'm tired of being pregnant

But here's the crazy thing. I saw a pregnant woman when I was out and about the other day, and was seized with the uncontrollable urge to TOUCH HER BELLY. I was horrified. I mean, of course I didn't do it. But I WANTED to. Now that I've carried and birthed and known a baby, it's like I have a better understanding of just how precious it all is.

I'm not sure what my point is. My experience as a pregnant woman was similar to yours -- I felt like public property and I hated it. But now that I'm on the other side of the fence, I can sort of see how that happens. Sort of. But I don't offer unsolicited advice or stories. And no touching of bellies!