I originally wrote this in August but then our baby arrived early and the world as I knew it crumbled in the most delicious/terrifying way. I’m just now getting my act together to finish this piece, I refuse to go through and change the tenses to past, so let’s just play pretend that what follows is current, m’k?
For nine months, I have been on the psychedelic mind and body trip that is pregnancy. Considering what my body has done in that time, it’s really not long at all. Considering what my mind has done, it’s been 42 lifetimes. Becoming a parent has meant becoming more than myself. All my edges are softening and the lines I define as me are expanding outward more than I thought possible. It is a slow unraveling of my life, or maybe more like a weaving in of an entirely different thread that changes the structure of what I define life as.
I started becoming a mother before I was even pregnant. In the months leading up to my husband and I “pulling the goalie,” my body began the shift from being just mine. My life began to shift from being just mine. The mothering instinct is so strong in me that it took control even before any baby-making happened and I began protecting our baby before he was even conceived. The things I ate, the products I used, the habits I had all became subject to review.
When I took the positive pregnancy test on New Year’s Day, I was ready to rumble. The interesting thing about being “ready” is there’s no such thing as being ready for something out of your control and beyond your scope of knowledge. I tried to emulate the looseness of one of those inflatable wind tube dancing things, all pliable and open to something taking charge of my body creating sweet dance moves for me. But, when pregnancy did take charge, I was K.O.ed, like completely down for the count and utterly scared. It is an all-inclusive experience, and all I could do was go along for the ride and hope it was gentle.
Me, as I hoped I’d be, and me, as I really was
Four weeks in, it was completely clear I was pregnant. A very powerful switch turned on and, like recent Ivy league grads, ambitious hormones driven by purpose took the reigns. I immediately felt the home my body was making for this child — everything south of my belly button turned into a soft cloud, expanding and breathing. For the first three months, my body didn’t care about me at all. It was quite evident that I didn’t matter, that I was the afterthought. All that mattered was this baby and building everything needed to give him a chance.
This was the first time I grasped that my body is an independent entity that my mind and soul have on a long-term lease. Pregnancy forces women onto autopilot as our bodies become well-oiled machines crafted over millennia with perfectly patented blueprints for replication. Eons of trial and error led to this baby. To put it technically: it’s friggin cray-cray.
While I was in the first trimester, I just got through, hour by hour, day by day, Saltine by Saltine. Weird biological traits kicked in like the thought of large salt granules or our trip to Japan would trigger my gag reflex. The hormones crashing through me created a distracting vibration that didn’t allow me to focus on anything much at all. My spark was snuffed and I was a monotone version of myself. I couldn’t write, be creative or funny. I didn’t laugh but neither my husband or I noticed this until I started laughing again around week 14. It was only when my laughter returned that my husband finally understood that the first trimester rumors are true and I wasn’t just melodramatic. (Special note to the partners of pregnant women: respect the first trimester. It. Is. Real.)
Let me emphasize that in three months, I built a new organ. Or rather, my body did without any thought or work on my part, but I prefer to take credit for it. The placenta — the crazy important placenta, the reason we’re all here — appeared out of thin air (aka nasty hormone production on overdrive). Once that somewhat inconceivable organ was up and operational, I was allowed to come back to life. That’s when the golden part of pregnancy kicked in.
I am one of THOSE people, the ones who enjoy being pregnant. All glowy and blissful and obnoxious in my euphoria. For those mamas who did not share in this glee, I am aware how lucky I am to have had an easy, pleasant, and healthy pregnancy. I marinate in my luck. I love that my body knows what to do and just does it without waiting for further instruction. I love that it is a ride I’m taken on. I love that it makes me feel utterly feminine. I love that I feel 100% powerful and 100% powerless at the same time.
Pregnancy has made me soften all my edges. It has been a slow softening of these edges, of the abs I worked so hard to maintain pre-pregnancy, of letting go of what I expect my body to look like, of the demands I place on it. I learned to cut myself some slack and soften into a new life and not just the one I’m growing in me, but also the new one I’m growing for myself. I finally found someone more important to take care of than myself.
Pregnancy has also made me soften all my edges to the world. While I’ve never gone through anything more internal and personal, I’ve also learned that pregnancy is not personal. Pregnancy is public. We all share in this bafflingly beautiful and humbling miracle — cliché or not, there is no other word to describe it. It is astounding how it all automatically works. I am growing a life. The perfection of it levels me every time I think about it. Every person who sees my belly, whether they realize it or not, takes a little bit of that reality for themselves.
My belly has become public property and I thought this was going to be one of the things I hated about being pregnant, but the opposite is true. I love when people touch the belly. I love when strangers ask how far along I am. I love the secret “hello, fellow comrade” looks pregnant women give each other. I love that bringing a new life into the world is everyone’s business.
It’s a completely solo journey even though my husband is right by my side and I feel more surrounded by family, friends, and strangers than at any other moment. It’s interesting to be a more visible part of society; I am noticed everywhere I go. There is no going incognito or blending into a crowd, but I don’t mind this visibility at all. It has made me nicer to strangers, more patient with grumpy people, more grateful to the kindness people douse me in every day. I am cared for by complete strangers. It’s like the world recognizes my vulnerability, or rather the vulnerability of this child, and everyone instinctively wants to protect us. What is it about vulnerability that makes you actually feel safe? I feel held up by society knowing my baby and I are fully protected, and it has reminded me of the intrinsic humanity in humanity. Aw humanity, there is so much good in us.
Lisa Willis Photography
Now I am preparing for labor and the imminent arrival of this child, which is a truly bizarre kaleidoscope of time. There are obvious parallels between my physical and mental preparations. I carry the literal and the figurative weight of this baby more each day. We have made a space for him to move into our literal and figurative home. I have packed my literal bag of supplies and my figurative bag of strength to get me through labor. My body and mind are both opening for our baby to join us. We are ready. Or so we think since, again, it’s impossible to be “ready” for something beyond you.
Here I sit two weeks from our due date and I wait. One foot firmly in my old life, the other just as firmly in the unknown. It’s pretty much impossible for me to think of anything else. I’m neither here nor am I there. Forgive me if when you see me I seem to be looking beyond you. I am. I’m in the in-between. I’ll see you on the other side.
Things They Forgot to Mention:
Becoming a parent is absolutely heartbreaking, but it’s the best heartbreak I could ever ask for. This is a heartbreak that, through all the breaking, gave me a new heart.
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