And Now, A Pep Talk for the Grossly Pregnant, and I Mean Grossly
Pregnant, are you?
Until recently, I was there myself. And every time I see a woman whose skin is stretching to accomodate the miraculous, alienlike being inside of her, I feel a twinge. A twinge of horror, but of hope for her that I desperately want to convey.
Do you feel awful? I want to ask. If so, it will end soon!
But chances are good that she doesn’t feel awful. Or that she doesn’t need me approaching her in public to suggest to her, in as supportive a way as possible, that she might appear to the naked eye as if she feels awful. Not everyone responds to insults, be they the physical insults of pregnancy or the verbal insults of cheerful well-wishers, in the same way.
But chances are also good that the poor wretch does feel awful. Waiting in line for her — jeesh — decaf latte — she questions whether it was worth it, and whether she is up to the tasks ahead.
Her back is aching, she is resenting her partner, and she may have forgotten for the moment that veins are swelling out of her legs and dare I say butt, but they are: veins are probably popping out of her butt. She is concerned about finances. If she is a professional type, she fears brain atrophy when a newborn comes. If she’s like me, she is worried about sleep deprivation, about labor pains, about not having packed her bag for the hospital, about whether she has the capacity to love a baby like you are SUPPOSED to love a baby.
If it is not her first, she is concerned about integrating a baby into the family. Will she love it as much as the first? How could she? Will she ruin the first one’s life and the pleasant balance of her existing little family?
Will her milk come in, and will there be enough of it? Are hand-me-downs good enough for her kid, if they allow her to spend as much time as possible with the baby rather than going back to work?
When I was pregnant with the baby who is now snoring sweetly next to my bed, sweating in her fuzzy green swaddle, tucked into a fleece-lined carseat like a bright-eyed angel who really could use a neck bath, I worried. And I was flustered beyond compare, physically.
I showed my flustration by spitting into a Gatorade bottle. From mid-July until one week after my daughter was born in January, I spit into a towel or a bottle or a sink. If you are nauseated enough that you cannot swallow your own saliva, then the last thing you need is to be catching whiffs of it wafting up through the wide mouth of a Gatorade bottle. And do other people want to see this drama playing out? No, they do not.
I teach and for months, I had to do crazy things like eat Korean fried chicken during the break. Smelly, delicious, hot and oily Korean fried chicken with kim chee coleslaw. I had to drink hot decaffeinated tea, constantly having the tannins strip my mouth of extra saliva so that I didn’t have to spit it out. For every swallow for every class, I needed to have tea in there with the spit, so as not to gag and vomit. How convenient!
Once, in the pre-Christmas shopping frenzy, I lost my spit bottle in the toy aisle. As Henry wagged his head drinking in visions of the toys he coveted, I wagged my head around seeking out my bottle. Where was my bottle? Would I have to spit on the floor in the toy aisle? I didn’t think I could make it to the bathroom. Or would I swallow it and throw up on the floor?
Pregnancy doesn’t leave a lot of good options, at least not if the pregnancy is anything like pregnancies can be.
It can be hard. Hard. Hard. Though I was blessed—blessed—with reports of a healthy gestating baby, I myself was a mess. I experienced dehydration, heart palpitations, faintness, confusion, anxiety, extreme irritability, vomiting, nausea, and embarrassment. It made me feel unattractive, like a needy whiner, and awfully lonely. Spitting into a bottle? I had never heard of that. Very few people had ever heard of that. It made me question my sanity. Did you see that movie where the super athletic guy trapped down in a cave drinks his own pee and eventually saws off his hand or is it his arm in order to escape?
That was a reasonably accurate cinematic facsimile of my pregnancy.
But I am here to tell you that it ends.
I am also here to tell you that now that my baby is here, I think about her a LOT. Aside from my son, she is mostly what I think about these days. But even this overwhelming love, this big project of totally stewarding a human into life, this 24-hour post and all-consuming relationship of the new mother, requires less effort and brain space than my pregnancy did.
It’s different for everyone, but if it’s bad for you, please know: it will come to a joyous end, and you will tumble deeply into the well of delighted love.
You will fall so far and so fast that you may even think about doing it again.