NOW THAT YOU ARE PREGNANT
Husband took me to San Francisco in October for my birthday. We took the coast to the National Red Wood Forest and spent a night in a historic hotel northern town of Eureka. We saw a Celtic band. I made jokes about ghosts and thought up new short stories. We went hiking through Fern valley, and the weather stayed warm enough for us to take walks along the beach without jackets. For the first time in a very long time, I was happy. I was also something like one and a half months pregnant, but still didn’t think it was true.
Even after having a horrid vaginal ultrasound and seeing pictures, it didn’t seem real. To me, the ultrasound pictures were fakes.
I was good, however, about doing what I was told because if you live with a delusional mind, like it or not, you have to trust what others tell you is real. I took prenatal vitamins, and stopped taking over the counter things like Ibuprofen. I didn’t smoke or drink, so my life style didn’t change all that much. I thought pregnancy meant morning sickness or swollen tender breasts or strange cravings. I was still 100% me. Symptomless.
By the end of the vacation, I felt strong enough; maybe it was the genuine happiness, but I felt like I could finally face my fears. The last weekend of my trip I began to accept that the pregnancy was real, and maybe it wouldn’t be as bad as I thought. Maybe I could deal with it. Maybe I wouldn’t leave my child in its car seat on top of the car and drive off. Maybe I’d get used to not having sleep for a little while. Maybe I’d be okay with it once I got that little thing in my arms.
Then, the Monday I returned home I started spotting, which is never a good thing in any pregnancy, but something that is totally normal. So I went about my week like nothing was wrong, and I allowed myself to consider the positive aspects of having a child. By Saturday I had bleeding, or what seemed to me, full-blown menses. I called the clinic. They told me was likely experiencing a miscarriage. Since I had an appointment on Tuesday the following week, they advised me to wait it out and go to the ER if the bleeding or cramping got very bad.
Numbly I hung up the phone, pulled out a notebook, and full on sobbed, all the while handwriting an outline of a short story as therapy. For something like three hours I absolutely accepted the situation. I dug deep and examined all the reasons I ever wanted to have a child. I dug deeper and faced the loss, the confusion, and my next moves.
Miscarriages are hard enough on normal people, but simply put, I have abandonment issues. That sense of loss, of something I had dared to let myself actually want (even if only for a week) was so utterly profound. At first, I was sure it was my fault. I hadn’t been careful enough because I didn’t think it was true. I let myself get too stressed. I hadn’t learned coping mechanisms fast enough. I often thought of therapy as a waste of time and if I had only taken it more seriously this thing wouldn’t be happening to me now.
Husband and I couldn’t really talk about it as for so long we had opposing views of pregnancy. I grieved alone, or what felt like alone, until Monday morning. Then it occurred to me once more: this pregnancy wasn’t real. The program was giving me hormones. This was a normal period. They were trying to make me deal with the realities of kids. I was a fool to have grieved, a fool to have wished and wanted. I had fallen for their trap.
By Tuesday, I knew the ultra sound would turn up nothing, and the doctors would tell me all about miscarriage. So I was fine, completely sane and in control of my mind.
And totally unprepared for the ultrasound technician to happily announce that there was still a” little pea” inside of me, very much alive.
Wait. What? I’m still pregnant? No, I wasn’t. Because you see I had already let it go, and went back to the comfortable place of hating kids and not wanting them. This was just the program throwing me a curve ball. Whatever. I wasn’t pregnant. I couldn’t be.
I was still the girl who held up Froot Loops underwear in Target and announced loudly, “Give me some milk, daddy!” How could I possibly be a parent? Have you seen my ass? It sure as hell wasn’t made for mommy jeans.
Mommy culture is just not for me. I’m talking about the women whose lives revolve around their children. They read hundreds of motherhood books, they make mommy friends, and they scoff at the childless that ‘just don’t get it’. They think their children’s teachers are often wrong or unfair when their kids’ grades slip. They clog the interwebs with blogs and crafts and designed around children. I value my education and want to continue to use it. Just as child rearing is those mommies calling, my life’s purpose is to write. I know this. I’ve always known it. The thought of it taking a backseat to a small creature in a tie-dyed, baby wrap makes me wince. If anything, I’m aiming to clog the inter webs with pictures of my cats and odd short stories. Eating a placenta and putting the bloody mess of a baby on my body immediately after birth for “skin to skin” contact?
Bitch. I pass out at the sight of blood.
I think its funny to ask my best friend to push me down a flight of stairs or get a coat hanger. You can’t joke about that stuff with mommy friends. They’ll scowl and hand you Revolutionary Road.* Yikes!
When you find out you have a mental illness, doctors and therapists are super quick to remind and reassure you that you are not the label. You are not bipolar. You have bipolar. You are still you. It makes dealing and coping a thousand times easier. You keep your identity, and the bipolarness just becomes another layer of your identity.
But pregnancy? Oh no. You ARE pregnant. The pregnancy IS you.
Be prepared for it.
People will see your fat stomach and know. Just as one of my aunts recently pointed out, you can’t be a little pregnant, either you are or you aren’t. It’s not like a mental illness where on good days when you have enough composure to not burst into tears in public strangers will assume you’re ‘normal’. In pregnancy, you are no longer just a woman at the grocery store minding her own business picking out carrots. You are now someone a stranger feels they have the right to talk to. And the topic? Your body. And get ready for it—
Because people are going to touch you.
Yes. People will be compelled to touch your stomach. Even if, you have very good reasons for not wanting to be touched without permission by people whom you love—LET ALONE strangers. They’re still gonna touch you. That woman you talked to a few times at the gym? She’s gonna touch you. You’re husband’s co-workers. Touch. Touch. Touch.
By the time my stomach started sticking out a bit, right around four to five months, I was getting touched both outside and in.
There could be no ignoring it. No more delusion. I was pregnant. Of course, the program still existed, but they had been right about the pregnancy. It was real. The miscarriage scare was real.
By the time I genuinely accepted this, it was a few weeks shy of the illegal date to terminate the pregnancy. The procedure would be hard and traumatic even for someone who genuinely, truly wanted it with all of their heart, or someone who needed it for medical reasons. I won’t get into the shame and stigma associated with abortions here. All I can say about that, is you never see billboards that say something like, “Abortion is a hard choice to make. Don’t feel guilty. It is your body and your life. No one has the right to judge your medical choices.”
I was still confused. Like it or not, I would have to carry the fetus to term.
I had to accept it all and face new fears… And motherhood? I’d no longer be Charlie. To someone growing each day inside me, I’d forever and always be mom.
(I will post the next installment tomorrow.)
*That book had me upset for days. God, RY, why you gotta break my heart for?
**Obviously the posts are not in chronological order. They sort of swim back and forth in time with month/week markers best as I can remember them. Hope you’re not confused.