Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Only Way Around It Is Through It

Pregnancy is turning out to be a lot like rock climbing for me, in that I expected it to be something that I was naturally very good at; in actual practice, I'm not all that talented at being knocked up. The failures on my end have been manifold: physical, mental, emotional, professional.

I'll be honest: it took me weeks—maybe months—to really internalize the idea that I was going to be a mom. For the first six weeks, I was terrified that I would have a miscarriage, so instead of celebrating, I spent all my time thinking about that. I obsessed about the idea, checking different actuarial charts constantly, waiting for the daily risk rate to drop from 33% to 12% to a much less panic-inducing 2%. Every time I went to the bathroom, I had a split-second image of blood-soaked underwear and clots of...material, before I realized that nope, that dampness in my panties was just pregnancy swamp-crotch.

In the meantime, I started exhibiting signs of proper pregnancy, like food aversions and morning sickness. I lost the ability to eat vegetables and I spat meat out at the dinner table. I ate tortellini for breakfast and lunch for two weeks—something I laugh about now, but that caused my wheat-averse body to bloat and swell. I dry-heaved all the time, and went to bed at nine PM feeling like a loser. I gained a bunch of weight very quickly, and had visions of myself ballooning up to 200 pounds. For a former fat girl-turned-bulimic-turned-recovered person: hello, all my nightmares.

Fast-forward to now. I'm rounding the corner on week 24, and the last month has been terrifically, destructively, suicidally hormonal. I go from laughing to weeping to enraged in less time than it takes to load Netflix. I hate to admit it, but I have moments—hours, if I'm being honest—where I do not know that I have what it takes to be a parent. People keep asking me if I feel maternal, and honestly? I do not.

I feel fucking guilty as shit, because I'm mourning the life I feel like I'm losing. I'm mourning lie-ins with my husband on Sunday morning, and biking across the city late at night. I'm mourning the ability to dash out the door on a moment's notice, and the time I can spend meandering around the dark corners of Facebook. I'm mourning my boobs, which were never perfect but have transformed into these grotesqueries that leak randomly and look pinched and raw—and this is before breastfeeding even starts! Everyone says that kids are awesome and super fun, but they're also like tiny cult leaders who hypnotize you into thinking that squashed-up hamburger buns are a totally fine Play-Doh substitute.

I feel afraid, because I get so sad sometimes. I'm afraid that my sadness and anxiety will seep over into the womb. I'm afraid that no sleep and no money will ruin my marriage, and then I'll be alone, with a baby. I'm afraid that I will hate being a mom, and that I won't like this kid as a person, and then I'll be stuck with them forever. Forever. I'm afraid that M and I don't have the skills to cope with a baby, and we'll turn on each other, and eat each other alive. I'm afraid the baby will bear witness to that.

I'm so tired all the time. My body hurts—sitting, standing, getting out of bed, lying down, lifting things up? All of it makes my back scream. Going to the bathroom can create these little shooting pains down my belly; it's not enough to call the midwife, but just enough to ruin an otherwise enjoyable poop. Dropping the soap in the shower elicits a curse word. And yes, I know I should be doing yoga and stretching and working out. We all know the woman who went jogging until she was seven months pregnant. I hate that bitch, right?

I am not a trusting person, and this process requires a whole lot of trust. Trust in the future, trust in yourself, trust in the changes that are hurtling your way. I feel lost on how to navigate this, and I feel lonely. Nobody ever tells you that pregnancy is lonely as hell. All these feelings, all these changes? I want to talk about it all the time, but I know that doing that is alienating and weird, especially for people without kids. I don't want to call up my girlfriends and be like, "I am so soul-crushingly moody today, so please, let's get coffee and I can inventory all the clothes that I no longer fit into at you while you stare into the middle distance and pick at a scone," but that's pretty much what I want to do.

And! Finally! I feel like a bag of shit because I'm having these feelings in the first place! Let me tell you, pregnancy is not easy for everyone—maybe it's not easy for most people—and yet the message that we get is that we're going to be glowing goddesses, and our bodies will work naturally, and we'll just glide through it with a few barfy moments and a few generously cut caftans. I feel like a traitor to the cause for even saying that I'm having a rough time. I don't want to spoil the illusion for my childless buddies, I don't want to be a drag or a complainer, and yet: I feel fucking awful a lot of the time.

Strangely, I do feel a bit better after this feelings-barf. I've been keeping a lot of this bottled up (well, my husband knows, because he lives with me and I've been a monster), and letting it out only when the pressure gauge is in the red zone. I don't know why I'm doing that: experience has taught me that talking about it—naming the feeling, demystifying the emotion—can do a lot to just calm and recalibrate a person. So: thank you for listening. And if you're out there, feeling like a lonely, moody, scared pregnant person yourself, know that you are emphatically and unequivocally not alone.

Image via the Guardian