Friday, August 8, 2014

Redemption and Envy

When I was 18 weeks pregnant with my first baby, as I walked out of an OB appointment an elderly woman stopped me.

Congratulations, she said.  That was the best part of my life.  

I thanked her and went on my merry way.  This wasn't entirely out of the ordinary - pregnant women get random comments from strangers all the time.  But for some reason, this comment has haunted me.

First and foremost, people don't normally say that pregnancy is the best part of their life.  In many ways, it's a miserable means to an end.  I know there are those women that "love" being pregnant. Perhaps you are one of them.  Then you will forgive me when I say you are effing weird.  Because being pregnant sucks.

From the second you get that positive test, all vices must cease.  No more alcohol.  No more prosciutto.  No more sushi or deli meat or roller coasters or advil.  That initial test is followed quickly by a hangover type nausea that overcomes you for weeks, while you simultaneously try to act normal because of course, it's not appropriate to reveal a pregnancy too early.  A fatigue passes through you that you did not know existed, and your pants become snug almost immediately due to bloating that you didn't realize was even possible.  (You don't look pregnant, you look fat, and this lasts for about 18 weeks until you are even fatter, but it is excusable pregnancy fat.  The day you give birth, it's back to just fat.)

Sure, the second semester is easier and you get to feel the miracle of the kicks and flips inside of you.  But this coincides with an increasing stress which, unbeknownst to first time pregnant women, never goes away.  There are kick counts, to ensure the baby is still alive.  There are blood tests and scans, to ensure that your baby doesn't have spina bifida or a genetic abnormality or other disorders that you can't pronounce.  You learn of complications like placenta previa and preeclampsia and gestational diabetes and you wonder how it is that anyone ever has a healthy child.  You start to feel Braxton Hicks contractions and your provider tells you that it's normal, but too much is not normal, and how much is too much, you ask - well, they're not sure.  You vacillate between being paranoid and being laid back and wonder how you ever will find the balance to be a chilled out, rational human being again.  (Hint - that part of your life is over).

By the third trimester you are so uncomfortable and antsy that you don't even care about the pains of labor.  You just want this baby OUT.  You go to extremes to do this.  You walk, you eat spicy food, you drink weird herbal teas, you endure awkward third trimester sex.  When you do eventually go into labor and get to the hospital, the relief at the pregnancy being over is quickly overcome by the EXCRUCIATING pain of getting that baby out of your body.  You stay up all night enduring contractions and then spend three hours pushing as hard as you can.  Then the baby comes out and you have horrific hemorrhoids and you don't get to sleep for another six months.

But that was just my experience.

Six months pregnant with my first baby.  On bed rest.  Not happy.  The beer bottle pictured was not mine.  
And after you've gone through all of that, a weird thing happens.  You feel bonded to all women, everywhere, who have gone through what you have gone through.  This bond eclipses culture, language, and age.  Any woman, anywhere, that has had a child, is now a member of your team. Only they can truly empathize and understand.

Another odd things happens as well.  If there is anyone in your life that hasn't gone through this, you want them to.  You want them to see how hard it is - so that they can appreciate what you have gone through and how much of a rock star you are to have survived it.

Obviously, husbands will never do this.  And that's a shame.  Because whenever my husband complains of a cold, or of being tired, I want to tell him to shut the fuck up.

But when female friends or sisters cross over and become part of your team, there is a sense of redemption.

Ahhhhh, sister, Rachel.  Welcome to the team.

Rachie is 19 weeks pregnant.  She is five years younger than me, and we talk every day.  When I found out she was pregnant I was ecstatic.  Absolutely ecstatic.  Obviously most of it is because we are sisters and incredibly close and I cannot wait to be an aunt again.  But if I'm honest, part of it is also this:

Oh you're tired are you?  Exhausted, you say?  Remember a few years ago when I was exhausted?  When I feel asleep on the couch in Cape Cod and no one seemed to have any sympathy for me?  Oh, your nauseous?  Yes, that must be so hard when you have no other children to take care of and you have to spend your time laying on the couch.  You don't even KNOW exhaustion yet.  You don't like needles do you?  Don't like giving blood?  That's too bad, because you'll have to do it ALL the time particularly if you have more than one child and you have weak veins and the nurses have to keep trying to get an IV in and then you nearly pass out from the multiple punctures.  You want to take a child birthing class, do you?  Try to go "natural"?   Well, that's definitely a good idea but just know that nothing - nothing - in this world can prepare you for the sheer pain you will endure and that no matter what your convictions, you will scream out in irrational pain for anything to make it stop.  You can't imagine what that will feel like?  Soon you will.  You don't like waking up early, do you?  Aw, you had an "early morning" conference call this morning at 8:30?  You're so sleepy? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

And so on and so forth.

It's not that I want my sister to endure pain and stress.  It's just that she inevitably will.  And when she does, she'll get it.  She already is starting to.  And in that way, there's a bit of redemption that is satisfying.  Welcome to the team.

But with all this sadistic redemption, there's also a bit of envy.

How could I possibly be envious?  Pregnancy is miserable right?

Perhaps.  But then there's this:  Just as my sister's journey begins, a major chapter in mine is coming to an end.

Deep down, I know that I am done.  I don't know that my body could handle another pregnancy.  I don't know that my mental health could handle another newborn.  I am strained as it is trying to give all three of my boys the adequate attention they deserve.

But there's a small part of me that just can't believe that it's over.  People spend their youth with the prospect of kids hanging over them - Will I have kids?  When?  How many?  Boys?  Girls?  It's theoretical and then it comes and it's real and now it's over????  Now I know, and that's it?

My sister is just the starting process of answering her own theoretical questions about parenthood.  And how exciting that is!  The not knowing, but the knowing that something so incredible is to come.... There's something so beautiful about that ignorance - that ignorance you only have with your first pregnancy.  What I wouldn't give to be back there, to feel that true trepidation and hopefulness and excitement.  There's always the chance that I could have a fourth child.  But I'll never be able to have a first child again.  And that is such a special, amazing, surreal time.

My husband and I, the day we found out I was pregnant with our first child.  
There's that saying:  It's all about the journey, not the destination.  

The destination, I suppose you could say, is having the children.  My sister has said so much, as she is in the midst of her own anxiety about her pregnancy - You're so lucky that you're done, she says.  And you have three beautiful healthy kids.  

She's right.  God, I am lucky.  But lucky to be done?  Happy that I'm done?

No.  I can completely relate to that elderly woman from the OB's office.

I wouldn't necessarily say that my first pregnancy was the happiest time of my life.  But the most miraculous?  The most exciting?

Absolutely.  I look back on that time, and the best word to describe it is magical.  Hard and stressful and painful and absolutely magical.  It was the beginning of my journey of motherhood - one with multiple chapters and changes and peaks and valleys.  My sister's journey is just beginning, and I am so excited to watch it unfold.

But to relive the beginning of mine....  I would do it a thousand times over if I could.  Hemorrhoids and all.

Rachie's baby girl (!) is due at the end of this year.  Until then, Rachie, enjoy the ride.

Rachie thinks that she is "huge" already.  Ha!  You'll see.  

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1 comment:

  1. Beautiful post. As a recently minted mama, I really enjoyed this (and your blog in general!)


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