I am possibly going to blow a fuse and start a long rant somewhere along the lines of “I haven’t sat in the last five months without feeling some pain in my bum and a lot of pain in my back, I have not been able to breathe properly for about the last three. I have been agonizing over heart burns after every single meal, and every morning at the toilet bowl, my meal plans consist of squeezing in enough fibers so that I can have some decent bowel movements (And no I don’t LIKE bran cereal), I keep awake at nights for no apparent reason, I can’t change sides without rocking the entire room, my ankles look like elephant feet, and I pee about sixty times a day, ten of which happen to be through the night. So you see, I am feeling just spectacularly well”.
What is it with women asking pregnant women the same thing over and over again? The second most common question I get is “when are you due?” Now, this I can deal with a minimal degree of complacence since this is purely informational, but then the response which is generally “you look ready to pop” is driving me crazy. Guess what woman, I am not! Otherwise I’d be in labor already! Wonder what personal space means, ever? And then there is that whole episode of random strangers petting your belly and “look you are so pregnant!” squeals. Yeah, thanks for telling me, I’d have hardly realized it otherwise. I mean what is wrong with you? One woman went so far as to asking me whether I was having twins, and when I looked dumbstruck, informed me “there’s a whole lotta baby in there.” Seriously? I had no idea. Surprisingly, I get asked by women who are mostly mothers (normally these comments will be followed up by a lengthy informational statement of some sort about their children or grandchildren) and therefore, most of them have probably been where I am at some point of time. My recent answer to “how do you feel?” is “Remember your 40th week? That’s how I feel” or with increasing frequency, just a cold look. I have probably hurt, offended and snubbed well intentioned queries but I am honestly past caring at this point. I am cranky, nasty and I feel the whole rosy picture about expecting motherhood is a myth. This is so not what expecting a child is.
Every one of us has heard stories about how beautiful impending motherhood is and all that rosy glow and jazz. These must have been about another species of women because I am yet to encounter one real human female who confirms all of this. The first trimester has been all about mind numbing fatigue, a sense of smell that would put a Labrador to shame and one endless span of nausea triggered by every second smell on earth. All that was supposed to go away by the 14th week and it did, and finally life started feeling good again. And then my own personal hell started and a high risk for pre-term labor led to confinement in bed for fourteen solid weeks from week 21 on, while I was trying desperately to finish my PhD. Bye, bye, productivity. It was great knowing the end to the six years long project is near, yet just out of reach for another few months. A project that I built up from literally nothing. A project that even my committee members were in doubt would ever materialize. And, on the domestic side, with a landlord that made it abundantly clear I have three more months on the lease (that makes a move coming this September, yay!) and a lack of a job offer after PhD. So much for a life well settled with a baby coming. Interviews put on hold, life at a complete standstill with nothing but blind panic knowing full well, if the pre-term labor indeed came, there is so little even modern medicine could do to save the baby. Every single day dawned as a survival countdown for the baby, and a sanity countdown for me. People would tell me I was bearing up remarkably well and how brave I was, and at times I felt like yelling at them if they really knew what they were talking about. As if I really had a choice here. If anybody ever realized that just because I don’t whine and complain all day, it does not mean I don’t feel fear, or anything for that matter. And then comes the “motherhood justifies everything” part. Does it? I am aware of my responsibilities full well, but I have found “this is the best/biggest thing that can happen to a woman” or “you are doing this for your unborn child so you should not complain” sermons a little hard to digest and frankly, offensive. Not that I would want anybody to experience the kind of fear I have lived in in my wildest nightmares, but with all due respect, I feel that people seldom know what they are talking about in such cases. This is definitely not the best thing that can happen to a woman. Motherhood is great and beautiful, but there are other things in life. Basic things, and choices and chores, and when those are taken away from you, you are left with nothing at all. I would have done those anyway, knowing what was at stake, but that whole thing about “you are doing this for your child, so live with it” part made me angry and resentful- as if putting life on hold was made any easier because I was expecting a child. And on top of it there was this insinuation that love for your child should make this a cakewalk. By the end of this phase I had started to fear for my sanity as never before. It is amazing how seemingly innocuous and accepted beliefs in the social fabric worm their way into our mind and make us doubt our own integrity. “Am I a bad person for feeling sad about being confined to bed all the time, knowing this is for my unborn child?” “Am I lazy for not being able to focus on my writing all this time?” , “Am I weird because I can’t feel an attachment to my baby?” and so on and so forth.. But in the course of time I have come to realize that those accepted canons are to blame and not me, and I have stopped trying to justify myself to myself. Every mother loves her child and people don’t need to tell her that every second. End of story.
And once I was liberated from the bed-rest at week 36, the third trimester was in full swing and I felt comforted knowing my baby would survive and live a normal life, even if I went into labor right now. And then this whole unwanted attention regarding the pregnancy started. And ironically, while my doctor wonders why this is happening, my body refuses to go in to labor right now, probably from the stuffing of progesterone I have received through the last few months. So, I am sitting on a mess of false labor pains, and all the added woes of it, not seeing the end in sight. And I feel like I could have borne through all of these if people would just let me be. Once again, the entire world has assumed that the biggest joy of my life and my salvation lies in being asked random questions about my pregnancy nonstop. Hell, I thought I am still something beyond a swollen belly.
It would be churlish not to acknowledge the fantastic support I have received from parents and friends through this entire time- in fact without my parents staying with me for three solid months when I was in bed rest, I don’t believe I could have progressed this far. And if either of my parents are reading this I would want them to know that none of this is directed to them, on the contrary, I owe them whatever sanity I had left through those months. And that includes my husband who has been a great support through this phase. My resentment lies with perceived notions about motherhood in our whole system and how a woman should accept whatever comes her way on the course of life with a big sunny smile if it has anything to do with motherhood. I am furious at such a way of taking women for granted.