the power of pregnancy compels you

My friend K.T.–whose baby shower I traveled to San Francisco to attend–is enormously, adorably pregnant. She’s a small thing, delicately boned and narrow, and now she is leading with her so-round belly, so high up under her ribcage. She looks a little like she leaned back to catch a medicine ball that was hurled at her unexpectedly, only the incredibly cute version of that. She is lovely and calm and utterly content, which is unsurprising since K.T. has always been such a laid-back, mellow person, but now she’s glowing with it, sparkling with it, rosy with it, and it’s very beautiful.

It is also hard to not reach out all the time and pat her sweet belly, which rocks and shakes and rolls with every twist of Baby’s awake time. The baby goes for hours, napping, and then suddenly she is bright-eyed and interested in the world and K.T.’s stomach boils and burbles and it’s the funniest thing, how startled K.T. is, how weirdly alive her belly becomes in a completely incomprehensible way–I mean, really, there’s a human in there? Below that stretched-thin layer of skin? That’s all that’s keeping it from the rest of the world? You might as well keep a ferret in a latex balloon! What’s keeping that kid from busting out? No, seriously.



These are not things a mom-to-be wants to hear; mostly I have kept them
to myself, but it is hard, because it is amazing and wonderful to me,
this crazy biology thing, this cooking up a body does (OF ANOTHER BODY!
Whoa.), this hard work K.T. is putting in on this very difficult
project. I want to exclaim about it a lot, the craziness and the
wonderfulness and the difficulty. I want to ask all the questions and
talk about everything that’s happening–what is this doing to your body
and how does it feel and how do you feel in the world, and how does the
world feel to you and how does it treat you and can I kick the ass of
anything that dares to hurt a single hair on your head? It is amazing,
also, those protective instincts that kick in. No, I will carry that
and no, you can’t lift that and I will get my own drink and you sit
there and can I give you a piggy back ride to the bathroom? K.T. is a
very independent woman, so mostly, I have tried to keep that to myself
too.

It makes me wonder, also, if I could do what she’s doing–would I fall
to pieces? Would I panic all the time? Could I handle the strenuousness
of it? It is pretty strenuous, this pregnancy thing, and exhausting and
there are no breaks and there is no shortcut or easy way out.  It’s
kind of like a marathon only with less–well, I was going to say
sweating, but there’s a lot of sweating. And muscle aches. And knee
injuries and headaches and weird carb cravings and the sense that this
was maybe a foolish thing to have ever even considered thinking about
doing. But I imagine that the sense of accomplishment is about the
same, at the end. Maybe it’s even just the tad bit more poignant.

My whole life, I’ve been ambivalent about having them myself–babies, I
mean. Pregnancy has always seemed painful and endless and miserable;
birth, painful and endless and miserable and fucks your body up
something fierce, and then at the end of it, the endless
responsibility–for their happiness and their well-being and their not
turning into serial killers–until you are dead. That is a lot of
responsibility! That is a mountain of it! That is hard work and
frankly, it scares the shit out of me. Not to mention the fact that not
only is it completely likely that I will do every bit of it wrong and
screw the kid up irreparably, producing Hitler 2–Holocaust Boogaloo,
the child will already have been doomed before its first declaration of
martial law because it will be fat (genetics), near-sighted (genetics),
depressive (genetics), be prone to bad skin and have thin hair
(genetics). Is that any way to start a life, with the deck stacked
against you? How can I knowingly do that to a child? I mean, seriously.
That’s unfair to everyone. Especially Europe.

But here’s the thing–I do not like being told what to do. No, not even
a little bit. And soon enough, biology’s going to take away my choice
and there won’t be a choice and I don’t like that at all. And I’ve met
this guy I’m hanging around with and it is like a punch in the gut,
every time I see him hold a tiny baby and he would be such a good dad,
even if I were a failure of a mother, and I’m pretty fond of his genes.
And I have to wonder. And what if I did an okay job? And, most
importantly, lately, look at how beautiful, how wonderful, how filled
with joy this can be. Maybe I won’t pull it off with the same grace and
serenity as K.T. does, but talking to her about this whole nutty
business, watching her with her niece, listening to her and her
sweetheart discuss the future with such hope and happiness and
clear-eyed, rational optimism, I think that maybe it could be possible
that maybe I could possibly do this too. And then I have a panic attack.

  6 comments for “the power of pregnancy compels you

  1. Breezy
    June 24, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    I’m not sure how old you are, dear Anne, but I’m turning 29 in a week and I have these feelings more and more everyday. All of my friends have children (even the ones who I never would have imagined having children) and you just can’t fight the thoughts. We’re hard-wired to think about having babies. I hear my clock ticking louder and louder with every passing day. Even my husband talks about it and thinks about it. We decided before we got married that kids were not for us; not now and maybe not ever. But man, it’s getting tough to ignore the urges.
    Until that panic attack! Or, in my case, I turn on the news!

  2. Anonymous
    June 24, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    The fact that you’ve already thought it through this far puts you a step ahead of many mothers out there who dive into motherhood for all the wrong reasons (none of the readers of THIS site, of course ;). I’m 36 and pregnant with my first, and my husband and I were married for a long time before we decided to embark down this road – after many years of thinking we’d be childfree. So for us it was a considered decision as well.
    But to show how ultimately out of control you are in parenthood and life, I ‘decided’ to get pregnant and for years just never did…until we’d given up on it and this little surprise came along. We’re thrilled, and scared, and happy, and nervous, and awed by the living being inside of me already that WE are responsible for. We can’t wait to meet him (but not too soon! stay in there *knock knock*) and start this new chapter of our lives together. If you decide it’s right for you and your man, I wish you all the best and I’m sure you’d be great.

  3. M.
    June 25, 2008 at 1:15 am

    Yeah. I’ve got nothing. I sat on a plane yesterday behind a screaming kid – seriously, this kid shouted and howled at the top of his lungs for 4 hours – and it made me never want to procreate.
    Never mind the chemistry of the whole thing 99.99999999% of which we have no effing clue how it works. And the shit that can go wrong, and all the awful things that happen.
    And then for me, I don’t like children at all. They’re little bioreactors that you coo nonsense at trying to get them to talk until they can, at which point you spend 18+ years trying to get them to shut up.
    But you’re supposed to get pregnant and you’re supposed to change completely into A Perfect Doting Mommy and buy your clothes from LL Bean, not to mention love your kids unconditionally even when they puke on your favorite sweater. What if that doesn’t happen? You can’t exactly put it back.
    The whole thing is completely scary and kind of awful. I genuinely resent how easy it is for men.

  4. June 25, 2008 at 9:24 am

    I know it’s different for everyone, but in my experience, pregnancy is a picnic compared with the actual baby. Having a human infant all the time for ever who is dependent on you. I really don’t think I had considered that sufficiently! I mean, seriously people, not to spread doom and gloom among the as-yet childless, but it’s madness.
    Pregnancy is a happy solipsistic bubble of hormones and being the centre of the universe, and then, suddenly, you are at the mercy of a tiny, apparently rage filled and very puzzling being who needs you every second of every day. And it’s so utterly mundane, and universal that noone remembers to tell you that mainly it feels like drudgery and boredom and isolation. And that loving your child more than anything in the world does not change that one bit.
    I’m 33 and have two kids (6 and 4) and I think I spent the whole first year of my eldest child’s life in shock. But of course it’s ok. And of course the love comes. Not necessarily in the instant flood you’re taught to expect, but it does. And eventually, after a few years, a little kernel of who you used to be starts to reassert itself. And you realise you are still yourself, in there somewhere. Look! I can write in sentences! It took me a few years, but here they are. And even more excitingly, there is a whole person ready to hatch out of that needy ball of baby and you are helping it to emerge. And that’s rather wonderful.

  5. aynat
    June 25, 2008 at 9:47 am

    Bless you Anne, one of my best friends is pregnant, though not showing yet, I find myself thinking the thoughts you just so eloquently put into words. It’s good to know I’m not alone in that. Thank you.

  6. June 25, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    My best friend had a baby in April (sadly, however, in Alaska so I haven’t been able to see him yet!!) and I have been thinking many very, very similar things. Thanks for being so much more articulate than me– all I’ve pretty much been able to get out is, “Wow, Karina’s a MOM!”

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