I’m pregnant. And if I hear one more woman who hasn’t had a child in over ten years tell me how blissful I should feel while I’m in the midst of a hormonal meltdown the size of Poughkeepsie, I just may beat her about the head with my well-worn copy of What to Expect.
I’m learning many, many things during this pregnancy. One of the most interesting, though, is that there is somewhat of a, shall we say, generation gap, when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth. According to my mother (and many of her generation) pregnancy and childbirth are peaceful, simple, natural and perfect experiences.
According to my girlfriends, however, all of whom have had children within the last five years, pregnancy and childbirth may be some of these wonderful and blissful things some of the time, but the experience was described by none as completely perfect.
Allow me to provide some examples of this apparent experiential gap.
1. According to my mother, pregnancy is a time when a woman is most at peace, most relaxed and content. Huh. This has not been my experience. Take yesterday. Yesterday I frantically decided that the house must be cleaned NOW. I whirled around ineffectually for a bit, then collapsed on the bed and sobbed incoherently to my husband for twenty minutes of, according to him, completely indecipherable babble. When he finally figured out what I was saying, it went something like this:
Emily: (Sobbing) Aaah! wshso andk e htot toso thash! (Loud sniff) Shesotot shelt cliehtio! Lei! (Sob)
Byron: (Remarkably calm) I’m sorry, honey. I can’t quite understand-
Emily: aldfskjasaa!!!!!!! (Sob)
Byron: (Trying to stifle a smile) Come again?
Emily: (Sob) Everyone (hiccup, sniff) thinks you’re (long pause for sobbing) perfect! (dissolving into sobbing)
Byron: (Now really trying not to laugh) Maybe I should get you a tissue?
Emily: (Wailing) Yee-ees!!
Byron: (Walking into the bathroom) I guess if I was perfect I would have known to get you a tissue before now, huh?
Emily: (Still sobbing) Right?! This is (hiccup) what I’m talking about!
Byron: (Handing Emily a tissue)
Emily: (Loud nose blowing) Everyone thinks (sob) you’re perfect! But you’re not! (Hiccup followed by long sobbing break. Gasp for breath). YOU LEAVE CRUMBS ON THE COUNTER!!!
Byron: (Gently while trying to hide his smile) Honey, is this about crumbs on the counter?
Byron: (Laughing out loud now) You’ll definitely need to blog about this one, honey.
Emily: (Sobbing again) I know! I think it’s hormones! (And the sobbing continues)
2. Yet another woman from my mother’s generation happily informed me that pregnancy is blissful and that I won’t have a care in the world. Again, huh? So does that mean that it’s wrong that I worry about whether I should feel the baby moving yet? Wonder is my belly big enough to hold something that is supposed to have now reached the size of a bell pepper? Find myself paranoid about lying on my back at night because some article said that position would block a main artery to the heart? Think to myself (and say to my ever-so-patient husband): so just how is this darling baby that’s growing inside of my belling EVER GOING TO FIT OUT OF MY VAGINA?!?!
3. On the how-can-this-fit-out-of-that-opening topic, I’ve found that women of my mother’s generation seem to have had a much easier time of childbirth than, well, anyone I’ve ever met in my generation. Without exception, my mother’s generation remembers it like this: the childbirth experience was blissful, easy, relatively painless. Really? Because that’s not how the women of my generation remember it. One girlfriend, the happy mother of two wonderful little boys, with whom I recently had dinner was very frank with me.
Emily: So I’ve been told that childbirth really isn’t that bad?
Knowledgeable Girlfriend: (Blank look)
Emily: That it’s maybe similar to bad cramps?
KG: (Loud guffaw)
KG: (Leaning forward and looking me dead in the eye) Have you ever heard the term “ring of fire”?
Emily: (Inwardly cringing) Um. Yes?
KG: (Sitting back confidently) Yeah, well it’s no joke.
So what has Emily learned thus far into her pregnancy? I’ve learned that, regardless of what anyone else says, I will probably feel hormonal, I will likely have perfectly understandable (if slightly unreasonable) concerns and that childbirth WILL HURT. A lot. But I’ve also learned that I don’t think pregnancy and childbirth are meant to be without flaws, some dreamy unreality of ease. I’ve learned that, for me, the perfection of this experience lies in all of the imperfections. That’s what makes it so magical and funny and painful and scary and blissful.
I’ve learned, without the help of either generation, that I love the way my belly is starting to round. I love when Daffodil curls up tightly against the belly and purrs and I just faintly think I feel the flutter of the baby. I love gently resting my hand on my belly and knowing that there’s a little being in there who has chosen me to be his or her mommy and I feel honored and blessed. And I love reading Winnie-the-Pooh to that little one at night before bed. Even if he or she can’t really hear me yet.
I’ve learned that I don’t really care about hormonal mood-swings (poor Byron) or gaining weight (Byron calls the extra pounds “energy stores for the baby”). I don’t care about morning sickness or the fact that I can’t sleep on my back anymore. And I don’t care about how painful childbirth may or may not be. Because I’ve been waiting for just these moments. Because at the other side is a baby, my baby. Because I am, finally, a mother.