I am 37 years old and 21 weeks pregnant. When you do the math, that’s the equivalent of a healthy glass or two of wine for my lightweight social filter.
My 30s have been the decade of social calibration. Though it’s possible I’m deluding myself with notions of self-improvement, I think I’ve gotten somewhere with this. I’m less likely to say something inappropriately funny just because it’s funny. And inappropriate.
I gauge my surroundings a little better, and try to refrain from parading around with my ass hanging out. If my 20s were the hospital gown of a verbal filter, my 30s are more like…. the long skirt with the high slit. You can tell there’s ass there, but it’s under wraps. And in fact, I find it’s much more satisfying that way. One does not need to display all the goods on the counter, so to speak.
At least that’s how it was going, but now that I am pregnant with my second child, I am back in the hospital gown. And also I think the top may not be tied.
This came to my attention while grappling with how to appropriately answer the question I’m bombarded with every damn day, multiple times a day… “How are you feeling?”
[Side note: This question is an improvement. In my first trimester when people noticed I was different – rounder, weirder, greener around the edges, but dared not comment upon it – I had mercy and divulged I was pregnant. The response was generally “Oh! Was it planned?”
At that time, I was still being fitted in my proverbial hospital gown, and was too exhausted from the effort of struggling to hold down food and not cry. So I didn’t have the energy for the kind of response that I would now deliver to such a query.
Back to now. The gown is on (ish) and the people are asking me how I am feeling.]
They are asking me this for one of these reasons:
- They are kind/they care.
- They are terrified, and think it’s probably the safest route to take with a pregnant woman.
- They think they are supposed to ask this. And I am supposed to gush about how magnificent and miraculous and Mother Maryish it all is.
- They are sadistic.
- Any combination of a – d.
Regardless of their motivation, my answers are candid and stark. They seem to take one of three formats:
Scenario One: The Deer (plural) in Headlights
Well-intended, cruel, or non-thinking inquisitor (WICNI): How are you feeling?
Me: [Blank stare] I have no idea how to answer that question. Umm… right now I’m pretty sure if I lean forward the entire contents of my stomach will tumble into my mouth. I think the baby has pushed my esophagus permanently open.
WICNI: [Blank stare]
Scenario Two: The Staff Meteorologist
WICNI: How are you feeling?
Me: Exhausted, irritable, bloated, and unsatisfied. With patches of goddess-like surges and gusts of overwhelming gratitude.
WICNI: [Silence. Feels an irrational need to find an umbrella.]
Scenario Three: The Elimination Exposé
WICNI: How are you feeling?
Me: [Mistaking WICNI for my medical professional] You know how most pregnancies lead to brutal constipation? I have the EXACT OPPOSITE problem, quite urgently, and while it’s not pleasant it doesn’t result in hemorrhoids, so I’ll take it. But don’t tell anyone else… I don’t want them to think I’m bragging.
WICNI: [Experiences quite urgent feelings, too. Of needing to leave my presence.]
And yet, I’m just #notsorry.
These are the honest realities of pregnancy – exhaustion, anal discomforts (or relief at the absence thereof), waves of changes and hormones and feelings and perceptions. And these realities are just the warm-up for life postpartum.
The thing about this that actually bothers me is the tacit belief that pregnancy is supposed to be holy and beautiful and unrealistic – and the pressured expectation for me to say, “I feel wonderful! So very incredible!
Yes, pregnancy is superhuman. But that doesn’t mean thornless roses and storm-free rainbows. Superhuman means human and then some … so like, big ass thorns you have to poop out and thunder that rattles your bones.
And at the same time, we needn’t all pretend that pregnant ladies have suddenly become fragile. The only fragility is our societal handling of their new and powerful state. A pregnant lady is a different creature than a not pregnant lady. And a mom is a different creature than both of those. This is not due to feminine defect, deficiency, or derangement. It is the nature of reproduction.
So, yes. Being me and being pregnant is like being half-drunk. The filter is gone. I am moving at my own pace, feeling the flaps of my hospital gown blowing in the breeze while I am getting shit done over here, like making a human, caring for my 4-year-old, and figuring out some complicated financial structures.
That doesn’t make me unfeminine or less of a mother. Or somehow a failure.
It’s exactly what motherhood is.