Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cranky...and Scared

Now that the cat is out of the bag, meaning we've notified our families, I can speak freely about my current condition: Pregnant. That's right, you heard correctly. I am growing my very own human in my uterus. The baby started out as a mere blastocyst, but has graduated to fetal status, meaning that it now tumbles freely in the amniotic fluid, making faces, flexing its limbs and mainlining nutrients straight from my bloodstream.

So far this process hasn't been too difficult. A little queasiness and fatigue in the first trimester, some headaches that continue to bother me, especially in the evenings, and most recently, a stretching and pulling sensation in my pelvis. None of this surprises me. It was all explained in the myriad books and articles I read as soon as I realized my monthly cycle was suspended for the foreseeable future.

As far as I'm concerned, the pregnancy is the easy part. My body pretty much knows exactly what to do. Sure it takes a little longer for me to show, this being a first pregnancy and all, but I have faith that all those hormones (the ones standing around in hard-hats, puzzling over blue prints) will be able to figure out how to get my inflexible pelvic bones and my grumpy intestines and my uptight abdominal muscles to make way for the temporary new addition.

This baby was planned, in the sense that Cranky and I knew what we were doing when we stopped using "protection." That said, we have the usual concerns. Mainly about how parenthood will forever change our lives. Diapers, sleep-deprivation, crying, spit-up and breast-feeding, all packaged with what other parents have described to me as a total loss of independence and a constant sense of worry and, in some cases, even guilt. These things scare the living [expletive] out of me.

Certainly there will be tender moments, first words, steps and smiles, and brief respites of peace while the baby sleeps, and I've heard the experience can be incredibly rewarding, but for someone who gags at the sight and smell of human excrement the thought of being a mom is, well, daunting at best. Sometimes I wonder what exactly I was thinking.

There are generally two schools of thought on the cost-benefit analysis of human reproduction. The first one, (to which I admittedly have belonged for many years) is the hard-nosed, nobody-forces-you-to-become-a-parent, lack of sympathy route. Having kids is over-rated, given the state of the world today. Far better to work on developing oneself, live a fulfilling life, and possibly even give back in some manner. Besides, who needs the "Mommy Wars" when society still balks at extending full equality and civil rights to women, gays and minorities?

The second school of thought is the having-kids-is-the-most-important-thing-you-can-do approach. I've always had problems with this, because I personally felt like my child-free life was quite important (thank you very much), and certainly what could be more important than pursuing one's own happiness? Not to mention, my deep-seated belief that having kids is actually one of the more selfish things a person can do. Sure, nurturing a new life is a tremendous amount of work and sacrifice, and if you do your job well, you'll produce a polite, productive member of society. One who may even go on to greatness. But at the end of the day, the real drive behind human reproduction is to perpetuate the parents' DNA, and thus secure their success as biological organisms. Important to the individuals? Yes. But in terms of impact on society? Certainly no match for a spot on the Supreme Court, or finding a cure for cancer.

Compounding my ambivalence is my belief that the reality in which we live places far more value on career ambitions, personal achievement and the accumulation of wealth than on motherhood, primary education and homemaking. Basically, I've always been suspicious of motherhood. It seemed like a trap for women–a way of committing us to the janitorial, support role, rather than the leadership, decision-making role to which I'd always aspired.

Now, faced with the inevitable, I find that I have good days and bad days. Good days where I'm filled with an inexplicable inner peace. A sense that my life is unfolding perfectly, and that my little passenger is going to expand my world, rather than limit it. That Cranky and I will experience more love than we could possibly imagine, and that we're embarking upon an adventure which will give our lives new meaning and perspective. Then there are the bad days. Days where I feel helpless and filled with resentment, and every bit of well-meaning advice chafes like a painful reminder of the trap into which I've fallen.

What pulls me out of this funk is the realization that motherhood doesn't have to be a trap. All this time I've lived by my own rules. Adopted conventional norms when they fit, broke from tradition when it became oppressive. Why should this new role be any different? I chose a direction, arguably one that is traditional for women, but at the end of the day it's just a general heading and no two people ever reach the exact same destination in life. If I can trust my body to deliver a healthy baby, then why not trust myself to forge a path through motherhood uniquely suited to me?


Dinosaur Mom said...

Congrats and good luck! I feel you on the ambivalence even now, and I have three of them. I am now going to write a post about baby-rearing in your honor.

wordbones said...

Ditto on the congrats!

Parenthood is a strange and wonderful trip. Enjoy the ride.


danielle said...

So how funny is it that my word verification to post this is "braless"? Congrats to you both. I loved this post. You are so in my head on this subject. Life's an adventure - enjoy the ride.