I’m trying to decide what to write, or more importantly, what to leave out from my long and complicated history with my body. There really is no time one is more aware of one’s body than when someone else is living in it. I looked in the mirror at my recently emerging and darkening stretch marks and realized that I love them. I love my stretch marks! Why?!
Even I don’t really know. It’s not like I think they’re pretty, but I guess I’m proud of them. I imagine it’s a little like a 10 year old boy coming home from a baseball game proudly sporting the scabs on his knees. It shows I’ve done something. Endured a little something – even if it’s not much yet. On my best days of this pregnancy I feel proud of my big, lumbering body. It’s not at all the same as looking in the mirror and seeing some extra pounds I’ve put on all by myself. Thank God! I wasn’t sure I’d feel that way.
On Sunday I woke up feeling gross. We got up and got all ready for church, walked out the door and then turned around and walked right back in. I had done too much in the two preceding days. All day I felt downright sick and so I was starting to worry that I was going into labor. It’s still a few days too early for that, and when I awoke on Monday morning still sporting the headache I’d had all night I worried I had preeclampsia. Thankfully, drinking a ton of water remedied my headache and after the epic massage Henry gave me Sunday night, my back felt better than it had in weeks. Nope, not in labor. Not even close.
During that time, however, as I worried I’d have to be induced in the hospital and that absolutely everything would be out of my control and against my wishes, I realized that I’m not really ready. I keep saying I’m ready for our son to be on the outside of me, but as I contemplate it, I really am starting to be afraid of the pain. Everyone says you will be toward the end like this, but I thought I’d “already dealt with it.” Ha ha. I also realized I have no choice. I feel like Pam from the birth episode when it comes right down to it and she doesn’t want to go to the hospital because she’s just not ready. That’s all there is to it. Our birth class instructor told a story of a woman who got all the way to transition (the time when your contractions get really strong and close together and you are super close to pushing the baby out) and started packing her bags to go home. She had decided she just wasn’t going to do it anymore and that she’d go home and have the baby some other day. It wouldn’t surprise me if I did something like this. Mine will probably look more like begging.
What other joyful life event do you know for certain will be painful and are just waiting around until that pain starts? I guess it could be argued that marriage has that probability. But still…it could happen right now while I’m rested and feeling good or it could happen after another long night of no sleep and big headaches. I don’t get a choice that it will happen and I don’t get a choice when it will happen. I also don’t get a choice how it will happen. I may not have him at home. I may not get to hold or see him as soon as he comes out. I probably will, but you never know.
You know, I wish we women got better prepared for ALL of our life and body events the way we prepare for birth. I wish somehow that I would have known how complicated my relationship with my body would get and how fast it would get that way. How can a little girl know that? I think it’s well worth thinking on this subject as a mother. We have a kind of relationship to the body that is different from men’s relationships with their bodies. All this stuff can feel like it’s just “happening” to us – especially if we aren’t prepared for whatever reason. Maybe we need to get back to the red tent. Anyone ever read that book? It’s good!
I love pregnancy and the way my friends have been so good to me for this reason. It’s almost like we’re back there. It’s the one time in life when many women will tell you with total sincerity that you’re doing great and that you look good when you’ve gained 60 lbs. and are lumbering along like godzilla. Yes, you get some odd and mean comments as well, but there are always plenty of good women who will tell you those other women are crazy. I recently read a book of short essays from women authors and columnists about their experiences of breastfeeding. They were all interesting, especially since most of them were working moms – which won’t apply to me at this point – but there was one I especially liked. The whole thing was about how she wished we would all take it easier on each other. She was referring to judgmental attitudes she witnessed about breastfeeding and child-rearing among moms but I think it applies to all kinds of facets in a woman’s life where she is subject to scrutiny first and foremost by her female peers.
What would it be like if instead of competing with each other – a lot of retroactive non-competing in my case would be nice – we were able to recognize one another as completely unique and praise each other and urge each other on to become the best kind of woman we can be in our specific lives? I really wish I’d both done this and felt this through my adolescence. But more than that, I wish I’d known better in my early adult life and stopped comparing my body, my clothes, my hair and then my wedding and then my apartment and THEN my pregnant body and my plans for child-rearing to other women. I’m not going to say that I’m cured, but the belly cast put some finishing touches on something which has been dawning on me these last nine months: this isn’t a competition. You don’t get points being the “best” at that stuff. Or, heaven forbid, for being the “best” at spiritual endeavors. Yikes. People don’t even like you that much if you do that, lol.
I’m extremely grateful for the women who bravely applied slimy plaster bandages to my naked body and who told me afterward that I was beautiful. Or showed me they thought I was, just for being me. I totally don’t deserve them – which, I think, is the nature of good friendships. Where would we be without those faithful few who are most like Jesus in that they just tell you, “I love you. No matter what.”?