Jul 14, 2013

So, the moment I made the appointment for the induction I felt relieved.

And then, an hour later, I felt like crap.

I can't really explain it.

No wait, I can.

I have something to admit, for years I have (secretly, quietly) scoffed at women who were so mournfully wounded by their birthing experience. I just couldn't understand it. I refer, of course, women who had very healthy babies and were able to recover fully in a reasonable time period. Not tragedies or horrifically harmful birth. But I never could quite understand how women who wanted a natural birth but had to have a c section, or who thought they could swing it drugless but then couldn't  and found a need for an epidural couldn't just move on, why they harbored such attachment to a process so clearly outside their control.

And on some level I do still hold to the belief that the whole point of this experience is to have a healthy baby, and that believing you can do so your way, and only your way, is just unhealthy way of trying to control reality. The belief that you can control this process seems a little too full of hubris for me, and I think holding on to the resentment and heartbreak of bringing your baby into the world in a less than perfect fashion is a little selfish, self punishing, and mostly self involved.

Which is why I scheduled the induction. Because even though a part of me was thinking it was silly and everything was healthy and that this was a perfectly normal gestation period, and that I wanted to wait it out, it only took one good (and totally unnecessary, it turned out) scare with the babies health and a few tiny statistics around still birth  and older moms to make me think that maybe waiting until labor was selfish and a poor risk.

But still. And again, a humbling moment as I regret every unnecessary and self congratulatory piece of advice I have forced on a pregnant woman and every judgement I have passed on a woman self evaluating the birth.

Because here is the thing: it is ABOUT the endgame. It is about the baby. It is about their health. Of course it is. Why else would anyone go through birth, let alone pregnancy, if it wasn't.
But it is also, in the end, it is also still about you. The woman. The pregnant woman. Because you still exist. You still matter, and even if you are entering a world in which a dependent is now your top priority and you will die for this baby and yada yada yada, the reality is that you are about to go through  shit ton of pain, frustration and confusion only to entering an equally confusing time. And for your own mental health some part of you knows it is important that your needs, your well being, that YOU don't disappear.

And I think that was what got to me in the end. I could stomach and was actually not at all scared of the birthing process when it involved me pushing a baby out that was ready to come. When I would have been partially laboring at home and at least moderately in control of the process for a bit and when I believed I would have a say and a presence. But the second I looked at the list of drugs I might get, the variety of interventions this might entail, the moment I understood that birth was about to become a process that I couldn't even understand well enough to advocate for myself during the process, I felt myself disappear. I felt the irrelevance of my own pain, self control and role in the birth. And I know that is an exaggeration, I know that is a big leap: but you tell me, as a non medical professional, handed a pamphlet that lists drugs you will administered and procedures you will experience, how in control do you feel? How present and guiding do you feel in a process that you can only google to begin to understand?

And this...this made me feel more despair than I have ever felt. Ever.

And forgive me now while I make another huge leap, but I can't help but to feel this emblematic in some many ways of what women  experience on other levels.

Gender roles have changed so rapidly, so constantly, for the last century that I think both men and women struggle to find their place, to identify who they are and what they need outside their chromosomes. I think women don't have the whole market share on that. But I suspect they have the monopoly, still...

And you see that more when it comes to babies and birthin babies and even deciding to never birth babies. I mean, look at all the laws the govern pregnancy, preventing pregnancy, stopping pregnancy, and birthing and it is hard not to conclude that society views a woman's right to control her own destiny as less a given then a mans, and that much of that roots in her role as a  mother

But you begin your life and live your life, at first, as a woman just finding ways to become you and make your world what you need it to be, sharing it with others etc. The reality that you may, some day, become pregnant, for most modern women is not just secondary, but deeply abstract and removed from your self image and self awareness.

And then you become pregnant and something very strange happens. You somehow become more special. People look at you differently: reverence, affection, respect and even fear wafts off of strangers and people you love. People treat you like you are more fragile, more important, more dear. And some part of you knows this is not you at all, but the function you have taken on. And the reality that this new role, even if you have been CEO of a company or a world leader before, is the thing that makes you special right now is confusing. It is heady and heart warming but also alienating because it has so very little do with you and who you actually are as a human, and is just some primal archetypal reaction to something anyone can do, from the dumbest meanest woman on the planet to the most brilliant saint.

So there you are, a living subset to a new whole that doesn't even exist yet. And if you are a questioning sort some small part of your brain can't help but to wonder what happens when the pregnancy ends. Where do YOU stand when this being that is so eclipsing makes their actual entrance?

I fully understand but cannot yet comprehend that having a child creates new priorities. That this is, for most, a beautiful and important progression in which selflessness is an important element is only an intellectual fact for me for me at the moment.

I believe, on many levels, that the goal of living is to grow and understand that so very much of our mentality, our biology still pushes us towards breeding, towards being vessels to bring new life into the world.

But I think we have also evolved beyond a point in which that is all we are. We produce offspring so they can live a full life and we expect them to live a life beyond the offspring they, themselves produce.  And as a woman having a girl baby who will be a woman I want her to have a holistically fulfilling life beyond making babies.

And I want this for myself. Still. Because I think it is important for my health, for her health, and for everyone who cares about me. And I believe I can have it.

But  some small part of me now understands that this includes staying present, staying important during the birthing process, during the days that follow into motherhood, during that time when your needs are absorbed by your child.

So I guess what I am saying is: I am scared. Not scared of the pain or the discomfort or inconvenience. Although all those things make me anxious, nervous, of course. But in the end they seem inevitable, and I have never believed that childbirth might be pleasant. Isaid it before and I'll say it again: I suspect it will suck and then it will be done with. And now I just suspect it will such more and longer. Which is harder but not impossible to stomach. But I guess some small part of me believed it would still...be mostly mine. Mostly me. Me and her. Me. and then me and her.
And as this process becomes more automated, more confusing, more medical and goal oriented I see it is, quite actually all along has been her, then me in the pecking order of things. Not just in the minutiae, but in the larger broader details of my own life and those who care for me. And that scares the hell out of me. In some very good growth oriented ways, but in some other more disconcerting ways. Because the strength to have a presence, especially in a world that has a difficult time respecting women in a multifaceted manner, is scary, and it seems even more daunting when your priorities so massively shift.

And I am just now understanding how we lose our ability to face and change that reality in some of the least suspecting places.

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