Tuesday, November 08, 2005

An Identity Crisis in Three Parts: Part 1

Part 1: Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a joyous experience, particularly a first pregnancy. There is the excitement, the anticipation, that whole miracle-of-life thing. My pregnancy was unplanned, but not unwelcomed. The adjustments throughout were difficult: no smoking, or drinking. Prenatal vitamins, while chock full of folic acid and iron and other things vital to baby growing, can also place a strain on mommy's system via such fun conditions as constipation and the like. Your body suddenly goes haywire, and is really not your own anymore. The little being inside is at the controls, and never hesitates to screw with you mercilessly. Heartburn, naseau, vomiting. Things swell and contract, muscles and skin stretch, however reluctantly. Not only was I trying to adjust to the idea of being pregnant, I was also trying to cope with the physical realities of pregnancy.

There was an initial adjustment period that I went throught, trying to come to terms with new life, growing inside me, new life that would eventually have to emerge. Then, you have to tell family and friends. Family, in my case, were cautiously optimistic, then blissfully happy once they found out that I was going to get married. Friends....well, they differed. My guy friends were outwardly happy, but seemed to be more confused. I guess maybe that's what happens when you're 'one of the guys'; anything girl-like, especially something so particularly uber-girl-like as pregnancy, just baffles them. In the first few months they would say, "You seem the same", almost marveling at my lack of what they thought was appropriate pregnancy behaviour, possibly learned from prime time sitcoms. There were a lot of questions: your water isn't going to break on my couch, is it? Not at three months, no. Aren't you supposed to throw up a lot, or something? Yes, I do, but not at the moment, and certainly not on command. When I started showing, there was a lot of belly poking. "So there's a baby in there, huh" they would comment, prodding at my protuding stomach. "You're sure you're not just getting fat?" Good-natured teasing aside, I am sad to say that most of my guy buddies drifted away as my pregnancy progressed, possibly overwhelmed by the hormones.

My girlfriends were more supportive. The childless ones sort of drifted out of the picture eventually, torn between the fact that I was suddenly a really good candidate for designated driver but that I couldn't drink myself. Somehow they deduced that I would not enjoy going out, nor would I be the fun, rambunctious gal that I had been pre-pregnancy. It was a gradual drift; they would still make and return phone calls, but it happened nonetheless. Friends who have kids are always thrilled when you turn up pregnant, and end up being your greatest source of support. I turned to other outlets, as well, like the internet. I joined an online mommy e-group, for pregnant mothers with babies due in April of '02. I found wisdom and wit there. I got advice from the moms who were on their second or third (or in one case, fifth) child and sympathy from the other first timers. There was the occassional flare of temper, as is bound to happen in a group of woman whose bodies were now in the hands of their hormones, but we always managed to make it right.

I talk about friends, because friends are important. They help you to see yourself. They offer praise, and support, and lend an ear to listen to you vent and/or mope, and offer their shoulder for you to cry on. They pick you up, when you fall. They will offer you ice cream and listen to you blather about mucus plugs and afterbirth. They laugh, but not in a mean-spirited way, when you disclose that there is a certain yoga pose that, everytime you perform it, makes you pee on yourself because of the way the baby ends up resting on your bladder. They will oooh and aaah over every kick you make them feel. They will play "guess that body part" with you when you are in your ninth month of pregnancy and baby sticks some appendage out. They will exclaim over even the blurriest, most indiscernable ultrasound photos. They love you and support you and make you feel normal again.

My decision to stay home was a tough one. I had never really held stay-at-home motherhood in the high regard that I now know it deserves. I was used to taking care of myself. I was a working girl, not having to depend on anyone, and I liked it that way. The thought of staying home all day and having to depend on Brian for money was terrifying. Once the cost of day care was considered, and my maternal instinct kicked in (someone else take care of my baby? no way), I decided that I would stay home. I thought I knew what I was getting into, but I had no idea. That's for part two, though.

As my delivery date loomed I became obsessed. All I could talk about or think of was pregnancy, delivery and childbirth. I took classes. I could name all the stages of labor and their accompanying symptoms. In Lamaze classes, if you answered a question correctly, the instructor would literally toss you a free sample of some baby product, like a little pouch of diaper rash cream, or a diaper sample. Woof-woof, good dog, here's your dye-free, frangrance-free laundry detergent sample. I ate it up. I was Superwoman: I worked all day, massively pregnant, then came home and cooked and cleaned. The laundry was done, the husband was fed and happy. My nesting phases were good times for Brian-I would wake up at 3am with the insane and overwhelming urge to clean the ceiling fan and bake a pecan pie. I felt domestic. I knew that I could do this stay-at-home thing. After all, if I could work and get it all done, a baby wouldn't change anything. I would have even more hours at home to get things accomplished. Riiiiiiiiight. How little I knew.

Once I was firmly ensconced in my ninth (and later, 9 1/2) month of pregnancy, I was slowly getting over it all. I enjoyed certain apects of being pregnant, but that list was slowly shrinking considerably. I felt enormous, and pointless. Walking was difficult; driving was getting to be that way. I had to start leaving for work early in order to accomodate for the extra five minutes that it took me to get out of the car. When I stopped working I slept, a lot. For the first couple of days I spent more time asleep than I did awake. Caught up on sleep, I got bored. I wanted to clean and prepare and nest, but didn't have the energy or, at that point, the ability. I spent ten minutes trying to get out of a chair one afternoon before finally giving up, dissolving into tears, and waiting for Brian to get home.

The point of all this: that I was entering a huge new phase of my life, and was losing the few things that I had identified myself with. I felt like I was losing my independance and at the same time had to find a new way to define myself. Does that make sense, or am I crazy? I am who I am (thank you Popeye), but you are also defined, sometimes by yourself and many times by others, by what and/or how you do. Or, my life has always been one big identity crisis. One of the two. Anyway: coming soon, part 2: motherhood. I'm sure the anticipation is killing you.


Anonymous said...

"I yam what I yam", or better yet what the late great Frank Zappa said, "You are what you is".
People can make you, you can be made. We are all moldable, pliable, we have to be otherwise we will break. You are who you are, it's the perspective of you and life around you that can change. A defining moment, a lifetime, a reality are all subject to perspective. I'm not talking about physical change, I'm talking about a persons soul. That soul, that ember, that life, that which makes you, that bit of magic that we all carry inside of us, should not ever change. The soul may be slapped in the face by pespective change, or one day your across the street from where you were before but in any case you are still you. Decisions are made, items given, stuff taken away but you are you still. That wonderful you.

Teresa said...

As I've never been pregnant, I have no thoughts to share on this. I do appreciate the perspective you give in it, though, and (as always) love your wit and way of saying things. I'm looking forward to part 2!