“She gave me soap!” Her blue eyes, though dimmed with age, still manage to flare in indignation. “Does she think I’m dirty? Does she think I don’t wash?!?”
My elderly neighbour, Mrs. L., is in full battle-cry against her sister-in-law. Again. Being a well-brought-up woman, I don’t argue with my elders. I don’t know the sister-in-law, despite all the tales of offense and infamy I’ve heard. What Mrs. L. tells me won’t hurt this woman, since the much-scorned SIL lives in a different city.
The offense is clear, however: The scorned sister-in-law gave Mrs L soap for her birthday!!!!
I like Mrs L, I really do. She’s a feisty old thing, determined to live her life till the last breath as an independent woman. She still drives her car — only in brightest daylight, as her vision fades, and it won’t be long before he license is taken away, I’m sure. She lives in her own home. She has supportive family, who see that her fridge is properly stocked and that she gets to doctor’s appointments. And she has attentive neighbours, myself among them, who note whether she’s walking her little dog every day, and that her mail is not accumulating worrisomely.
But she’s also a cranky old biddy, only too willing to take offense, to see offense where there is none, to be OUTRAGED by something as simple as a gift of soap.
I listen and nod, listen and nod, until Mrs. L runs out of steam and totters back into her kitchen. Then I breathe a sigh of relief, shake off her negativity and willful self-absorption, and move on to my day.
I never argue with Mrs. L. She’s old, and, despite her brave front, she’s frail. The days that she can continue to live on her own are numbered. Though she’s in denial, I suspect much of her rage stems from this awareness. (Even if it doesn’t, even if she’s just a cantankerous old biddy, she’s old.) I am kind.
A frail, cranky old lady who, despite herself, sees the writing on the wall, is one thing.
I am less patient with the gazillions of healthy young things who do this sort of thing day after day. Today I came across this post.
I’ve been pregnant, three times. I meet a dozen or two pregnant women each year; on average, one of my clients becomes pregnant each year. When I taught prenatal classes, I saw hundreds of pregnant women in a year.
This sort of article wearies me. The woman who wrote it doesn’t like to be asked when she’s due, and doesn’t enjoy the ‘wow’ comment. Okay. So she doesn’t. But you know what? Lots of women do. What’s the poor hapless bystander to do? You say ‘wow’ to one woman, she’s offended. You don’t say it to the next, she’s disappointed.
When people make complaints of the sort this author makes, they are assuming that all people feel as they do. Therefore, what they need, is what everyone wants, what pleases them is what everyone should be doing. And that just ain’t so. Since all pregnant women don’t respond in the exact same way to their pregnancy and to comments on their pregnant body, then what she’s asking of people is that they be able to read her mind. Which is hardly fair or rational. This exasperates me.
I could have stopped here. There would have been a certain amount of undeniable satisfaction in writing an acerbic, biting, sarcastic post on the self-inflated precious snowflakeness in our society, the incessant demand that everyone UNDERSTAND me, and react EXACTLY how I want and need. How dare you step on my delicate toes?
But you know what? Once that moment of exasperation had passed, compassion arose, and I just couldn’t be so unkind. Because what this woman is really expressing is insecurity. She’s not being fair or rational, but her distress is genuine, and I feel compassion for her.
And I am here to say to the author of this post, and to all of you who empathized with it, “Oh, honey. The problem is not with those people, even if some of them are tactless. You’re pregnant? Congratulations! And I will tell you now, even though I haven’t seen you in the flesh, you’re gorgeous.”
How do I know that, sight unseen? Because pregnant women are. Gorgeous. Yes, you are. Each and every one of you. Despite how tired you feel, how bloated you feel. Despite the bags that may or may not be under your eyes. Despite varicose veins and linea nigra and flatulence and stretch marks and the aches and pains and general weariness… You.Are.Beautiful.
Know why? Because you are a miracle on legs, you are. And that baby inside you? Is another miracle.
Those people who want to know when you’re due? It’s because they want to celebrate with you! Or perhaps to commiserate, and on a day where you’re feeling nothing more than “will I ever, EVER get my body back?”, a little commiseration is always welcome. Isn’t it?
Those people who look at your belly and go, “Wow!”? They are thinking, “Wow. Isn’t it amazing what the female body can do?” Or they’re thinking, “Wow. I’m so glad that’s not me any more!” Or maybe, “Wow. I can hardly wait till I get to do that!” Or, “Wow! Who knew a tiny woman could stretch so far!!” Some of them may even be thinking, “Wow. Why, why, why won’t my body let me do that?”
What they are not thinking is “Good lord, what a whale!” Do you hear me? They.Are.Not.
If you take offense or cringe in shame, when you hear that ‘wow’… Do you know who’s thinking that ‘whale’ comment?
Nobody else. Just you.
When you are pregnant, you gain weight. You do. It’s a fact. A biological necessity. 25 – 40 pounds is perfectly, deliciously, healthy. You are not “fat”. In fact, this is the one time in your life when gaining 25 – 40 pounds is the right thing to do. (If you gain more than that, you are not ‘ugly’, but you are making it harder on yourself. Pregnancy will be harder. Labour will likely be harder. Chasing your wee one after s/he is born will be harder. So, for your own sake and comfort, please keep the gain to healthy limits. But ugly? You’re Not.) And shame? It’s so unwarranted as to be ridiculous. Truly, it is.
Okay, we could all wish some of them would be a little more tactful. Sure. But I will tell you with 100% sincerity, no one who says ‘Wow!’ when they see a pregnant tummy is thinking ‘Ew!’. (Okay, maybe 0.0001% of them do. You can pay as much attention to those people as you do to people who think the world is flat. They are the lunatic fringe and should impact your self-esteem as much as the flat-earthers impact your travel plans.) So, please believe me: people are excited, not repelled. Pregnancy may not bring out the tact in everyone, but it does bring out the joy. People love babies. People love pregnant woman.
If you feel shame — seriously: shame?!? — when someone comments on your size, the problem lies not with the commenter, but with you. Because you don’t believe, in your heart of hearts, that your growing, blossoming, lush body is beautiful.
I’m here to tell you, it is.
When I taught prenatal classes, I would often hear women complain that they didn’t feel ‘feminine’ any more. And I would tell them, “Can you think of a single time in your life when you are more womanly? What man on the planet can do what you’re doing now?” You may not look like the pencil-thin 14-year-old models in Vogue, but you are as female as they get, sister!
All of it. All the aches and pains and lumps and farts and burps… and … beautiful skin and thick hair, blossoming breasts and lush, luxurient curves. You are beautiful. Utterly beautiful.
If you believed that yourself, if you really, really believed that, then every time someone asked, “When are you due?”, you’d be thrilled to tell them. And every time someone looked at your voluptuous belly and said, “Wow!”, you’d caress it with your mother’s hands, and you’d say, “Yeah. Isn’t it great?!”
Because it is. It’s great. It’s a miracle. It’s beautiful.
Boy, I sure did it the hard way!
I guess this woud be called childburst?
A reader is panicking because everyone hates the name they’ve chosen for their still-gestating baby. Perhaps because family and friends loathe it so, they don’t share it with us. The columnist weighs in with a measured — and entertaining — response, just full of quotable lines.
I rather liked this: “If five people tell you you’re drunk, maybe you should lie down.”
My friend Cindy was partial to this: “When it comes to parenting, opinions are like stinking, steaming, full diapers: There’s no shortage of them, and no one wants to change them.”
Go, read the article. Which line made you give an appreciative snort?
And what do you think about the wisdom of giving your baby “a challenging and unusual” name? Is your creativity empowering your child with a name that will never be forgotten, or dooming him/her to a lifetime of humiliation and inconvenience?
– After a long and arduous labour, the woman who thought she had one baby in there gave birth to … triplets.
– Walking through Wal-Mart, the happy couple heard an odd sound behind them, and when they turned around, they realized the baby had fallen out of the mother’s body, and was lying in the aisle in the Automotive Department.
– Watching the unusual mobility of her newborn infant, the mother realized that she had given birth to a very cute and appealing … rabbit.
– Six months into the pregnancy, the mother discovered she wasn’t pregnant after all. It was just a case of really, really, really bad gas.
If you’ve been (or are) pregnant, you probably have an inkling of what’s going on. It’s not the paint fumes getting to Mary’s head. Those are pregnancy dreams. The dreams that happen when the hormones and the anxiety get to your head, and come out when your defenses are down and your subconscious strong. They are uniformly weird, and often very funny, and I think the world needs to hear more about them!
Here’s one of mine:
I was pregnant with my first. (Being the sort to eschew ultrasounds, I did not know her sex at that time, but we’ll call her “her” for convenience — and because that’s what she turned out to be!)
I was in the hospital. I had just pushed the baby out. Filled with joy and expectation, I looked down at my newborn baby, and there was her little self. My baby. My beautiful baby, but … Her head was a normal baby head, perfect in every way, fat cheeks, nubbin nose, long lashes framing big dark eyes … but her body! What was WRONG with her BODY?
It was purple and limp and flat! It had no substance! Hanging from her normal baby head was the shape of a baby, a sort of baby template, but it was as thick as a piece of paper, as formless as a baby-shaped blanket!
I expressed my alarm to the nurse. She simply smiled in that knowing way maternity nurses have, and patted the nervous young mother on the head.
“It’s all right, dear.” she soothed. “You just have to blow her up.”
And with that she leaned over the flaccid form of my infant, took the stub of the umbilical cord between finger and thumb, applied her lips to it, and proceeded to inflate the baby. It took only a few breaths, then she tied a knot in the cord, and handed my now perfectly pink, perfectly normal baby to me.
“See? Good as new!”
And it was all better. We young mothers, we worry about the silliest things!
Okay, your turn. I’d love to hear YOUR pregnancy dreams! Tell me in the comments, or write a post on your own blog. (If you’d link back to this post, that would be marvy; I’ll link to yours, too, of course!)
Let the weirdness begin!
Thanks to everyone who responded to my quick survey the other day.
Okay, now that the results are in, I can let you know why I was asking…
I am reading a fascinating book by Susan Maushart called The Mask of Motherhood. Its subtitle is telling: “How becoming a Mother changes Everything and Why We Pretend It Doesn’t”. (We do?)
I am enjoying this book enormously. I am not, not by a long chalk, agreeing with everything she writes. In fact, at page 130 of 247, I have disagreed with far more than I’ve agreed with. But is in interesting? Oh, lordy, yes! My brain cells are just buzzing with ideas and responses.
In chapter three, “Labouring Under Delusions”, she discusses – surprise! – labour. She seems to feel that when women speak to other women of labour, they are almost uniformly positive about it. They soft-pedal the pain, they whitewash the worry, they seek to soothe and reassure – all at the cost of leaving women hugely unprepared for the reality.
Labour, she claims, is horrific. That is Reality. “The reality was this: childbirth was torment–not because my mind or body was doing it wrong, but because it was doing it right.” Though she admits that there are women out there who have positive labours, she seems to admit these mostly as a theoretical possibility, and even then, a tremendous abberation from the norm. Additionally, she seems to believe that if a labour is painful, it is by definition negative; that a positive experience of labour requires a largely pain-free labour.
I disagree with all that. Even where I don’t totally disagree, I’m tossing corrolaries up all over.
However, it did get me thinking. Now, my experience of pregnancy was positive, all three pregnancies. Apart from those long, weary last five weeks or so, I loved being pregnant. I loved the changes that overtook my body, I loved the movements inside, I loved knowing that I was making a whole other human being inside me. Awe-inspiring. I’m sure I was boring as hell when I was pregnant, I was so taken up with the whole thing…
But the stories other women told me! They were awful! Maybe there were some positive ones in there, but they were few and far between. I heard tales of 3 day-labours, of 4th-degree lacerations (the tears that go right through from vagina to anus), of babies whose lives were in the balance, of pain and fear and blood and tears.
However, our woman Susan, who had truly rotten pregnancies, heard nothing but tales of sunshine and fluffy bunnies. What gives?
Perhaps, I thought, it’s to do with the woman’s mindset. Perhaps, because I felt so generally positive about my experience, I only took note of the negative labour tales, because they jarred me. Perhaps Susan was doing the same – hearing only the positive stories, because they jarred so with her pregnancy experience.
So, off to you with my two questions, and I discovered…
no such correlation.
Of the 50-odd of you who replied to both questions, the breakdown was thus:
A. Positive Pregnancy, Negative Tales: 18
B. Negative Pregnancy, Positive Tales: 7
C. Positive Pregnancy, Positive Tales: 14
D. Negative Pregnancy, Negative Tales: 8
(The half-dozen or so of you who heard no labour tales were not included in the tally.)
If my hypothesis had been proven right, A and B would have had the most votes. C and D would have had least. Clearly that isn’t the case.
(I do note, though, that women who generally liked their pregnancies reported more labour stories than women who didn’t – positive and negative. Kind of suggestive, I think.)
I realized when I read your comments that “horror stories” was distracting. I should have stopped at “generally positive” and “generally negative”. Your comments also indicated a nuance – an important one – that my simple questions missed: a tale focussed on doctors and hospital procedures, and how to manage that minefield is not exactly a tale of labour, in that it isn’t focussed on the woman’s bodily experience, but on externals. This information is not what I was after, but I hadn’t thought to make that distinction.
This is so interesting!
I have been reading this book for over a month. Every weekday morning I’m spending at least a half-hour at it, and I’m a little over half through. Why such a snail’s pace for this voracious reader?
Because I rarely get through a single paragraph without jotting something down, without copying out a quote or writing a response to an idea.
I may not agree with all (or even much) – but I am loving the reading.
Think, think, thinkety, think….
I’ve been reading a book – won’t tell you which one yet – and it’s provoked a thought in my head, which I am about to test out on you, my little guinea pigs.
If you want to help me out, please answer the following questions.
1. When you were pregnant, did you enjoy being pregnant, overall?
2. When you were pregnant, did you find that other women were
a. full of horror stories about labour? (generally negative about it)
b. full of encouraging tales about labour? (generally positive about it)
That’s it. If you could just leave the number and letter answers in your comments, that would be very helpful. It might even make its way into an upcoming post. (If you’ve never been pregnant, you can still answer question 2: if you’ve heard any labour stories, do you find them to be a) generally negative, or b) generally positive?)
(It’s a fascinating book, utterly fascinating! I will be telling you about it, I promise.)
UPDATE: 29 comments! And it’s only 4:30 Friday afternoon. This is great! Keep them coming, and I’ll tell you what this is all about on Tuesday. Or maybe even Monday. But the more I get, the more meaningful the cumulative information will be. Thanks, all.
Dani has tagged me for a meme. I’ve done this one before, so decided I’d keep my five things to a theme: pregnancy, labour, delivery. How’s that for specific?
1. I liked being pregnant (except for those last few teeeeeeedious weeks), and – here’s the weird bit – I enjoyed labour. No, it wasn’t fun. It wasn’t “Whee! Lookit me havin’ a baby!” kind of enjoyment. But: did I take pride in my body, and in my response to my three labours? Betcher ass I did.
2. I wanted a home birth, but couldn’t afford it, so each of my three kids were born in birthing centres – a different one in a different city for each. I was back home within six hours of delivery for the second and third babies. (Now home births are covered by provincial health insurance. Then, they weren’t.)
3. I have supported the births of a dozen or so babies. I loved, loved, loved it. Nothing like seeing a baby draw its first breath, and the joy on the faces of everyone in the room. I don’t think that would ever get stale.
4. I taught prenatal classes to several hundred couples over a five-year period. Taking a good class and being prepared makes a HUGE difference to a couple’s satisfaction with the birth, even when it doesn’t go according to “plan”. (Which is good, because it usually doesn’t!!)
5. I get depressed when I hear a mother say, even in this day and age, “I’ll breastfeed IF I have enough milk.” And will your baby breathe IF it’s born with lungs? Some things are almost that much of a given – breastfeeding is one of them. Not 100%, but 99.9. Believe it!
Laura (Mommapalooza) was musing on some pregnancy memories, and got me thinking back (waaay back) to my first pregnancy, when the hormones and all that extra blood flow to the brain had my creativity charged to monumental new peaks. My creativity, and a bunch of other bits.
You know the Fred Penner song called “The Bump”? It’s a lively little ditty which starts out,
I’m a bump, ba-bump, ba-bump, bump,
In the middle of the prairie.
Being the exceptionally creative momma that I was, I saw huge potential there. Huge! Soon we were serenading our wee (and eventually not so wee) bump with,
You’re a bump, ba-bump, ba-bump, bump,
In the middle of your mummy!”
See? See how honed was the wit and creativity? It amused us, drunk as we were with anticipation (and perhaps a little terror). But the razor-sharp wit didn’t stop here. Not at all. The next line introduces a new theme…
“The land around is flat, flat, flat.”
The wit, it knows no bounds. See, when I was fifteen I was all prairie, and firmly convinced I’d be prairie forever. Caused me no little adolescent angst. By late sixteen, I’d moved west, achieved the foothills. A nice place to be. During pregnancies, however, the topography became downright mountainous. (Nature. She has a twisted sense of humour or a keen sense of the ridiculous.) Sooo…
“The land around ain’t flat, flat, flat.” Falling-down funny, that was.
“I’m a bump that no one sees,
Just a bump that no one sees.”
Which was true for the first trimester, but had us in stitches by the last. Yes, the joke lasted the entire pregnancy. Because it was just So Funny, don’t you know. And because we were just So Smart and Witty and Creative. Fun times.
How about you? Any fond memories of pregnancy goofiness?
© 2006, Mary P