January 27, 2012

Pregnancy Manifesto Or Whatever

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What is the issue?

At the fresh, nubile stage of 17 weeks knocked up, here’s what I know about pregnancy and Facebook: people expect you to announce that your womb is occupado, get your 87 Likes and ‘OMG Congratz!!!!’ comments; then sit down, shut up, quietly grow a human being, and don’t mention it again until it pops out. Any further commentary is considered obnoxious, intrusive, boring, and will inevitably elicit comments from your friends about how you’re turning into one of “those” moms who spew endless nonsense about their pregnancy/kids on social media.

(Let me say, for the most part, I’m onboard with this. There’s nothing I hate more than “Facebook Moms.” In fact, I hate moms on the internet as a whole. In fact in fact, I hate most moms in general but that’s like, so another story. The point is, we don’t need to know about little Johnny’s bowel movements or how “F-ed up” it is that they didn’t get put in gifted classes when everyone totally knows they’re soooo scholastically advanced. We don’t give a crap. We don’t. Not at all.)

For some women, creating and raising a needy little human being is the goddamn pinnacle of existence. It’s all they ever wanted and they feel all “whole and happy” or whatever when they finally get sperminated. And hurray for them, seriously. My sappy fucking heart cries giant tears for my baby-hungry friends when they finally get a FetusFriend inside of them. That’s your pot of gold and I’m genuinely thrilled for you.

For others of us, we have slightly more complicated relationships with procreation. For some of us, we are an ever-bubbling hotbed of conflict between an acute awareness of our natural inclinations toward things like babies and motherhood, and all of our other ambitions. I mean, we’ve got lady parts, we’re built to do this birth thing, and as part of being smart, evolved, fully conscious women, we know better than to suppress those parts of ourselves. Our feminist foremothers, blesstheirhearts, thought we needed to stomp out our ovaries to call more attention to our brains. And GOD BLESS them for the strides they made. It’s because of them that we now enjoy the confidence to say “Hey, we don’t have to deny our inherent femininity, to masculinize ourselves in order to be on the level with men.” Thanks to the Gloria Steinems of yesteryear, we no longer need to emulate men just to not be seen as less than them. Enter the newest generation of women; trying to mix Bra Burning, Power Suits, and the Cult of Domesticity and it’s getting. freaking. messy.

So back to that conflict. There are the natural instincts as females that we no longer feel such a social compulsion to suppress, and then there are those “other ambitions.” By that, I mean… christ, all of it. The freedom to pursue whatever exciting, inspiring opportunity that comes into range; great jobs, traveling opportunities, late nights with friends, random summer flings, self-indulgence, and a million other possibilities that get the Ambitious Girl out of bed in the morning, even on the worst days. Make no mistake, there are inspiring mothers all over the place who still seem to take advantage of these opportunities, and the idea that you are “different, uniquely capable of having it all” is the fun lie that many first-time mothers tell themselves in order to embark upon motherhood without mourning the loss of this unfettered freedom. But let’s be honest: the minute you truly commit yourself to another human being, and that completely autonomous part of your life is closed, things change. And when you get pregnant, you realize that no boyfriend or husband or partner, no matter how committed to them you are/ were, was or is NEARLY as big of an attachment as this new person. You start to understand selflessness and obligation and true, unending commitment. For some of us, this is absolutely terrifying.

There are different ways to handle that terror. I guess some people do just become crappy mothers, brushing off their kids and continuing to live a life not too dissimilar from their pre-baby existence. I won’t speak too much to that, other than to say that it’s a fat, sad bummer, for the kid and the mom. But for the more conscious among us, being less than thrilled about losing a certain amount of freedom doesn’t equal a future as negligent parents (in fact, I would argue that having the self-awareness and respect for yourself to appreciate the live you have, and allow yourself to mourn the things you are giving up really just frees you up to move forward and appreciate the new things your gaining, and become excited about the new experiences you’ll have with less resentment for what you’re leaving behind. But maybe that’s just me. (It’s not; I’m totally right.))

The truth is, we wouldn’t be the badass women we are if we didn’t approach parenthood with the same ferociousness, dedication, love, etc., that we bring to all of our other pursuits. The assumption that women who have mixed feelings about motherhood will make bad mothers is this weird new kind of sexism that I didn’t know existed before. And largely, women are executing it against each other. It’s curious and sad. Wouldn’t it be preferable if we could all be honest that our generation of women is more complex in our expectations for our lives, and if we could be supportive of each other as we navigate the evolving reality of that, if we could be honest as we feel all the very many feelings that come with trying to “have it all”?

The trade-off, for many, is worth it. It’s why women have babies in the first place, even the highly motivated ones who are driven by their careers and creative/ social/ politics/ whatever-other interests. The ones who didn’t play a lot of “house” growing up, and dreamed of more than getting married and having babies. (Let me be clear that I don’t see ANYTHING wrong with those being your big goals. That was my mother’s biggest goal and I count my blessings everyday that a woman of her talent, intelligence and capability chose to apply all of that to shaping tiny humans, including me.) The ones for whom life would’ve been full and thrilling without kids too, and for whom the idea of being one of those boring moms who talks about her “wild youth” isn’t an option. It is no longer an either/ or situation for us. For ambitious, independent women, having kids can’t be about surrendering your life, as was sadly the case for many previous generations of women. Now, it’s about integrating motherhood into our lives, and recognizing that fulfilled, productive, happy, well-rounded and taken care of parents make for BETTER parents, and provide an infinitely better example for kids in terms of what their future can be like.

Having other ambitions besides breeding doesn’t make us monsters. And talking openly about our complex, complicated, frequently-changing and (duh) sometimes hormone-fueled feelings about motherhood and pregnancy does NOT make us unstable, ungrateful, or unfit as mothers. It’s honest. Furthermore, becoming mothers doesn’t nullify us as being anything else. I had unprotected sex, not a lobotomy.

I’m considerably younger (although I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not THAT young anymore) than my friends with kids. And of my un-childed women friends, most are a lot like me: busy with a million things that light up their hyper-motivated little hearts, devoted to experiencing and learning as much as possible, and having, like, feelings with the people they love. When the ones who choose to do so start having babies, I can only imagine that they will feel a lot of the things I’ve been feeling. I do hope they feel less ostracized for openly expressing those feelings. I hope that more women feel more comfortable talking about the not-so-Hallmark sentiments about becoming a mother, and I hope that the people around them will see that not as a mark of instability and unpreparedness, but as a sign of self-awareness and proactive processing of some seriously heavy stuff. It’s a major life change and, ya know, it can get #dark. I hope as my friends go through this, and all awesome, independent women (I’m not talking about the baby crazy, can’t-cum-unless-I-imagine-I’m-getting-fertilized women) everywhere go through this, that people will rally around them and applaud their honesty and outspokenness.

Pregnancy is beautiful and magical and makes you a glowing beacon of life… for some women. (I currently want to vomit on those women but for the sake of fairness, I’ll squeeze out a “good for you.”) For others of us, the first several months of pregnancy are achy, filled with migraines, fitful sleep, raging mood swings, and oh yeah, that “glow” is really just sweat from the four times we’ve thrown up today. And all of this while trying to process an unexpected distance from your kid-free friends, a complete restructuring of your life, the impending prospect of having horrible, primary-colored kid crap in your apartment, and a loss of autonomy to a degree that your friends with their rustic, twee outdoor weddings can’t possibly understand.

So that’s the deal. If you see me having a moment of frustration and expressing that on Facebook, hey, stuff happens. I assure you I’m not the only pregnant woman to think “Oh my christ, this fetus is the goddamn devil and I’m ruining my life and selling out by having it” only to be talking excitedly about baby names an hour later. We get to be scared. We get to be apprehensive. We weren’t waiting around for a baby to fill our lives because they were already full. We get to mourn the loss of our single lives because they were fabulous and we get to be excited about our future lives with babies because we are strong, adaptable people who will make those lives fabulous too. But the confidence isn’t unwavering. And the process isn’t easy, or consistent or flawless, and I am also hereby declaring that it will not be silent either. TC mark

image – Shutterstock
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