Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fear and the Pregnant Woman

Apologies forthwith:  I have a pretty severe case of "pregnant brain" which will probably cause me to lose my perspicacity halfway through this post.  Babies take up a lot of brain power.  ::drools and stares::

Dark Undercurrents

Each stage of my pregnancy, loosely marked by monumental milestones rather than by weeks, has been full of varying emotions.  Love, hope and joy primarily take center stage as I marvel at what my body is capable of doing with two simple cells, and what those two simple cells were capable of doing on their own as they rapidly multiplied.  However, there is always that thready vein of doubt that cascades across the otherwise positive emotional landscape like a dark and churning river that overflows in a deluge of anxiety and fear.

In the early weeks, it was the low-hanging cloud of miscarriage and my prescription medication.  It evolved into questioning every pain, every pulling of ligaments and pressing of nerves.  Slowly it transitioned into fears of financial stability, which eventually gave way to fears of proper nutrition and my ability to physically and emotionally handle all the new discomforts life was throwing my way, like a diminished lung capacity being exacerbated by tiny feet River Dancing their way through my rib cage, the heavy pressure on my bladder that causes me to rush to the bathroom every time I stand up, the anxiety that comes with wondering when labor will start and what to expect. 

But the most pervasive fear that has moved expertly through every phase of my pregnancy was "Am I doing the Right Thing?"


It's hard for anyone to really know what the elusive Right Thing is.  From the second you tell the world you're pregnant, you're opening yourself up to unsolicited advice and veiled criticisms, conflicting information from family, friends, medical personnel, perfect strangers, studies and statistics.  Even the information you personally seek out can be more offensive than enlightening, thanks to the great wide world of the internet and mothers who use it to tear down rather than build up women looking forward to the unique experience of birth by telling them how inferior their decisions are, in so many words, and accusing people of being uneducated and misinformed when they come to different conclusions and make different choices.

It's not hard to feel like you're backed into the tiny corner of a very dark room with a single light-bulb hanging from a frayed wired swinging back and forth ominously.  Just you, your fetus and a sudden craving for pickles and meatballs on your pizza. 

I fell victim to the self-doubt encouraged by others but that I alone am responsible for incubating.  I was made to feel guilty or stupid by well-meaning friends and family for some of the choices I have made and decided to share, and I've been told all that I "should" be doing that maybe I wasn't.  Most people have been helpful, but many have also been downright disgusting, preaching like ministers from the pulpit of pregnancy perfection.  If those people have taught me anything, they taught me that humility is much more an endearing trait than hubris.

Looking Ahead

Content that I'm doing everything I can for my baby while she's still in the womb, at 32 weeks I now have new fears working their way through the already-swelling serpentine river of anxiety.  Fears for the near future about labor, breastfeeding and weaning, washing cloth diapers, remembering to take videos of every single little thing so I can fill up a hard-drive of memories that I can embarrass my daughter with later.  Fears for the distant future about if I'll be able to instill a consistent set of values into my child, whether we'll be able to afford to keep her out of the public school system here, just trying not to screw it all up.

I like these fears better, because they keep me looking to the future.  They motivate me and give me hope, and it's a lot easier to filter out the bullshit because while I've never been pregnant before, I have been a kid and I was raised by great people.  I can draw from that experience before I ever let anyone make me doubt myself again.