Battle Hymn of the Chimera MotherBy Becky Palapala
March 29, 2011
Being pregnant is interesting to you. But you are not the first person to be pregnant or the first pregnant person anyone has known. You are not the most important pregnant person anyone has known. You are not even the only pregnant person in the world, country, state, or city at this exact moment. You are probably the only pregnant person in your house. But not necessarily.
Being pregnant is not exceptional.
Metaphorically, a chimera is a bogeyman, monster, or other fanciful mental fabrication comprised of grotesquely disparate parts.
In mythology, Chimera was a fire-breathing monster. She was a child of Typhon and a sister of Cerberus & Hydra. She had the body of a goat or ram, the hindquarters of a dragon, and the head of a lion (most depictions show her with the heads of the other two animals as well). In some genealogies, she was the mother of the Sphinx. Seeing Chimera was a omen of natural disasters like storms, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.
Chimerism is also a genetic anomaly.
Real-life genetic chimeras have the DNA of more than one distinct individual, usually just in a handful of organs. True chimerism results from the fusion of fraternal multiples very early in zygotic development.
A chimeric mother may, for example, have ovaries and a uterus from her fused female fraternal twin. As such, the DNA in them would not match the DNA that made up the rest of her body, so the children she conceived, carried, and gave birth to would not technically–at least genetically–be her children. They would be her nieces & nephews.
Ultimately, you could say, such children would be born by surrogate. But the whole reproductive system, not just the fertilized eggs, would be tenants in a host body.
It boggles the mind(s).
“How are you feeling?”
I don’t know how many times I’ve asked this question of a pregnant woman and not actually cared what the response was.
Most of the time, while pregnant women obligatorily answer my obligatory question about their health, I scan the room to find someone who can drink alcohol–preferably male–and make plans to escape to his company at once.
I have never fit well with women. I have no particular allegiance to my gender (at least not for sake of my gender alone), and I don’t generally trust its members. I consider myself a feminist, but only insofar as feminism is, foremost, a sort of individualism & autonomy advocacy. It just so happens that it’s especially for females. Women make me uncomfortable, even more so if they’re beset with a fundamentally female affliction.
There is, I’ve found, a tendency for reproduction to have the general social effect of a middle school dance. Girls on this side, boys on that side.
It’s my worst nightmare to be isolated among women and left to talk about nothing but women things. So if I am to talk about pregnancy, we won’t have any of that uterine cult, Red Tent nonsense.
And even where pregnant woman are not being sentimental about their gender, being in the company of most pregnant people is not altogether unlike being in a nursing home, hospital, or hospice center. The primary topics of conversation are medical in nature. Or if the conversation is not directly medical, it will still call to mind hospitals, medical issues, internal anatomy, and bizarre physiological processes, creating a sort of sickly clinical atmosphere wherever one is, whether at a fancy dinner, innocently trying to grocery shop, or at Disney World.
There you are on some sunshiny Orlando day, maybe in line for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Your pregnant friend is chatting away about doula hunting, and suddenly you’re compelled to consider burst blood vessels, blood, mucus, and your best friend shitting the bed in front of God and doctors and family alike.
Later, the gleeful giggle of preschoolers, the whimsical pastels of Main Street, USA, and the spectre of excrement, bodily fluids, and torn sinew hanging over your burger lunch at the Crystal Palace while your friend pokes three fingers into her bulbous stomach, chewing and grimacing as her fetus grinds a heel into her liver.
Everyone’s always trying to cover it up. Like pregnancy is a spiritual experience rather than a physical one. It’s the “miracle” of life. This condition, which human evolution, in 3 million years, has not managed to perfect well enough to keep a woman from vomiting for 3 months straight or wetting herself every time she laughs, is considered a “blessing.”
Pregnancy is supposed to be this sweet, gentle image–soft-focus, vignetted. But there’s an unspoken, septic quality. Underneath the euphemisms and precious sentiment, there’s something very Dorian Gray. The “glow” is a greasy face. The woman gazes lovingly down upon a creature who is pissing into her belly. And then inhaling it.
It’s the happiest time of her life.
Except for the excruciatingly painful varicose veins in her rectum that are beginning to bulge out of her butthole.
If everything goes well, she will give birth to both an infant and a slimy two-pound mass of blood, tissue and mucus, which she can then take home and cook up like a haggis, if she is so inclined.
Everything surrounding pregnancy tends to be feminizing, mortalizing, and deceitful. Each is bad enough on its own; they are especially awful together.
But even worse, in my perception, pregnancy–though I recognize it not to be a disability or weakness, per se–is nevertheless an instance of a person in a compromised state. I have known only a small handful of pregnant women who did not give off that vibe.
I am acutely aware of not wanting to be perceived of as compromised.
I am even more aware of not wanting to feel compromised.
Intentional though it may have been, my current pregnancy puts me in a weird spot.
I am aware of the implications inherent in what I’m saying, not the least of which is the suggestion that childbearing can compromise a woman’s personality or intellect. But I am also aware that biology doesn’t give a shit about my feminism or anyone else’s.
Progesterone has natural anti-depressant and anti-anxiety properties. In excessive doses, it’s a formidable sedative that causes drowsiness and difficulty waking.
I am currently, and all pregnant women are, to some degree, doped.
I’ve found that in the relative absence of anxiety and hyper-vigilance, my intellect has changed. I am less curious. I am not compelled to write. I am less investigative. I simply don’t care. Face value will do. The first answer is the last answer. Finito. My madness used to have a method. Now it’s more of a declaration.
And once the pregnancy is defeated, “mommy brain” is said to persist as long as the children do.
Now whosoever of them did eat the honey-sweet fruit of the lotus, had no more wish to bring tidings nor to come back, but there he chose to abide with the lotus-eaters, ever feeding on the lotus and forgetful of his homeward way.
All to the grim, sneering satisfaction of those who have always wished I were a more docile human being.
I’m sure of it.
If the child were the only one who believed he/she was entitled to dictate a parent’s behavior, that would be one thing.
But reproduction and parenthood, especially for women, brings with it an oppressive expectation of conformity, moderation, and general temperance or softening of character and behavior in addition to a thoroughly more severe and self-righteous community of kibitzing, judgmental busybodies who want, more than anything, for the same things that happened to them to happen to other people and for other people to do the things they have done. If there is only one way, then that’s the right way. Validation.
I have found, already, that people suddenly assume they understand my life, my thoughts, and my emotions just because I am pregnant and they or people they know have also been pregnant. They delight not only in speculating on how I feel and what I think but in telling me how I will feel and think come this time or that time in the future.
Presumed homogeneity of experience. Unconscious communication and enforcement of norms and acceptable shades of deviation.
I have already been referred to as “a mommy.”
“A.” Meaning any one among many.
“Mommy.” The diminutive. Indicating small, non-threatening, less.
This was spoken by another adult. A male adult.
I have put many different sentences here, attempting to describe the violent emotions that one word caused in me. But like Lycia, I just burn and burn.
Women are often worse. A female adult has told me that this will mark my transition into “full” womanhood.
Not only do the insipid platitudes of the sisterhood cause bile to rise in my throat and a greasy-black, acrid cloud of loathing to creep across my soul, I am intellectually allergic to the notion that a woman isn’t a really a woman until she has, under considerable duress, squeezed a watermelon-sized object out of her vagina.
Never mind that I never asked to be a member of whatever mythical club this woman is trying to induct me into. She just assumes I’ve been on some kind of waiting list. As if we all aspire to be “full” women. Whatever the hell that means.
In fact, it is beginning to appear as though not even the smallest of my peeves, principles, neuroticisms, hang-ups, and individual sovereign boundaries will go unmolested during this blessed, miraculous time in my feminine journey, including, many warn me, the boundary where I prefer not to be groped by strangers in public.
There are, I accept, many aspects of reproduction and motherhood that will require me to relinquish significant portions of my Royal Self.
There will also be requests and attempted demands for such relinquishment that I will reject.
I pity the stranger who reaches for my belly. I pity the person who side-glances at me as I order my morning–or afternoon–coffee.
I can feel them looking at me already. Plotting my subsumption. Putting their eyes on me.
It starts this low, inaudible rumbling.
Maybe I’ll end up in jail.
My pregnancy is not exceptional.
But I am.
Exceptionally what, I won’t presume.
Get your fetal chimera specimens here.
I won’t tell you how to feel or think, but I will say this: it’s going to be an interesting ride.
But you already knew that (or you wouldn’t have posted).
It certainly has been so far, and I hear there will be even more than just my own weird head to deal with in short order.
I had serious misgivings about even posting this, in part because I realized it pretty effectively condemns just about every normal reaction a person could have to it. It’s a self-sabotaging TNB post.
At any rate, thanks for the “excellent.” It is pretty excellent. And deeply weird, to say the least.
This is the most excellent essay on pregnancy I’ve ever read. I enjoyed it the way I enjoy any sort of argument against events and situations that are historically off-limits for debate. Especially off-limits would be a man writing the exact same post, or a woman who had never been pregnant writing it.
What makes it even better is your having written it while pregnant. Which, yes, maybe you wrote it from some hormonally compromised position, but if anything one would expect that to make you more likely to embrace the fuzziness, rather than reach for the focus knob.
My assumption about the almost-universal reverence for pregnancy and babies is the propagation instinct written into our genetic code. Seems obvious enough. But to take your argument a half-step further, and to risk the ire of my female friends here, pregnancy is an important thing that only a woman can do, and which doesn’t require any appreciable talent. Bringing a healthy child into the world, and particularly raising that child, does take a lot of hard work and insight and parenting ability. But getting yourself knocked up isn’t very tough. Being the knocker-upper doesn’t take much talent, either, but at the very least you have to be able to talk a woman out of her muculent unmentionables.
Voluntarily deciding to have children is one of the most important decisions a couple can ever make. It’s too bad the people most likely to carefully consider that choice are the least likely to bear many offspring. Fucking is easy. Raising a well-adjusted child is difficult.
I have a feeling you’re up to the challenge Becky. Congratulations. 🙂
By the by, now, seeing you here, I realize I forgot to add that grown women should not be allowed to say “preggers,” “prego,” or “PG” in lieu of “pregnant,” either.
That aside, I don’t know what it is. I always just assumed it was my extremely low tolerance for unchecked emotionality/sentimentality that brought the gratuitous preciousness of pregnancy into such sharp focus, but I feel better now that a few people, including you, have told me that I’m not alone in seeing it.
I think, too, that not everyone believes in recognizing a difference between the pregnancy and the baby as separate experiences. Every-fucking-where you go, if you complain about an experience in pregnancy, the near-universal answer is “Just think of what it’s all for! That adorable baby!” Therefore, of course, complaints about pregnancy are likewise equated with complaints about the baby.
Like, look folks. I appreciate what you’re saying. But let’s remember I’m in this for the baby, not the pregnancy, and I spend half my day in the bathroom. At this point in my pregnancy, that is the single, solitary, only concrete manifestation I have of this “baby” concept.
I’m not ungrateful. We tried for a long time. There were some major let-downs. But none of that changes the fact that pregnancy can be a seriously uncomfortable experience, physically, psychologically, and socially, and there’s no reason why I or any other woman should feel pressure not to acknowledge that. It’s shitty to imply–especially for women to suggest–that women should just shut up and smile and thank God and men’s seed for the privilege of bearing fruit and get back to mixing cookie dough in the kitchen or staring wistfully out the window in our nightgowns like the Preparation-H lady.
I appreciate your confidence in my parental potential. You’re a sweet, dear man, and I hope you’re right.
Think about those women with like ten kids. Or *shudder* 19 like the Duggars. That woman has been pregnant for 14.25 years of her life. Waddling around for the length of time it takes a human to go from birth to acne and driving lessons.
That bitch is crazy.
It’s like some women still think the only reason they’re on Earth–the only thing at all they have to contribute–is being prego.
God, I hate that word. Which makes its ironic use here that much funnier.
It reminds me of high school, when we couldn’t say “pregnant” for the same reasons we couldn’t stand in the condom aisle without giggling.
Like, just…NO. That word is not for grown ups. Like “potty,” like “weenie,” like “making love”….
That last one was a different TNB post.
Ugh, preggers…just reading it makes the vomit rise in my throat. I banned that word from our house, meaning my husband enjoyed torturing me with it periodically throughout my pregnancy.
Not to say that I know what you’re thinking or try to co-opt your experience, but I totally agree with this piece. So many of the things you wrote I experienced as well. Though I found myself playing the part for many of the people in my life. I gave them the optimistic, baby dreaming mommy that wouldn’t slap a fool for feeling up the belly goods. Next time, though, they better watch out.
The ol’ bait-n-switch. Poor bastards. They’ll never see it coming.
I think this is a refreshing perspective to read, actually! I was so pissed off all the time when I was pregnant — pissed off that people treated me like a little child and went on and on about how “cute” I was, pissed off that all the maternity clothes looked like oversized toddler clothes, pissed off that none of the books on pregnancy seemed to have any real life information, pissed off that everyone thought pregnancy was rosy and magical when it was exhausting and uncomfortable, pissed off that the Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy author wrote that pregnant women shouldn’t cut their hair short — my list goes on and on. Also, I got pissed off at my prenatal course at the hospital and stormed out half way. I love looking back on my journal from those months. Heh.
Good luck staying out of jail! And I want to say congrats … but I’m kinda afraid. How about just for you I will refrain from any emoticons and any further exclamation marks. Congrats. There. I said it.
I want to put a smiley face right here and it’s KILLING ME …
HEY NO SMILING.
Ha. Nah, Cynthia. I wont get mad at congrats. I’m not mad about being pregnant. I mean, it was intentional. I just was not prepared for the strange attention, the change in the way people treat me, etc. And I do genuinely think all that precious talk and cult of femininity stuff is exhausting and patronizing. Who talks like that?
And grown men don’t get to call me “mommy” unless I’m THEIR mommy. That’s ridiculous. I will not be cutesy-fied. I was pretty deadly serious about that, too.
“pissed off that none of the books on pregnancy seemed to have any real life information”
Exactly. And the proof that pregnancy is a female-only thing: Just when you think it’s finally over, she throws more of her fury at you. None of the books tell you about the week after delivery. The recovery. The ice packs. Just saying.
I love the lotus-eater reference, except for that instead of being a eternity long Ecstasy trip, there’s a lot of feces and sleep deprivation.
Welcome to club, Becky!!! Can I tell you all about burying my placenta under my apple tree now?
Also, please ask Palani to take a phone pic of a stranger reaching for your bulbous belly. Please?
Oh, Gloria. I know where you placenta lies.
I wonder if I’ll be able to do it? I mean, react with the fire and indignation I know I’d feel and feel I was entitled to if some stranger just reached out and grabbed me in such a vulnerable spot.
It would be a mighty and ironic battle between my Scandinavian belief that everyone is born entitled to no less than 15′ of pristine personal space and my likewise Scandinavian belief that it is horrible and tacky to make a spectacle of oneself at all, let alone by, say, publicly berating a senior citizen.
I’m thinking it will be like a slow-mo cut of a sword dodge in an action film. Out will come the hand and I’ll leap backwards, throwing my arms forward, arching my back, drawing my belly just out of range.
I hope it’s like that. I hope it’s not like I just stand there, mortified and disgusted, and let it happen, then just bitch about it the whole car ride home.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Mama
he he this is fun
said the baby
First, I didn’t know you were pregnant so congratulations!
Second, I hated being pregnant. Both times. I was excited to have a child – hated the process. I was sucked into feeling guilty about it with Xavier. But with Olivia, I had no qualms about outwardly not liking being pregnant. I wrote about it, starting out as a rant against my damn hemorrhoids (as you said, no formerly private bodily/medical topic seems off limits with a bun in the oven) and went on from there. I hated going into public and being given the sweet “Aw” smile by complete strangers. I was shocked at the balls people had in coming up to me and touching me without asking. I was really tempted to grab their asses just to see how they’d react.
It was uncomfortable, it was public, people expected me to be girly, and I was an emotional wreck with no physical energy to calm myself down and think logically.
But there were moments. Singular moments that I will always remember and that, believe it or not, made the other 39 weeks, 6 days worth it. At about 30 weeks, once my kids became big kickers and movers, they were both really active around 9 p.m. I’d be stretched out on the couch or bed and we’d start playing. It was weird at first because, well, I was playing with a creature growing inside me. But they’d poke out a foot or hand and I’d poke it back in. It was in utero Whack-A-Mole. It was our time and the cheesiest I got during my pregnancies, really feeling like a *gag* bonding moment.
You’ll find your moments.
In the end, at least so far for me, the end products have been worth the utterly disgusting and annoying gestation and delivery process.
In the meantime, fuck everyone else. This is your time – and your husband’s but let’s face it, it’s your time – and you can accept or reject any unwanted advice (like mine right now?), advances, poking and prodding. You have to right to not be treated like public property. I know you know this.
Oh, and if you’re interested, I have the number for a great organization that will take your donated umbilical cord for stem cell research. Most pamphlets you find in an OB’s office are for companies you can pay to bank it but this is free and it’s donated.
Sarah, you kick so much ass, words truly cannot express.
At the end of the day, I suspect much of it comes down to the fact that I’m an introvert. Not meek at all, I’d just rather observe than be observed.
I don’t like people noticing me or paying too much attention to me most of the time, pregnant or not. I prefer to poke my head in to the social realm when I’m feeling either truly comfortable or highly motivated, but that’s about it. I’m usually neither when it comes to strangers.
If a stranger starts a conversation with me in a checkout line, I’m able to cover it well and be sociable, but even if it’s some woman innocently complimenting my shoes, I get very self-conscious and pine for the moment she turns back around and minds her own damn business.
So that’s significant, I think, in my (and maybe your) perception of the pregnancy experience. It just attracts so much goddamned attention.
In that respect, my decision to post about it is maybe ironic or even hypocritical. I guess I make a distinction between my writing life and my life life.
I really am looking forward to quickening–a pregnancy term I love because it strikes me as sort of macabre or ominous or creepy for some reason, like ” the reckoning” or “the becoming.” I think it will be delightfully surreal and kind of gross and totally worth poking at.
Becky’s right – you do kick a fair amount of ass, Sarah.
Wonderful, Becky. You are the anti-Momzilla.
You are not exceptional in this point of view either. Maybe you should write a whole goddamn book of this, if you can stand to write about this subject for that long. It might be the first ever pregnancy book that men would read.
Thanks, J.R. Momzilla is my nightmare. I think that would have to be my rock bottom. I don’t know what I’d do if that happened to me. I just don’t know.
I think the word “butthole” goes a long way towards drawing in the male demographic. Diction is everything.
I got to thinking. It’s probably too early to put this thought in your head so, you know, sorry but…
If you hate feeling like a public spectacle with a protuberant abdomen, just wait until you’re pushing a stroller down the street. God forbid you have to stop and wait at a crosswalk or even pause in the supermarket. There, not only will strangers feel there is some magic loophole in the no touching strangers societal rule, but they’ll talk like bumbling morons to your child as if you want him/her to grow up speaking like Elmer Fudd instead of a high-functioning human being.
Seriously people, it’s a baby. Back off.
Fucking baby touchers.
Good grief. I’d failed to consider that. That people just go right on groping even after the pregnancy is over. Like, they’re probably sad they can’t be there grabbing at vaginas, snatching babies out of pregnant ladies at delivery, too. How sad for them that they have to miss that.
This is especially true if you have twins. You’re not having twins are you? With twins, not only do people feel entitled to touch, but to needle you with annoying fucking questions like, “Are they twins?” (No, I borrow extra babies to come to the store to buy toilet paper and soy milk because I’m a fucking masochist…) “Which one is the smart one?” (swear to god.) “Oh, you’re so blessed!” “Oops, double trouble.”
On most days, I’m like the gregarious, perky version of you, Becky, but when the boys were infants I was absolutely militant about being left alone.
“Oops, double trouble.”
No. As far as we know, there’s just the one in there. I did think, briefly, that I’d kind of like twins. My reasoning was that it would be one less time I’d have to go through pregnancy to get the same number of kids.
You know. Efficient-like. Gestational multi-tasking.
But when all’s said and done, I think this one-at-a-time method will work best. For me, the infants, and the hapless community around us.
“Which one is the smart one?”
What a nice read. Take heart in knowing that your brain has not yet been fully destroyed by the sugar-coated treacle of maternal hormones…you’re still fighting the good fight!
I’ve got boxes and boxes of children’s clothes, if you ever think to send me an address I can mail them to. Probably after you know which variety of kid you’re getting. Whenever you think you have enough onesies, you’ve really only got half the required inventory.
I was hoping you would take aim at my own pet peeve of pregnancy…the bubbly and sweetly-ecstatic couple saying “yes, WE’RE pregnant.” Um….excuse me, but HE isn’t, wasn’t won’t be pregnant, ever.
Ditto the guys who utterly emasculate themselves during the pregnancy, and do things like wearing sacks of rice around their midriff, to better empathize with their baby-carrying partner…like, WHAT?????? tell you what hon, why don’t you carry a bag of golf clubs around all day Saturday to empathize with ME? Because, well, golf is one of those things that will be a mere distant memory once the baby arrives. Or, you can wear this 7-lb electric bass on your shoulder for the duration of my gig, to empathize with my sore back. Because that’s another activity that will be going south once the baby comes. For a while, anyway. Instead of faux empathy, I’ll just go with being the most complete, loving, and supporting partner I can be.
I’m doing this pretty late in the game compared to a number of my friends and relatives, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be set for a entire lifetime of babies, but thanks for the offer.
It’s good to know I’m keeping up appearance of a functional brain, at least. That’s a huge part of the battle.
First… HOLY CRAP!! CONGRATULATIONS!!! I am squealing inside like a teenager at this news.
This hit home with me so hard: “It’s my worst nightmare to be isolated among women and left to talk about nothing but women things.”
I agree. I am bad at women things. I have always had more guy friends for this reason. I have never really fit in with the girly-girls. I don’t like prissy. It makes me want to grab snakes and chase people around with them. Because of this, the hardest part of having a child for me has been, hands down, the other mommies. Once you have a child, rather than choosing friends based on their own merit, people are often socially thrust upon you simply because you have procreation in common. Quite often for me, that’s ALL we have in common. It is so uncomfortable. Play dates? No thank you. I dread it when my son wants to go to the playground, forcing me to make small talk with the other mothers. When well-meaning neighbors have told me about “MOPS” meetings at local churches (Mothers Of Pre-Schoolers), it is all I can do to not run screaming. Enrolling my very social little boy in preschool was the best thing I’ve ever done for him as a parent. I’m off the hook. He has friends to play with at school. I highly recommend.
“And once the pregnancy is defeated, “mommy brain” is said to persist as long as the children do.”
You will eventually get back to feeling like yourself again. You will. The kiddo gets older and everything gets physically easier. My husband and I make a point of telling all of our new parent friends this, because it was the thing we most longed to hear in the middle of the sleep-deprived first year of our son’s life. When he was six months old, I complained about being tired to a friend of mine with two older children. She laughed bitterly, and replied, “You’ll never get a good night’s sleep again,” and it was about the worst thing anyone could have said to me at that moment in my exhaustion-induced postpartum depression. I needed hope, not negativity. So get ready for my Pollyanna parenting pep talk when you are a few months into infant care and need a boost. I apologize for my annoying perkiness in advance.
“A female adult has told me that this will mark my transition into “full” womanhood.”
That’s just gross. I hate that kind of talk. So insulting to adoptive parents and people who have chosen not to procreate. Biologically having a child has nothing to do with being a woman, being a mother, being a good person, or being a “whole” person.
“I am intellectually allergic to the notion that a woman isn’t a really a woman until she has, under considerable duress, squeezed a watermelon-sized object out of her vagina.”
I completely agree. I have also heard women brag about giving birth vaginally like this is some sort of amazing accomplishment, as if the fact that my son being cut out of me abdominally means I failed at some great test of womanhood. I don’t really understand it. Stitches down there or stitches up here, it’s pretty much just a big bucket of suck at the end of the day either way.
Haha. I pity the fool who grabs your pregnant belly. I wish that moment could somehow be filmed for my enjoyment.
The thing I hated the most about being pregnant, the thing that kept me hiding in my apartment the last few months of it, was the way strangers in public places kept saying things like, “Whoa! You’re going to have that baby any second!” and, “Wow! Are you due soon?” It started when I was, like, six months along. It made me feel so huge and self-conscious. Stupid rude people.
Anyhow. Great thoughtful piece. And I think you two are going to be great parents. I’m really happy for you, my friend. xoxo.
I always wondered, growing up, why my mother seemed to hate all her friends.
As a younger woman, she was very much like me–willful, independently-minded, low on patience for nonsense, etc.
Now, it’s kind of dawning on me that she seemed to hate them because she did hate them. She didn’t actually choose them and they were not people she would choose, given much of a choice. They were just kind of thrust upon her. Via her various activisms and involvements and, of course, her kids. This is terrible. This is the worst. I refuse to let this happen to me.
I feel fortunate, in this respect, that a number of friends I DID choose (and family members I do like) are just now having kids (like within the last 5 years). They’re all pretty bad ass pre and post reproduction, so I’m hoping I’ll have at least some defense or sanctuary from the harpies.
I want my kids to have great friends. They can be friends with whoever they want. But for all that is decent and holy, please let their friends have cool parents. Ones I’d actually want to talk to and spend time with. Because I know that is where the bulk of my adult conversation outside of husband/family will come from more days than not.
My dad actually became really, really good friends with my high school best friend’s father just because she and I spent so much time together. Now she and I have been out of touch for years but our dads have nearly weekly phone conversations. Funny how it all happens.
It’s like playing the lotto or roulette or craps – hoping to hit the cool parent jackpot.
“The cool parent jackpot” is the perfect way to put that. I was just telling my husband the other day that I hope the next renters of the rental property across the street will have a child the same age as my son so he might have someone to play with in the neighborhood. I went on, “And I hope the mom is a smart chick who likes rock music instead of country, and she isn’t prissy, and is a tomboy like me, and she will want to drink porch beers with me in the evenings after we put the kids to bed, and, and, and…” I went on the describe my perfect mom friend to the point of ridiculous exaggeration. And then we laughed at me for a while because we both know it will never happen, given where we live. I will never have a real life friend here that I want to hang out with, and I just have to accept this. But it would be so cool to win the cool parent jackpot. It really would.
I bet you’ll be safe from the negative experiences I had with other mothers here, being surrounded by friends with kids and family like you are. We moved to Oklahoma when my son was 2 months old, and I didn’t know anyone. Because of my unwillingness to compromise and befriend incompatible people who annoy me simply because we have children in common, I still don’t know anyone or have friends. And like your mother, I’m completely cool with this fact. (:
I was about to say, “Aww, I bet you look so cute” but I don’t want a cup of hot coffee thrown in my face.
All kidding aside, I always, ALWAYS refrain from touching a pregnant woman’s belly unless invited to. Given the biologically programmed instinct to protect the gestating fetus exists in pretty much every mammal, I really don’t understand that a greater, not lesser, level of personal space isn’t the accepted norm. Getting knocked up doesn’t turn you into community property.
Much as I love babies, I also make a point to ask before touching/holding them. It’s people’s kids, you know. Though all bets are off if the child in question touches me first.
Your essay reminds me of Aylet Waldeman’s nonfic book Bad Mother. She got a LOT of flack for challenging the notion that pregnancy/motherhood actually isn’t the fluffy, beatific experience it’s so often sold as, that sometimes mother resent what’s happening, and that that’s an acceptable thing to feel. It’s not a masterwork of art, but the book was interesting.
A lot of women who offer or represent anything resembling a substantial departure from the norm in terms of perception of/approach to pregnancy/motherhood tend to get a lot of flack.
I wanted my title to acknowledge that.
I don’t mean to suggest that what I’m saying here is nearly as controversial as what Amy Chua wrote, but all the more the point. I’ve already caught flack elsewhere for having written this, and this, relatively speaking, is nothing. Utterly benign, save a couple of cusswords.
It’s a compulsion people have. It’s a reflex. At the suggestion there is any particularly different and yet acceptable or beneficial way to do parenting, they instantly freak out.
Presumably because the existence of choices forces them to consider whether or not what they did was right. It erodes the sense of personal validation they’d been enjoying as a result of their perception of widespread consensus.
Oooh! You’re with child!! Ha! This book might be up your alley…
I’ve never had a child (still not a woman!), but the woman I’ve worked with (and one of my best friends) for the past 20 or so years has been through 2 pregnancies and in both cases went into labor sitting 15 feet from me. I can firmly attest that her brain returned to its former state shortly after her sleep returned.
It seems that half the women I know on the internet are pregnant right now. Does a recession cause excessive unprotected fucking?
Congratulations! I hope the assaults on your body are minimal.
I, too, have noticed that a LOT of people are pregnant right now. Celebrities, too.
Maybe people do more drinking at home, where it’s cheaper. And what else are you going to do, just sitting around the house drunk, but make babies?
Maybe people do it for the tax break.
I know that was my primary motivation. I’m just going to keep squeezing these suckers out until I don’t owe the government anything.
The tax break is over-rated.
That $600 is just a smack in the face reminder of the thousands you spent on the kid that year. Food, clothes (for the first few years they dare to grow out of them every few months necessitating an entire new wardrobe), medical, toys, day care. It just never ends dammit.
They can be needy, greedy little suckers.
Nah, but see you have to have a whole bunch of them, preferably of mostly all the same kind.
Then you get the tax breaks a bunch of times, but you only need to buy the clothes, the paraphernalia once.
Like baby wholesale, kinda. The more you get the more you save.
as the father of 8, I’m afraid I have to punch a hole in your theory. Yes, it does help, no, it doesn’t even come close to covering it.
daner! you beat me to that book! laser beam hypno-eyes.
becky, as i was reading this, i couldn’t help thinking “a-fuckin’-men, yo!”, but then i don’t ever intend to sprog up (another “preggo” phrase for you) for precisely the reasons you list here. and so many more.
you’re going to make a kick ass mom, in many ways.
Though I feel I should warn you. One of my oldest (as in longest-standing) friends and the one who went 10 years of marriage fervently declaring (and her husband corroborating) that they wanted nothing to do with children–sentiment I finally actually came to believe–now has 3 boys.
1 single, one set of twins. In rapid succession.
She just went ahead and took a zag. Not sure what changed her mind, but now there are babies fuckin’ everywhere over at their place.
heck! were i to get married TODAY and waited 10 years, i have a feeling my shop would be all closed up for baby-making, but it’s a close call at this age. thank goodness radtastic man hasn’t arrived in my life yet.
it’s not like i’m anti-animal, other people’s babies are AWESOME because you get to give them back, but i’m not sitting here counting how many years i have left before i can get married, then have a baby before i’m all dried up on the inside.
if one came along by surprise, sans papa, i’d have it and then give it to this awesome couple i know who would make the bestest parents in the world, but are unable to have children of their own. we’ve already talked about it.
if i meet the dude of my dreams and he MUST have a baby, then i have two tests for him that he must pass:
1. go to the mall AND toys r us with children under the age of 5 in tow on december 23rd and find me the missing half of this golden amulet…
2. go to the commissary on any given military base on the 1st or the 15th of the month and buy groceries for four with children under the age of 5 in tow
if dream dude can survive that and still want animals, i’ll pop them out for him, but it’s got to be two of them. i grew up as an only child and i hated it and i’ve sworn that i’d never do that to a kid.
BAH. You’ve got all the time in the world.
Besides, if your insides dry up, you can just buy babies from Africa like Madonna.
that’s totally my plan B. there are lots of babies that need to be adopted.
So do you think it will be born with its claws out? 🙂 Congrats.
Now with THAT said….
“Except for the excruciatingly painful varicose veins in her rectum that are beginning to bulge out of her butthole.
If everything goes well, she will give birth to both an infant and a slimy two-pound mass of blood, tissue and mucus, which she can then take home and cook up like a haggis, if she is so inclined.”
Yeeeeeeah…. if I wasn’t dodging the idea of kids already, you just cinched it.
Don’t be such a pussy.
How come none of the fucking people who actually deserve to reproduce will do it?
You and Richard and Pixy are starting to piss me off.
Nah, I’m pretty sure any offspring of mine would throw off the balance of the universe. He’d probably grow up to be a supervillain or something.
Who will stand up against all those horrible do-gooder babies? WHO??
(Thanks for the congrats, btw.)
Are you saying that I have to go make a person now? It’s up to my hypothetical little ankle-biter to keep the world from riding off on a high horse? Now THAT is a calling.
I just SI swimsuit model with an IQ over 160 and a love for fried food, Irish whiskey, and hockey… and we can get started.
AH! But were you only 10 years earlier and I an SI Swimsuit model!
You may end up making a few concessions, but it’s for the calling.
I believe in you. I know you’ll persevere.
I’ll take a swimsuit model with a 140 IQ as long as she also has a passing interest in literature. If she’s already aware of Philip K Dick, I’ll marry her on the spot.
But still…the butthole varicose veins…I mean, is her thong going to cover that up?
A dear friend, whose identity I won’t reveal, called them “FAT”.
FAT stands for “Female Anal Testicles”.
So I’m thinking no, but I have no personal experience to draw from as of yet.
You know. Keeping my fingers crossed.
I just SI swimsuit model with an IQ over 160 and a love for fried food, Irish whiskey, and hockey… and we can get started.
so slade, you’ve got the big brain, big personality, big heart, big schlong and big prowess that would keep this mythical creature happy, right?
It would be arrogant to say yes…. so I must say no.
But I’d be lying.
Someone should set up a committee to discover the truth.
Probably the Jameson talking.
I bring so very little to the table outside of occasionally witty repertoire…
But my standards remain so very high.
It’s my fantasy baby……..
i was just curious.
everyone’s entitled to their fantasy. baby.
i have an impossible one myself.
You should. Everyone should.
What’s the fun in a realistic fantasy?
a realistic fantasy is an oxymoron. and i only like my morons in the form on 13 year old boys.
i’m all about innocent idiocy.
Don’t forget big wallet, pixy! Those mythical creatures want REAL Manolos.
indeed! but, if she were an SI model AND a genius(ish) she should be able to get her own, right?
don’t get too pissed off too quickly, you don’t want your anal testicles to pop out too soon…
Ain’t that the truth.
Allow me to amend that before every TNBer with a kid disowns me:
How come so few of the fucking people who actually deserve to reproduce will do it?
My last response nested all fucked up. What the hell is going on with this site lately?
I like this take on the subject and the way you delivered the news. Though, I still refuse to believe there’s not “a glow.” I’m sorry, there just is.
Also, I like your line “Face value will do.” It’s funny because I remember my wife suddenly adopting that same attitude, which was a fairly big reversal on the usual. The whole thing is a kind of doping, isn’t it? Enjoy that, at the very least.
Then I’ll look forward to hearing reports on how the chimera mother gets her kids to Carnegie Hall. I assume by swallowing the tiger mothers whole.
Eliminating the competition is a perfectly valid way to get what one wants.
But I think a chimera’s preferred method would be incineration.
I am intellectually allergic to the notion that a woman isn’t a really a woman until she has, under considerable duress, squeezed a watermelon-sized object out of her vagina.
That is all.
Actually – that’s not quite all…
Okay. That’s it.
“Except for the excruciatingly painful varicose veins in her rectum that are beginning to bulge out of her butthole.”
i really wanted a kid till i read that sentence.
anyway, we *are* trying, and once that news gets out, people will actually ask, “so how’s that going?” ummm, what do you say? well, we fucked yesterday, and maybe we’ll fuck later. we tried doggy style and now we’re thinking missionary.
anyway, great piece, becky.
Thanks, Angela. It was important to me to really make it sound as disgusting as possible. Think of it this way. When the day comes and you are pregnant, you will be able to look back and say “One person and one person alone did not lie to me about how gross this is.”
Or maybe that’s how I’m looking at it. 🙂
In hindsight, I’m surprised at how rarely people asked about our babymaking endeavors. I’m not sure if that’s because people, for some reason, draw the line at hearing/thinking about other people humping or because people just kind of forget about it.
Secondly, this was awesome. I usually go out of my way to avoid reading anything about pregnancy because it freaks me out so much. But I knew you’d produce something witty on the subject.
My friend’s wife just gave birth about two weeks ago, and so for the entire six months I knew her prior to then, she was pregnant. The strange thing was that she loved being pregnant… She was so immensely proud of the fact. And she always made us touch her belly. I’ve always – as I mentioned in the last paragraph – been terrified of it. If I believed in any sort of god I’d be on my knees every day thanking him/her for making me a man just so I know it will never, ever, ever, ever happen.
Oops. Didn’t mean to get so negative about pregnancy here.
Anyway, my perspective comes from the fact that I’m a wimp and couldn’t handle carrying a baby in any capacity. Thankfully, my girlfriend (still don’t like the word “fiancee”) feels the same way.
Finally: Haggis? Really?
Well, they look kind of similar.
Or, maybe more correctly, they look more similar than any other combination of a temporary human organ & a foodstuff that I could think of.
As I said somewhere, I am most certainly in it for the baby, not the pregnancy. Believe me, even before I was pregnant, the thought occurred to me that if there was any other way to get a baby that was even remotely as inexpensive (and legal), I would have considered that first.
You are fucking awesome, I loved every bit of this. I have to admit, the idea of having a child or being a mother has always made me a little sick, not because of what happens to you physically, just the idea of it unnerves me. Barring some kind of head injury, I don’t think I’ll ever actually have a child. But you seem like you would make a kick ass mom, so congratulations, please don’t spare any of the gory details.
It is unnerving. I try to pay more attention to laughing at butt veins falling out than, say, the fact that this condition could quite literally kill me.
It is a fucked up way for life to operate. It seems unreasonable that it’s so gross and dangerous and costly and people are still willing to do it. Yet here I am. Me and my afternoon sausage fingers.
I give you my word, Stacie. If and when I develop female anal testicles, you’ll be the first to know.
A confession: I was slow in reading this piece because it was about pregnancy, and usually, when I’ve read pieces about that subject — as well as pieces about motherhood, menstruation, and relationships from the female perspective — I’ve had the sense the author was only writing for women, though she may have (probably?) believed otherwise. Still, for me, it’s a bit like hearing in-jokes about Hawaii, say, without ever having been to Hawaii.
I should have known this piece would be different. In fact, it may be my favorite of your TNB posts to date. You manage to write about pregnancy in a large, inclusive way that’s as much about the oppressiveness of assumptions and expectations and one-size-fits-all thinking as it is about you personally. We’re all dwarfed by that kind of thinking if we allow ourselves to buy into it, and sometimes we buy into it unawares because it’s so pervasive, and it’s pervasive because so much (most?) bullshit goes unchecked.
Okay. A break here. I was writing this comment last night when the phone rang, and I went to get the phone and left this page open, and the call came so late that, already exhausted from my new job, I passed out, and now, in daylight, I can’t remember exactly what I wanted to say. The gist of it I absolutely remember, but I was on a roll here, and I’ll never be able to recreate what I had in mind, which was very complimentary about your not settling for the kind of sloppy thinking that compromises who we fundamentally are, and how I felt I understood you better for having read this piece. Knowing (or assuming) that you don’t trust compliments, phrasing was everything, and, being on a roll, my phrasing was, I assure you, goddamned perfect, but I’ll never get it back now. So this is all I can manage — I overslept, and I haven’t had coffee so I’m grumpy as fuck, and I have to run to the post office and the bank — and I can only apologize for failing to leave the great comment I would’ve left, a comment that would have been your all-time favorite.
Oh, and congratulations, if I may. May I? I’m really wondering at the wisdom of hitting “Add comment,” but here I go.
You may! I mean, we did want this to happen. Or we want the baby that will presumably result from this, at least.
This may be my favorite comment of all time anyway.
It says I surpassed expectations, made something at once personal and broadly appealing, and gives me props for eschewing sloppy thinking and refusing to concede my fundamental nature.
Your comment says I’ve succeeded at the things I’m always most earnestly trying to do, both in my writerly and personal life.
So it’s pretty alright in my book.
I’m sorry to hear about the post office. I hate that fucking place.
It was actually painless, to my surprise. It was a Saturday, after all.
I’m glad my substitute comment did well by you. I was disappointed that I couldn’t bring off what I originally had in mind to say, but hey, I’m not going to quibble over a favorable reaction. I should probably quit while I’m ahead, huh?
They say a pregnant woman’s brain shrinks by 8%, which supposedly accounts for the “Mommy Brain” thing. I am pleased to report that your shrinkage does not seem to have affected your writing.
And oh man. There is just nothing all that lovely about pregnancy, I will agree. Seriously? Spiritual? OK, OK…I get the part about having another sentient being inside of you, but it stops there. I hate being pregnant. I fear it. Loathe it. I’ve been it. Nothing made me happier than to end it. I mean, you know, in birth. Also not exactly lovely. Sheesh. I want to take you out for a drink now. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure there is at least one male between us, but yeah, I get it.
I have a feeling you’re not too estrogenically overwhelming. You are the coiner of “ashtray babyhead.” You really have no idea in what high esteem I hold that nickname.
I would so do drinks with you once all this horrific grossness is over.
My tolerance will be totally atrophied, making me an exceptionally cheap date. Everybody wins.