When I began telling people that I was pregnant, people said ominous things like, “Your life will never be the same again,” and “This will change you forever.” Others (generally parents themselves) took to more back-handedly complimentary, self-satisfied sentiments like “This will make you a better person!” Or “You’ll find that pregnancy and parenthood are humbling experiences.”
(Wait. Did you just call yourself a good, humble person for having had kids? I think you did. No. Really. I’m pretty sure you did.)
I think the ominous sentiments are probably inescapably, terrifyingly true. I think the smug sentiments are probably just there to warn me that some of my friends and acquaintances are smug.
Physically, I have escaped relatively unscathed. No serious complications and so far free and clear of the more common, inconvenient, and uncomfortable but generally harmless physical complaints as well. No nausea, no frequent headaches, no stretch marks, and no sign of the dreaded FATs, thank you very much. Fiber, fiber, fiber.
Pregnancy is a fuckin’ breeze.
Or not exactly. Not the part where I go considerably more insane and become an entirely different person, both in fact and in the perceptions of others.
I’ve quit enjoying music. And the internet, for some reason.
The only straight man in my office has started treating me differently, cloyingly; he is less trustful of my opinions, less heedful of my warnings and advice. He pushes back at me where I’m pretty sure, prior to my pregnancy, he found me intimidating and accepted that I was the expert on matters related to my job.
He is seemingly confused about whether the baby is in my uterus or in my brain. About whether I am expecting a child or I am the child.
It doesn’t help that, as Tawni Freeland observed elsewhere, most maternity clothes look like oversized baby clothes themselves. Lots of ruffles and lace and empire waists and baby-doll lines and floral patterns. An overwhelming cutesy-feminine-preciousness that is simply not befitting of the fearsome creature I can be.
I’m the she-goat. I AM YANG.
I AM SETH I AM KALI I AM CHAOS I AM THE COLD AND THE DARKNESS AND I AM HAVING TROUBLE REACHING MY TOES COULD YOU TIE MY SHOES FOR ME PLEASE WHENEVER I BEND OVER I FART AND ALMOST PASS OUT.
You can totally run, and you can probably totally hide, too, since I barely even fit in a restaurant booth these days. Pretty much anywhere you go, if it’s at a pace faster than “shuffle,” I won’t catch you.
I do my best not to wear shirts actually made for pregnant people unless I am entering a situation in which I think it is somehow to my advantage to be perceived, potentially exclusively, as the cute and helpless pregnant girl. That or a disabled person. This is not to say there is never such a situation. But it needs to be strategic decision, not one made for me by the dearth of sane fashion options in maternity sections of the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
A friend of mine related to me that her husband had enjoyed her being pregnant because it seemed to “even out” her temperament.
In my case, my own father said to me today: “You were mercurial, at best, to begin with; throw this in the mix and…well…It’s okay. It will be okay. It will be over soon.”
But he’s right. My stubbornness has become inflexibility, my stoicism, iciness. My frankness has become tactlessness, my willfulness has become belligerence, and my driving, for some reason, has gotten really, really aggressive.
I am largely free of misgivings. About anything. My will is a juggernaut. My resolve a bunker. When I say “I don’t give a shit,” I am startled to realize how sincerely I mean it. My single-mindedness is staggering, and the power and control people are granting me now fill me with a terrible, addictive euphoria I can’t quite describe.
Makes me feel, maybe, just a little, like a god.
It’s probably not good for people to just do what I say like that. But if they don’t, I lose my shit.
Standing there in my preppy, pretty khakis and ruffled seersucker blouse, skin glowing, smelling of rose lotion and clean laundry, belly swollen with the miracle of new life, fists coming down hard on top of the washing machine, my makeshift pulpit, my eyes wide enough to look like the balls may just explode from their sockets:
“THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU OR HOW YOU FEEL OR ME BEING OUT TO GET YOU OR WHATEVER THE HELL YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT! I JUST WANT IT DONE! DO YOU GET IT? DONE!!! THIS ISN’T PERSONAL AND I DON’T GIVE A SHIT HOW! MAKE IT BE DONE!!!!”
A bunker in an lacy empire waist. A missile silo with pink siding, a window box, and a picket fence. Venus flytrap.
Sorry baby, but your soft blond mama is a loaded gun.
It’s all so incongruous. Me. Pregnancy. Me. Femininty. Me. Nurturing vessel.
I struggle to salvage my Self.
I knew this would happen.
Part of this is hormones, I suppose. But part of it is an adverse or compensatory reaction to being treated–suddenly–differently. A reaction to people, even my own father, reaching out to touch my stomach without asking. People seem to think there is no longer any reason to be afraid. As a result, something in me is compelled to take up wanton displays of my capacity for sheer, unapologetic force. To show that I can marshal the peculiar attributes of this “mellowing” condition to make myself even more awesome and terrible.
To show them that “for the better” is relative. Better at what? Throwing the viciously crazy quotient of any given situation totally off the charts?
Everyone be cool, this is a pregnancy.
Any of you pricks move and I’ll execute every motherfucking last one of you.
My dad spoke to me in baby-talk not long ago. He said “My wittle girl is having a wittle girl!” Mere weeks later, having forgotten he said it to me, he tried to tell me my mother said it to him about me. Maybe she did. Maybe people go around calling me a “wittle girl” to each other now. Maybe he just wanted an excuse to say it again.
No one in their right mind would speak to unpregnant Me in baby talk. They would have to have a death wish. No one should ever speak to any woman in baby talk unless she is actually a baby.
Later he said, “How’s it goin’, Mommy?”
That one I couldn’t let go.
“NO! GodDAMNIT! You don’t do that! Grown men don’t get to call me Mommy!”
This startled him. My dear old dad is as sweet and lovable and generous and kind and well-intentioned as they come. But I have grown up a tomboy, his only son, and I was not about to let him infantilize and hyper-feminize me.
My mother frowned at this. He is approaching 70. I am his daughter. I have a daughterly obligation to allow him, in his dotage, to reduce me to an infant. I am obligated to humor a cooing, high-pitched sentimentality that casts me as the lynch pin of a million-times recycled and fairly sexist Hallmark moment.
Well fuck that.
Mom can frown all she wants.
She knows better. I’m her daughter.
An unexpected boon to my new-found dispassionate and largely unbending relationship style: Like a lot of humans, the dog has become incredibly obedient.
Some archetypal energies, I’m tempted to believe, are universal. Even across species.
I wonder if the birth of my child will cause setbacks in her training. That is, I mean, if my temperament ever evens out. If I am ever sane-ish again, I wonder if she will stop respecting me.
I think about her constantly. Worry about whether or not she’s feeling fulfilled in her essential doggy-ness. I bawl inconsolably at ASPCA commercials. The little puppies with crusty eyes and no one who cares enough to wipe the boogers away.
You could show me a thousand videos of human children with distended bellies covered in flies, and I would not react with such abject sorrow and soul-clutching existential despair as I do to one 3-second shot of a dog with matted fur shaking in fear.
My fixation on dogs has been clear and curious. It is basically harmless, so I’ve felt no need to stifle it.
It’s not unusual, I guess, for pregnant women to develop these kinds of fixations. I was prone to fixation anyway, so it only stands to reason that this tendency, too, would be amplified.
It’s just that now my fixations are even less interesting to other people than the ones I used to get.
My husband appears slightly concerned that I love the dog more than I love him lately, and I very well might.
I suspect it is some primordial urge driving me towards the most vulnerable, needy thing in my home, commanding me to provide for it, instruct it, protect it, stroke its head, value it above all else.
At all costs, if need be.
Do not fuck with my dog. Do not say mean things about my dog. Praise my dog and her incredible good looks constantly. As far as I’m concerned, compared to my dog, your dog and everyone you know sucks, including all your children, Mozart, and baby Jesus. So just watch it.
It will be interesting to see what happens when my attention and concern are forcibly split between an infant human and my irrationally beloved Sydney dog.
I expect to feel a great deal of guilt and anxiety, no matter what.
The only other question that remains is whether I should continue trying to fight it or stop kidding myself and just let go. Just go Full Lunatic right from the outset. Revel in it. Roll around in it. Maybe if I let go, stopped fighting, I would become less, not more, crazy.
But, probably, I would just be different crazy. Crazy like all those other parents I know, running around bragging about the humbling power of parenthood without even the slightest sense of irony.
I already have plans for a Christmas card that involve, potentially, putting clothing on my dog.
Maybe I’ll get one of those strollers for twins. Buy matching bonnets, cut ear holes in one of them.
Let’s just say some small shred enough of Me remains to have some very, very serious doubts.