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.