How to begin this story? I was pregnant. I was at work. I was in the bathroom, as usual. I’ve spent an awful lot of time in the bathroom in the last two years.
I was washing my hands after peeing for the fiftieth time that morning. A coworker came into the bathroom. She was from a different department, so while I knew her name, I’d never actually spoken to her other than passing hellos in the hallway.
“Aww, what a cute belly!” She gushed.
“Haha…thanks.” What else is there to say?
And then it happened. She walked right up, reached right in (I’m still washing my hands) and RUBBED MY BELLY.
Internally, I was blowing my imaginary rape whistle and screaming my head off. In real life, I was awkwardly laughing and backing away. “Uh, heheh, okay…Thanks…Excuse me,” I mumble. My brain was in emergency shutdown mode. GETOUTGETOUTGETOUT.
Now, I don’t have a problem with belly touching. Close friends and family? Fine. Coworkers I actually know and talk to? Ok, just ask first. Strangers? No. Bad touch. Unknown coworkers touching my belly in the office bathroom, right after I’ve peed,while I’m trying to wash my hands? Utterly horrifying.
I get it. Pregnancy is neat. I loved feeling those little kicks and somersaults. One of my favorite prego memories is my son kicking my brother’s hand, and my brother going “Whoaaa!”. But please. PLEASE. Ask permission first. You wouldn’t want me to touch your belly, so it’s also not ok to touch my baby belly.
And for the love of God, not when I’m in the bathroom.
You don’t know me. Well, maybe you do (our readership is still small, after all). But if not, all you know about me is that I’m the natural birthing, cloth diapering, breastfeeding, make-all-our-food-from scratch CRAZY LADY.
Right? So annoying. A magical mama unicorn.
I have a surprise for you. I AM a unicorn. For reals. But not in the magical, irritating, glitter-farts way. I’m a unicorn in the rare birth defect, mandatory-IVF kind of way. So that’s something you can feel smug about when I’m annoying you with my crazy-mom-ness. I’ll never have a “whoops, I’m pregnant” moment. The one big surprise in my life has dictated that there will be no surprises ever in the baby making department.
When my husband and I started talking about kids 3 years ago, we were very casual about it. We don’t have to TRY, we just won’t PREVENT, we said. I come from a family full of overly fertile Filipino mamas (remember, my grandma had 12 kids), so I was nervous. OMG, I could pretty much be pregnant tomorrow just by thinking about it! Is this the right time? Am I ready to be pregnant TOMORROW? Holy sh*t!
After a few months of not being pregnant tomorrow, I was feeling paranoid. Everything I read said “try for a year before seeing a doctor”, but I had this dark feeling that something wasn’t right. Also…I’m impatient.
Let’s back up a bit. I had my right ovary removed when I was in high school because of a tumor. At the time, the doctor assured my mom that it wouldn’t affect my fertility at all. So I never thought about it again…well, not for 13 years anyway.
So 6 months into “not trying” I went to my annual checkup. Annnnd, I fibbed to my doctor! I told her we had been trying for almost a year. Hey, I just rounded up a little! She sent me to have an HSG test. Probably just scar tissue from the old surgery, she said.
If you’ve ever had an HSG, it sucks, it’s awkward, and you stare at the ceiling and try to pretend you’re somewhere else. And then, if you’re me, the nurse says something comforting like, “That’s strange.” And then you cry in the parking lot, and go back to work and stare blankly at your computer for the next 3 hours.
So my doctor sent me to a fertility specialist. That’s how you know that “not trying” is NOT going well. And to think, my grandmother told me not to hold hands with boys because I might get pregnant (gotta love Asian grandmas). Think of all the hand holding I missed out on!
The new doctor said, it’s probably just scar tissue blockage. We’ll just clear it out. Two weeks later, I woke up from my laparoscopy. My husband didn’t have to say it. I knew when I saw his face.
IVF. Despite what your insurance says, it’s not an elective. No one chooses IVF. But it was the only option. Why? Because I have a unicornuate uterus. WTF is that, you ask? It’s when you only have one half of your uterus. A random, super rare birth defect. Which wouldn’t even be a huge issue, except it was on the right. Where I don’t have an ovary anymore. Not connected to my left ovary in any way. Everything was functioning normally…but they might as well have been on different planets. They were never (ever, ever) getting together. And there were pregnancy risks. Possible breech presentation. Possible premature birth. Possible miscarriage. Wait, aren’t these things possible anyway?
So, we went for it. We went from “we don’t have to TRY” to “we need to do this NOW”. We spent the money (with some help from hopeful grandparents-to-be). I did the many, many, many injections. And in the words of Lucille Bluth, our future babies were “made in a cup, like soup”. The day before the embryo transfer, we watched Babies to get psyched for what we hoped was our impending pregnancy. I might get pregnant, I thought. Like, tomorrow. And I did.
We’re so, so lucky to have our son. He stayed in the right position for my entire pregnancy. He was born 2 days past my due date, even though the doctors warned that he would probably be early. And he was over 8 pounds, so he did just fine with the limited space he had. I know it may not be that easy next time, but I hope it will be. Because I’m a glass-half-full person. A stubbornly optimistic person.
It’s why I don’t look back on that time with anxiety.
It’s why I’ll be excited to do it again.
It’s what gets me through the daily hot messes of motherhood.
It’s what made me the natural-birthing, cloth-diapering nutcase that I am.
It’s why I wanted a natural birth, and why I was so stubborn about nursing.
Every pregnancy I’ll have (and there will be more) will be planned. Monitored. Managed. I want to do the rest of it my way.
On paper, I may sound like a magical mama unicorn. But in real life? I’m just a regular unicorn. Regular farts and all.
I hate advice. I’ve even gone out of my way to do the opposite of whatever advice I’ve been given. I once painted our kitchen BLUE because a loved one tried to talk me out of it. Suddenly I HAD to use that color, because I’m just so dang stubborn and GAH I know how colors work, dammit! Yeah, three years later, we painted it Reasonable Adult Grey. Because I got bored with blue, of course. Not because blue was a giant mistake or anything…
Almost the minute your pregnancy goes public, you are inundated with advice. Hand-me-downs. Doomsday parenthood warnings.
The Classic: You’ll never sleep again.
The Oddball: Make sure your belly gets a lot of sun! (Huh?)
The False Compliment: You’re too small to push a baby out.
The Man-splanation: That ball chair will make you go into early labor.
The Old Wives Tale: Spicy food will make Baby angry!
Naturally, I filed these away as Things to Contradict Out of Spite. I’ll sit on this ball chair and eat Thai food Every. Damn. Day. I’ll do every random thing I read about to prepare for a natural birth. Prenatal belly dancing? Hypnobabies? Eating dates for 2 months? Check check check. I’M going to be Different.
I was obsessively over prepared for birth. I still have 48 “labor popsicles” in my icebox to prove it. And of course I was delusionally “prepared” for the whole motherhood part. Obviously I’ll cloth diaper. Obviously I’ll breastfeed. I can totally home school. We’ll never watch TV. BIRTH was the hurdle, and everything after would be easy in comparison. Right? I couldn’t wait for my 3 months of cute PJ’s, sewing projects, and cleaning the house while wearing my baby in a sling.
Just kidding. I never fantasize about cleaning.
So, despite my inability to fart cinnamon & sunshine (just ask my husband), I had the birth I wanted. It was freaking awesome, and yes I’m still proud of myself. I know, no one cares. People only want to hear your birth story if it was a hot mess. If it makes you feel better, yes I pooped. And I looked like a bedraggled cat lady:
The End, right? Hooray, I won, where can I pick up my Awesome Mom trophy?
Ha. No. After 2 days at home, my son spent 4 days in NICU with severe jaundice, & I burst into hysterical tears when a nurse told me to “Go home & rest”. Less than 2 months later I went through THREE Mastitis surgeries. The L&D nurse that commented on how calmly I labored, wasn’t there to hear me screaming expletives when a surgeon cut into my BOOB.
Aside from those anomalies, I just wasn’t prepared for how…nonstop motherhood is. I know that sounds ridiculous. But there are no breaks! My son nursed constantly. If he wasn’t nursing he was pooping. I ate a lot of microwaved frozen meals in the beginning. I did wear cute PJ’s…but for 3 days in a row. And I did more laundry than I ever thought possible.
How did my delusions work out? So-so. I do mostly cloth diaper. I did breastfeed for a year, despite Mother Nature’s psychotic attempts to discourage me (See? Still stubborn). But I’ve (mostly) given up my home school fantasy. And I do let him watch TV sometimes. Because it buys me 20 minutes to make dinner, or go to the bathroom alone, or to just cuddle with him and doze off a little. I DID sleep again. But it’s still different, and sometimes in unexpected places.
Guess what? You WILL be different! Just not the way you think. Lots of things WILL go as planned. But other things won’t. And things you never thought of will come out of left field. There are little failures almost every day. But it doesn’t really matter. You’ll have a baby, and it’ll be chaos, but it’ll also be totally awesome. Any “plans” you think you’re making will be thwarted by a tiny little person who is now your whole world.
So don’t get hung up on plans. Don’t take things too seriously. You look beautiful. It’s going to be so, so great. That’s pregnancy advice even I can handle.
Almost every mother I know (including myself) remembers exactly how they wanted their pregnancy, labor and delivery method, and parenting philosophy to go down before they experienced it. They envisioned a flawless labor of their choice, streamlined breastfeeding, smiling babies, a doting husband, a full night’s sleep at 4 weeks, good behavior in the grocery store, and back in their size 6 jeans in two months sans stretch-marks (or some other idyllic variation). This is what I’d like to call Pregnancy Delusions of Grandeur.
Like a moth to a flame, women fall for it every time (typically in the 2nd trimester when we are particularly cocky). And this innocent air of presumption is often accompanied by the universally judgmental thought, “that will never happen to me” OR “my child would never cry like a wild banshee during a flight” OR “I can’t believe she is using formula–I will NEVER do that.” This, my friends, is known as a steaming pile of horse shit.
Okay, let’s concede that there are some mamas out there with such strong convictions that their follow-through is as impressive as that net catching a floater in their home water-birthing bath. Everything works perfectly for them. Nothing ever goes wrong. And they fart glitter clouds of cinnamon and sunshine. KUDOS, you dedicated lovely ladies!
*HOWEVER* For the rest of us hot messes, these delusions of grandeur get a cold splash of reality when we fall short of our expectations. And this happens often. I remember one of my friends being so convinced she was going to breast feed for 24+ months, come to find out her boob reduction was also a boob juice reduction and after 2 weeks she mom-guilted her way over to the formula tub, God love her. Another had the ultimate confidence that she would birth her baby naturally. And she naturally begged for an epidural after 26 hours of labor.
I myself was shocked to learn I couldn’t get pregnant the very month we decided to go for it. Or when I finally did become pregnant four years later, I was floored that I would be forced into labor 10 days early with a pre-eclampsia scare. I was stunned to discover that breastfeeding would be extremely painful for a solid 2 months. Or that I would get depressed when I stopped (no one tells you this!). Or that my sweet husband wasn’t getting up with me at night (thanks, honey). I could go on. But the point is: reality bites the big one. And the faster you can adapt, the slower the wrinkles may come.
Look. I’m not suggesting to not prepare. SURE! Do your research. Hell yeah, try to make informed decisions, whatever you decide to do. Home vs. Hospital. Vaginal vs. C-section. Natural vs. Epidural vs. um, Orgasmic? Free-range vs. Attachment vs. Helicopter vs. Authoritative vs. Slow Parenting. It doesn’t matter.
Figure out what you think you like and what is best for your family. And then just know that undoubtedly those plans and decisions will be thwarted at some point. Your “experience” will be tainted (yes, I said taint). Your philosophies will be tried and found wanting. And your mom-guilt over this supposed failure will smack you down every time.
BECAUSE YOUR BEST LAID PLANS WILL FAIL YOU FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Just sayin’.
Depressed yet? More like FREED, hot messes! Because this is actually not failure. I’ve since realized it’s all part of the humility and humanity of parenthood. The submission of your strength, will, and beliefs to the best-known, most humbling parenting philosophy there is: SURVIVAL.
So beware. Be aware. Adapt. Try to release that white-knuckled grip. And let go of some of that mom-guilt (and judgment). Your crow’s feet will thank you for it.