Most of what people believe about pregnancy comes from seeing it on TV, including women.
Yes, it feels like women should have all these natural motherly instincts allowing them to float through pregnancy changes with a serene glow. But the reality is more like puberty, when your face starts breaking out, you find weird hairs all over the place, and don’t understand all the crazy shit happening to your body.
They sure make it seem nice on television. Some women gets a double line on her pregnancy test and starts cheering, she finds a cute way to tell her husband and they bond over it, then she spends the next 9 months looking like a skinny woman with a little pillow under her shirt.
That’s because she is a skinny woman with a pillow under her shirt. She’s a Hollywood actress who is still dieting, working out, and has a team of makeup artists and trainers helping her look hot while they slip a little maternity pillow under her shirt.
She’s just pretending to be pregnant, which means she acts giddy and pretends to have a couple quirky food cravings before *oops* her water breaks and she is rushed off to the hospital by her goofy, flustered husband for the exciting delivery, after which she will walk out all slim and hot and carrying a cute little baby.
The reality, for most women, is somewhat different. And it ain’t pretty. Most pregnant woman I know start blowing up like a slowly-inflating parade balloon. They are constantly nauseous, tired, and crabby (at least I am). Stretch marks can cover you all the way down to your thighs, and weird stuff I never knew about can happen. Like “pregnancy masks.” Have you heard of these?
Pregnancy masks are weird patches of darker skin that can appear on your forehead, cheeks, and chin. I have a little bit of it on my forehead. It looks like a few big freckles or age spots and I’m not thrilled about it, though I should be grateful because some women get it all over their face. I also have a weird dark line running from my belly button down, which apparently happens because of pregnancy hormones and is supposed to go away eventually.
You never see this kind of stuff on TV pregnancies. Your body starts freaking out in bizarre ways, and your mind… your mind is doused in all kinds of weird hormones. Every mother I’ve talked to has admitted that at some point during the pregnancy, she totally, irrationally, went off on her husband or boyfriend. Some started throwing things.
My theory is that nature is just making us extra fierce to protect our young, like momma bears. Still, I am not yet naturally falling into a serene sense of motherhood. There are moments where I’m incredibly excited about having the baby, of course, and am blown away to see her on ultra sounds. You also get incredibly sentimental, so I’m prone to cry at ridiculous moments like whenever a touching commercial comes on or I see a onsie.
But other times, I feel like my body has been invaded by aliens. There is a little being inside me, eating my food, drinking my drinks, rolling around hiccuping, and that’s… weird. The fact that I’m female doesn’t mean it isn’t still strange to me.
At this point, the baby is bouncing around my insides and keeps kicking me in this one spot that is starting to make the left side of my ribcage feel like it’s swimming in ground hamburger meat. I’m getting fatter and fatter, to the point where some punk-ass nurse told me I should take up jogging. I don’t even understand how pregnant women can jog, since every time I take a hard step, it feels like I was just kicked in the crotch. I realize there are pregnant Superwomen out there running marathons in their eighth month, but am convinced they are alien plants. I also no longer buy that “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant” show on TLC.
My poor husband has been exiled to the couch because it’s super hard to sleep when you are this uncomfortable and I have to contort into bizarre positions that take up the entire bed and involve about 13 pillows. I also make him tie my shoes now so I won’t trip when bending over and roll around helplessly like an obese flipped-over turtle. If I’m going about my day and something falls on the floor… well, it’s as good as dead to me now.
The combination of physical discomfort and cocktail of pregnancy hormones has completely sapped my patience at this point, and I mostly spend my days reading, napping, and trying not to overreact. My thoughts ricochet from wanting this pregnancy to be over with already to abject fear of looming childbirth and worrying about how I have no experience taking care of babies.
Luckily, Kaiser (our insurance) offers a bunch of free classes about labor, epidurals, infant care and breastfeeding. My husband and I signed up for every last one of them. It’s a real confidence builder for new parents who are panicked about what they have gotten themselves into. We have learned a lot of interesting things… like the fact that the baby will probably pee and crap ten or so times a day. What!?
This evening we took a class on breastfeeding, which I plan to try. I highly, highly recommend that anyone interested in breastfeeding take a class like this, because it’s not as instinctive as you would expect. For instance, we leaned that you probably won’t have milk for a couple days, just a few drops of a nutrient-rich liquid called “colostrum” that will nourish the baby well enough until the rest of your milk shows up. Lots of women panic, thinking they don’t have enough milk and the baby will starve, but it’s all a normal part of the process.
Beyond the useful information, there was also a question and answer session. You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff people asked. You just can’t make some of this up.
Many of these questions just proved my point that, despite what you might expect, women don’t naturally, intuitively, understand motherhood either. We are pretty far from our animal ancestors at this point, and have to learn a lot on the job.
For example, I was pretty horrified that the Kaiser breastfeeding instructor had to explain to the class that our boobs already have holes in them and so there’s no need to make any for the milk to come out. More than one woman (MORE THAN ONE) assumed their boobies would have to be punctured at some point. I really hope no one tries this at home.
An entertaining and related concern was whether having your nipples pierced means the milk will shoot out in all directions, sprinkler-style.
The final winner was the vegan woman who was concerned that her baby wouldn’t be vegan if it drank milk. I don’t want to get into a debate about the ethics of raising a vegan infant, but I assume this woman was an outlier… Is she worried that breastfeeding is cannibalism? I’d like to think she doesn’t represent how a typical vegan would tackle the issue.
Argh… At least we are feeling a little more confident. Now, let’s get this baby born so I can get my sarcasm levels recalibrated.