Thursday, February 11, 2010

Imbolc 2010: Grow and Glow

Finally, it's here.

Some women feel this the minute they get confirmation they are pregnant. They are just there. They're excited, they're in love, they are so ready for everything coming. The morning sickness, the aches and pains, none of it really matters, they are full of the joy of mommy-to-be.

I think the majority of women feel it in the second trimester, when the morning sickness and exhaustion abates, and your hair grows thick and long and shiny, and your nails are strong and ladylike, and your skin clears up, and you glow, physically, you actually glow. You start to get all these compliments from people. It makes you feel good about yourself, and you realize it's because of the baby. Pregnancy really is beautiful.

For me, beginning my third trimester, it's just now happening, really. I've been excited all along, since this child has been so eagerly anticipated, since we waited so long, and were so patient. But my internal emotional struggle has been pretty intense. I'm sure that my depression - even though it's medically controlled - played a part in this, since I recognize the self-loathing and self-flagellating patterns as long-held manifestations of my illness. My pregnancy symptoms were simply another source of the same crap feelings that have hobbled me all my life: feeling unattractive, worthless, useless, and like a burden to everyone. Yes, the Prozac helped, and yes, it's totally safe for the baby, but the hormonal changes that pregnancy brings were a wild card, of which no one could really predict the effects. I cannot IMAGINE going through pregnancy unmedicated. I am convinced that, as hard as it was for me, it would have been 10 times harder, not only for me, but for my husband as well. Having my serotonin levels balanced enabled me to look objectively at myself in the mirror, and tell myself from time to time You're pregnant. Not fat. You're making a baby. You have the right to be tired, you can't help being nauseous. Your body is working very hard. G loves you and supports you. Your friends love you. Your family loves you. You deserve to be loved. You are doing the most important work of your life, even if you have to lie on the couch to do it. Forgive yourself.

It's been hard. But in retrospect, I've done much harder things. My pregnancy, objectively speaking, looking back, has actually been very healthy, and very normal. All my difficult symptoms - the exhaustion, the sore back, the edema, carpal tunnel, all of it - has fallen well within normal range. My baby is a healthy, active, (christ she's VERY VERY active) vibrant child growing inside me. I have, I realize, been very, very lucky.

I finally took a deep breath and sat my husband down and had a long talk about how I've been feeling, how difficult it's been for me to talk to him about my feelings. I bit the bullet, and I told him I need certain things from him. I said, "this is your crazy hormonal pregnant wife, and I need you, I need these things from you, I need to know you are still here with me." We laughed, he held me, he told me he loves me, he is proud. He promised to give whatever I need, and instructed me lovingly to be sure and TELL HIM if he's not picking up on my signals. Which, granted, he's damn good at. But he was there for me. He is there for me. We are in this together, and I feel it now more than ever.

Just within the last week or two, a significant shift has occurred inside me. My anxieties are disappearing. I'm beginning to trust in certain ways, and to take control in other ways. I'm focusing more on the actual birth process, how I want things to be, and making a birth plan. I'm looking more critically at my care, and exploring options, knowing it's not too late to make changes, if I really feel I need to. I have that freedom.

Most magically, my child is filling me with wonder. Most evenings I lie on the couch in my yoga pants and a sports bra, my burgeoning belly completely exposed, and I just watch her move, my stomach rippling and jiggling. Sometimes I place my hand on her, and I feel her, just beneath the skin, as though I am already able to hold my baby. I feel her head, her feet, sometimes her little bum, poking through my abdomen. I am utterly charmed. She is already an independent being, a person. She is exploring, stretching, experimenting. That's my girl!

When I go out in public, I am proud when people ask me "When are you due?" I grin and blush and can barely contain my joy. I know people can tell, and I don't care anymore. I know I don't look fat. I know I am special right now. This is truly a rite of passage in my life. I have come to grips with my own body, and feel perfectly ok about sitting on a bench for a few minutes, or making an extra bathroom trip. I don't mind my clunky shoes. I'm just so... amazingly... happy.

Women, especially grandmother-aged women, look at me very critically, examining me up and down, and then declare: "You look good. All the weight is in the right place. Your skin is great." Then they nod satisfactorily. Complete strangers do this. I don't get a lot of people wanting to touch me, but I get the once-over examinations all the time. Some ask flat-out "Are you taking prenatals? Do you work or get out from time to time? You shouldn't just lie around. How is your husband doing?" It's funny, often they are checking to see if I'm doing what their daughter or niece or friend did when they were pregnant, having learned some difficult lessons. Some want to share things they wish they had done differently, and make sure I'm not making the same mistakes they did. They are protective.

Younger women who are either pregnant themselves or raising young children have a whole different tack. Some are reassuring: "You're almost there! Have you decided on cloth or disposable diapers? How's your back?" Some are just a tad condescending: "I know you feel like hell now, but trust me, at least you're walking around. I had to be on bedrest and my husband was an asshole." I smile and let them talk, if it makes them feel better. Everybody's life is different.

The best is when some random strange woman suddenly meets eyes with me, and we see kindred spirits, a sisterhood. We compare notes, we talk about our favorite things, we gush about how exciting it will be to finally meet this creature flopping about inside us. We hug, we link arms, we swap maternity clothing tips. It makes the day joyous, just those few minutes of connection with someone else who's on the exact same page. It's validating. My Mom was right - I am joining the biggest sorority on the planet.

There is a spiritual, metaphysical thing going on here. I do feel more strongly connected with the rest of the human race. I feel more female than ever before. I feel strong, powerful, and beautiful. I feel confident and unafraid. I feel the invisible strings that bind me to other women on this planet, near and far, mothers everywhere. I thank the God and Goddess every day. I pray for my baby, for her health, and give thanks for everything that I have. And I have so much.

Spring will bring my child into my arms - or does my child bring the spring? the ice inside me is already melting, like the snow outside my window. I've survived the blizzard. I'm ready for birth, rebirth, life, and all that comes with it.

Blessed be.

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