Friday, January 29, 2010

What Really to Expect When You're Expecting: The End Days

For the first two posts in the WRTOWYE series, go here and here.

Yesterday was my last day of work and I can say with confidence that we will have a baby here within a week. I am grateful that my body is decomposing less than it does for many pregnant warriors. I'm complimented (whether appropriately, or not, we could certainly debate) on my unwaddly stride, on my ability, still, to stride. I can still throw my children in the air and play tickle games until they're out of breath, even though now I will be out of breath in companionship. My restroom needs only disrupt my sleep once a night, and anyone who has ever been or slept near a pregnant woman knows that that is absolutely brag-worthy. And yet, my ankle bones and jaw line have taken deep cover; rising from the floor unassisted is possible, but not without becoming a bit of a spectacle; and it's just as well that I don'r really like shoes with laces, because I'm not sure how I'd be fastening them.

When you are this far along on your 40-week pilgrimage, how people address you can be summed up neatly into several categories. Let's examine them via examples of actual comments offered to me in the past 48 hours:

1) I was wished "gentle birth vibes" (and I like the sound of those);
2) the waiter at the Silver Diner looked at me and said, "to be clear: we deliver tableside and curbside, but we don't deliver babies" (and thank you for that);
3) my friend C looked at me in profile and groaned, "Good lord, girl!"

Category #1: Mothers
Any woman who has birthed a child looks at The Very Pregnant Woman with a mix of comeraderie, solidarity, support and nostalgia. The Mothers, they Get It. They will be thinking of you, hoping for you, and looking at you through the memories of their own experiences. They cannot look at you without remembering their own hopes, last waddles, strange food cravings, epidural mishaps, or whatever it is that Approaching Birth means to Them. They're on your team, and whatever they say to The Very Pregnant Woman, it's designed to let you know it.

Category #2: Non-parents
For anyone who has never been intimately involved in the experience of birth, The Very Pregnant Woman is a source of discomfort. You are a walking billboard for life and mortality and blood and vulnerability. The non-parent still likes to confront the adult form only for sexuality, not biology. (This is the same category who will be unable to hold conversations with you when you are breastfeeding.) The non-parent doesn't like to think about these things, and your presence pulls down that firewall in a visible and gentle but confrontational manner. You will hear many similar awkward comments.

Category #3: The Fathers
The thing about fathers is that for a long time they were happy to fall in the category of non-parents, happily not thinking about life and mortality and blood and vulnerability. Now they think about all those things, and many more fun things they might wish they never knew about, like meconium and episiotomies and chapped nipples. They want to be supportive of The Very Pregnant Woman but sometimes it's difficult for them, as your presence sends them into some PTSD-like flashbacks. Because of years of menstruation, women are more prepared for the confrontation of life and death and pain that one learns with the onset of parenthood than men, who may embrace their oblivion for as long as possible. The Fathers look at The Very Pregnant Woman and Know. They Know the moment they awakened to what was about to happen, and you make them relive it a little bit. They really want to be supportive of you; and they Know just how important and helpful that can be to you; they're just feeling a little vulnerable themselves in your presence.

My friend C? He's a new dad. So I promised him that the end is near and everything will be okay.

Because it is, and it will, and that's the best part about The End Days. Pin It