A couple of days back a friend retweeted this raw, gripping, poignant piece on pregnancy and followed it up with a question asking me what I thought of it. I promptly read, shared and replied that I felt it was powerful. What followed was a sharing of experiences on pregnancy. A few could relate to the essay, few others felt it was much ado about nothing. I read along, demurred and let it go.
The idea however took hold of me and has been circling my conscious for two days now. What did *I* feel about it? Turns out, quite a lot!
Pregnancy in my life came late, a shocker as I edged near the mythical, over the hill age of forty. I was already a parent to twins and therefore a mother by all rights. Pregnancy however changed me in ways I could not have foreseen. For someone who craved this rite of passage for almost a decade and knew through reading everything there was to know about it, the experience was in ways something I could have never anticipated.
Pregnancy at it core centered around me the woman, not the child that was yet to be born. I watched first in shock, then in awe as my body morphed, swelled and grew in size. The child within me took greedily everything I could offer and then some more. My thyroid gave up, my already compromised metabolism took a beating.
Long before pregnancy guidelines suggest a glucose tolerance test, I was shooting myself with insulin, measuring portions by spoons and grazing all through the day. There is something powerful in knowing what I ate and did not eat impacted another being, a minuscule blob inside me that would have a better start in life if only I could control what I put in my mouth.
As I lay spreadeagled on the operation table while professionals took charge of yanking the baby out from within me, I realized even if I did not labor or experience pain the likes of which the original essay references, my body was swollen from head to toe, I smelled different, earthy, pungent and raw. As they allowed me to peek at my newborn I was amazed by the rawness of it all. The blobs of mucus, the blood, the gore and most of all the unvarnished truth of motherhood.
Hours later as my child rooted for food at my breast, I struggled with finding the right hold, the proper way to feed the suckling child. The weeks and months after were a blur, a cacophony of pain, toe-curling pain from trying to breast feed my child. Even as doctors advocated supplementing with formula, I resisted, treating the mastitis and persisting through the pain. Eventually we settled into an uneasy pattern but it was anything but easy.
Three years later, I look at myself everyday in the mirror and notice how I have changed physically. Growing a child inside my body has changed it irrevocably. The organs have shifted, changed positions, expanded in size and resettled in less than optimum ways. My abdomen and thighs are streaked with deep purple veins. The stretch marks mottle my skin, silvery and abhorrent at times. The skin hangs loose as if to remind me each day to let go, to relax and accept the new norm.
If adopting my older daughters made me a parent, the birth of my youngest changed me physically, marked me irrevocably and pushed me past a thin pulsing wall that forever will separate my life as before and after.