Dear Pregnant Woman,
With the questions in your eyes and so much hope in your heart, I’m watching your little belly growing. Only now can I look at you and remember what it was like to have a baby inside of me and understand what it was all going to mean.
I remember when I was pregnant and a crowd of woman a half of a generation ahead of me would surround me with a knowing look. Like they belonged to a club that I would soon be allowed into. I became a spectacle. A vessel for their memories. I heard their stories, I asked them questions, I shared my fears. Sometimes they would answer with great detail and honesty. Other times they would lower their heads or look away. There was something that couldn’t be put into words.
You see, I thought they were imagining how much it hurt to give birth. Remembering what it was like to be hungry all the time and not be able to eat. To have trouble getting out of a chair. To feel your stomach under your nostrils. To eat buckets of Tums in one night. To lie awake wondering how something so large was going to make it out from inside of you. And whether ambulances would be involved.
I thought they were thinking about the weight they had gained, the names they had picked, the cribs and strollers they were going to buy. I thought they remembered photos of their naked bellies, pictures of their belly button, new bras that were outgrown monthly until all that was left was the uniboob sports bra.
Dear Pregnant Lady. It is only now that I know what I want to say to you. But I can’t say it to your face. Because there is so much for you to find out between here and there. There is so much distance you’ll have to travel alone. Knowing that many, many billions have done it all before you. The births, the feeding, the changing, the sleeping, the shelters, the carrying, the protecting… Billions have done it before in millions of different scenarios and ways.
What I want to tell you is that I don’t think about how much it hurt to give birth. I think about how to reconcile the difference between what I want for my children and what the world wants for them – what they want for themselves. I think about the mean girls in the school yard that pushed my baby into a gate last week and there is so little I can do to protect her. I think about how I expected to know these humans inside and out, and even though they came from my insides, I most of the time can’t figure them out.
I think about how much I have learned from these small people. In such a short period of time. And there is so much left to learn. Without question, it is far more than I have taught to them.
I think about how there is no vessel large enough to house the worry I feel for them some days. There is no apology deep enough to fix some of the mistakes I have already made. There are more hours needed in the day to do all of the things I want to do with my kids. There are other hours needed to spend time away from them!
I think about the relief I feel when another mother tells me a story that helps me understand my own children, my own parenting, my own mother.
I think about how there was absolutely no way I could have been warned about the distance the children were going to create between me and the man I chose to spend my life with. How ironic is that? How did it become possible to be in such a small space with another human and find yourselves not making eye contact for hours on end?
I wonder how I never got around to losing that pregnancy weight. Why I pressured myself so much about it. Why I always, always, always, in every circumstance, felt like I wasn’t doing enough for my children. (Is there ever enough?)
Why being away from them for any length of time feels like leaving my right arm behind. Yet being in their company for only a few short minutes can sometimes lead me to wanting to run far, far away again.
Nobody in the world has ever driven me so close to (or past) the point of being crazy. No human in the world has filled me up with love, perspective and belonging quite like these ones have.
I have heard myself yell to the point of avoiding my neighbours in the grocery store (and they live pretty far away from us). I have cried behind closed doors afraid that I was never going to figure this parenting thing out. I have pulled over vehicles to the side of the highway waiting for balance to restore. I have been so lacking in sleep for weeks on end that it became a feat to hold a thought for more than few seconds at a time. When the patience ran out, the tears were spent, the resourcefulness left the room, I was still asked to give more of myself. I could never have imagined it so difficult to come by a shower, a warm meal or 3 hours of sleep at a time.
What nobody ever told me was how much children can bring to a person's life. It is easy to talk about what they take. It is also easy to rhyme off things about joy and love and satisfaction but none of it makes any sense until you can feel it in your own blood and bones.
Dear Pregnant Lady. I can’t really tell you any of this. Because you’re going to have your own story one day. And that is the only one that will ever matter. Some of this may ring a bell. Much of it will be entirely different for you. It will be the story you tell one day that will make it all make sense.
You are now bringing your own life into this world. Not just the one in your belly. But the new one that we shall now call You, The Mother.
I look forward to hearing how the story plays out for you.