Friday, April 6, 2012

mourning the end of gestation

I've gotten so used to the thought "when is this going to be over?" always lurking in the back of my head these past 37+ weeks, that this new wave of emotion I'm experiencing has taken me by surprise. I mentioned the other day that I was feeling nostalgic about pregnancy, but it's much more than that. I have gradually slipped into a state of mourning over the end of pregnancy, and I now find myself genuinely sad at the thought of no longer being pregnant. Never did I think I'd ever utter those words given how challenging and uncomfortable pregnancy has been, but those words are the truth. And wouldn't you know, every book and every woman I mention it to says this is an incredibly common phenomenon.

For the first half of pregnancy, all I could think about was wanting to rush through the experience, because I was so sick and miserable. As grateful as I was to be pregnant, and as amazed as I was by what was happening inside my body, it was definitely a challenge to look past the sickness at that point. Then came the second half of pregnancy, during which I developed such a strong bond with my baby girl that I have been beside myself impatient to meet her. But now….now I have entered this interesting/surprising phase. I am so close to finally holding my baby that I can almost feel her here already and it's complete bliss, but at the same time I've begun to realize that meeting her means no longer being the pregnant lady. Yes, I have many complaints at week 37, and yes, it's uncomfortable and exhausting, but I love being pregnant (though it's taken me a long while to feel that way). I've always been fascinated and mesmerized by pregnant women and now I am one. 

Of course, a large part of mourning the end is mourning the intimacy I now share with my child. A mother has the incredible honor of sharing herself with her baby, being completely intertwined and connected. A mother is the first person to know and bond with this new human being, the first person that child will recognize when she enters the world. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, like that experience. And as many times as I've told my husband throughout my pregnancy that I wish he could "hold" the baby for awhile so I could take a break, I now realize that I will have to share her with the world and she'll no longer be right by my side (or rather insides) all day and night. Giving birth to her means the beginning of letting her go. Of course, she will spend the majority of her first hours and days (and probably years) attached to my body in some form, but never in this same way.

But, this mourning goes deeper than losing the intimacy of pregnancy. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit this, but since I've been pregnant I've never felt so special. Pregnant women are just special.  Everyone wants to know how you are doing, everyone wants to talk to you about what you're going through, people smile at you like you are a magical being (and you are because, hello, you are creating life!), your husband is in awe of you and waits on you like you are royalty, and incredible new bonds are formed with those around you. It's not so much the attention that I love though, it's what's behind the attention—the miracle of life. People are drawn to a pregnant belly (and to you), because it's truly magical. It's incredible that two people can share a steamy encounter and end up with a whole new human being in their lives. It's even more incredible that the female body is capable of making that happen. I think that is where the love lies for me. 

Being pregnant has allowed me to find a kind of respect, appreciation and love for my body and my womanhood that I never thought was possible. Being pregnant has allowed me to stop looking at my body in superficial terms, to stop the constant chatter of self-criticism in my head….and to stop feeling so insignificant and powerless. That last bit takes a lot for me to admit, but the experience of pregnancy is that profound, that intense in terms of spiritual growth (at least it has been for me). I've struggled with a lack of feeling ownership over my own body for most of my life, which has deeply affected every aspect of who I am. But now, I not only have a sense of ownership, but I have a sense of pride. I have claimed my womanhood, I have claimed my body in all its glory. I am strong and I have created a strong, healthy life within me. I can look in the mirror for the first time in my life and not pick apart my reflection, but instead smile at every curve, giggle at the roundness of my belly, ignore the billion changes to my body, because this is my body's destiny: to grow life, to birth life, to be a mother. And it's nothing short of beautiful. 

I am sure I will struggle with my reflection in the wake of giving birth and having to accept my postpartum figure, but maybe if I can remember this feeling I have now, it will make that experience a little less difficult. It's just so freeing to finally understand what true beauty is….to not feel myself totally wrapped up in our country's warped view of what a woman should be: thin, young, large-breasted, scantily clad….perfect. It's freeing to see my body for what it truly is rather than a vessel for men (and women, for that matter) to scrutinize. It's freeing, even if this feeling/understanding is temporary.

And so, I mourn the end of pregnancy. But, I know the profound spiritual shift will continue and that's something to look forward to. All these realizations only further explain why it is that I feel that my life is just about to begin, as those other 30 years fade into the horizon. Becoming a mother has allowed me to become the woman I always wanted to become.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post! I share the same feelings and was encouraged by your words. :)


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