If I were to be totally honest about my pregnancy, I’d have to say that the truth of the matter is I have just not liked being pregnant. Like, pretty much at all. I mean yes, I am definitely super excited about our little baby boy. Nikko and I are over-the-moon giddy about his arrival and having our little family grow. Planning for our little one is now my favorite activity. And yes, I also love feeling him kick and swish, because it’s an instant physical connection - and an assurance that he’s doing well. But everything else, if I were to be totally honest, I could do without.
While I do take it all with a sense of humor, I just don’t like the physical restrictions. I don’t like not fitting into my clothes. I don’t like having to ‘take it easy.’ I don’t like the body changes. And above all, I especially don’t like the external pressure that our culture puts on a woman to change her identity once she becomes a mother or mother-to-be. I also don’t like that women who feel this way, aren’t really allowed to verbalize this without being labeled as selfish or being told that we should try to see our pregnancies in a different light.
While times are changing (and I’m grateful every day for that), there is still the expectation that when you become pregnant, you’re supposed to change as a person. But hasn’t been my experience one bit. In fact half the time, unless my body is telling me otherwise or if I’m actively thinking about/planning for the baby, I forget that I’m even pregnant. Because while of course there is some shift in priorities, I am still the same person. I still run, I still take on every project I’m excited about, I’m still (very physically) working on renovating a house, I still pepper my conversation with plenty of swear words and dirty jokes, I still add dark twisted plots to the stories I write or work on, and I definitely still care about how I look.
When I first became pregnant, I joined a couple of online forums for soon-to-be moms and already-moms to share our experiences. I was taken aback at how much the idea of mother-as-martyr was still alive and well - at least on a surface level. I scrolled countless comments that fell somewhere along the lines of ‘as long as the baby is healthy, nothing else matters.’ And while I do agree that obviously the baby’s well-being is crucial, I very adamantly disagree with the ‘nothing else matters’ connotation.
Mothers do matter. Nurturing the women we were before we had babies matters. Our happiness, our health, our self-image, our passions, our personal goals - they all matter.
And it’s funny, because in these forums, I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Fears about loss of identity or the changes our bodies go through, anxiety about not feeling maternal in the rigid way we are expected to - it was all there, written out. But almost always in anonymous posts. I found it ironic in a way, that people only felt safe to be completely candid about their fears of loss of identity when they were able to hide their identity.
Going through pressure of putting my personality on the back burner and seeing the difference in tone when other women could speak without fear of being attacked or shamed, has made me appreciate even more my stubborn resolve to maintain my sense of identity through this process and through motherhood as well.
Seeing others deal with and dealing with the mother-as-martyr dogma firsthand also made me appreciate my own mother on a whole new level - not for what she sacrificed for her children, but for what she did not. Through her own offbeat approach to motherhood, from her blunt honesty, sense of humor, and imperfect optimism to her figure-it-out-as-you-go attitude and carefree middle finger at the status quo, she always stuck out from the crowd (sometimes like a sore thumb). And in doing so, she gave me the greatest role model a woman could ask for.
And that’s exactly what I’m hoping to do for my son. I want to teach him to be himself by being myself. I want him to learn to take risks because I take risks. And I want him to learn to be proud of what makes him different by being proud of what makes me different.
So to all you moms-to-be and mothers out there who love their children fiercely but love themselves just as hard, I salute you. I admire you. And I couldn’t be more thrilled to be joining your ranks.