“You’ll change your mind.”
“We’ll see how long that lasts.”
I spent 25 years telling anyone who would listen that I would never, ever have kids. They stared at me with the condescending eyes of experience and usually sighed a painfully sarcastic, “okay.” Each response was ammunition in the arsenal of my stubbornness. Another year would tick by of my life without the weight or pressure of any biological clock. When my mother would ask when she will become a grandma, I’d point her to my older brother. I lived my life for myself– and I never, ever wanted to change that.
That was what my ancestors broke their backs in plantations and endured endless tortures for, no? So that I could live my life as carelessly and recklessly and selfishly as I chose. My life was the one they dreamt about when they were young but were quickly trained to not waste energy on. I was a reverie whipped out of them before puberty.
To me, motherhood was weakness. It took no special talent, no skill, no finesse, no luck. Too many people had done it, too often for too long. There was nothing unique about being someone’s mother– about sacrificial love. It didn’t interest me; not in the way a high-earning career did, or fame, or even romance. Motherhood meant settling, (an idea that probably wouldn’t have even made sense to my ancestors) and that was my greatest fear.
But the magic of feeling your son twist and bend inside of you was completely unknown to me, of course.
I have had a very easy pregnancy, in all truth. At least physically. Emotionally and mentally might be another story. But as I write this and consider the woman who had a baby that had a baby that had a baby that had a baby that had a baby to have me… I wonder if I dare even consider anything I’ve gone through during this pregnancy as greater than a minor inconvenience.
Pregnancy has been an unending unraveling of my mind. There is quite a difference between knowing there is a life inside of you and seeing that life on a screen and hearing that life’s heartbeat and feeling that life underneath your skin. Quite a difference. It’s spiritual, almost. In the same way that you know God because your parents told you about Him, but then you experience Him at some random age and think you know Him, and then you find yourself in the most painful situation of your life and truly meeting Him for the first time, for yourself. I haven’t met my son, yet, but I imagine it is the closest I will come on Earth to seeing my Savior.
Pregnancy makes you hyperbolic, as well.
It turns out that motherhood is not settling. Quite the opposite, I’d attest. It is the ultimate ambition, the grandest venture. Wanted or not, planned or otherwise, willingly or unwillingly– we as mothers have entered into an agreement with God Himself, the Earth He created, and every soul your child will encounter to be the best versions of ourselves, indefinitely, for the sake of this human. It’s a cause as noble as fighting for your country, as terrifying as death and as brutal as the life of my beloved ancestors.
If you are experiencing your first pregnancy, as I am, or thinking of becoming pregnant, or someone in my family that’s been dying to tell me “I told you so,” or just curious about me for some dumb reason– I have plenty of non-advice and anecdotes to share.
The First Trimester
If you recall with me the scene in Cinderella where she twirls and gets bippidy-bopped into a blue-dressed-prom-queen, you’ll note how quick and seamless the transition is from peasant to pageantry. Pregnancy is the antithesis. Your “twirl” will be more like a slow spiral, and not only will you go from beauty to pure humility, you will go from a version of yourself you know very well and potentially came to love, to a total stranger. As your body becomes less of your own, so then do you. Words you’d never say slip off of your tongue, surprising you and whoever they sting. Moods you typically avoid nestle themselves into your everyday. Everyone’s patience wears thin with you, including yourself.
Pregnancy makes you pretty miserable.
It’s the same type of miserable as a hard workout or sitting in a chair for six hours to get your hair braided: excruciating, time-altering, but necessary for growth. At least, that was my experience. The fatigue will encompass your entire life. The mood swings and the emotions will wreck you. The hunger and the desperation to feel or see any difference in your body will leave you in a perpetual state of doubt. Add to this getting rid of coffee and alcohol, and this may be the toughest three-months… ever. But you will survive. And a dance party is on the way.
I, the selfish, vain extrovert that I am, have a very hard time being told what to do. Not in the appropriate circumstances, mind you. If you are giving a TedTalk, or a physical trainer or saving me from a fire– certainly I welcome your direction with an open heart. However– be you my peer, my heart closes immediately. Being instructed by you, though well intentioned, I’m sure, sounds as if you don’t believe I am smart or resourceful enough to figure out whatever you are telling me on my own. The first trimester is a deluge of this type of communication. The unsolicited advice buries you. Any magic you feel at the loose grasp you have of this pregnancy is instantly squashed by the knowledge that absolutely everyone in your world has already done this, several times, and has something to say about how you should do it. If there is beauty during this time period, it’s a boombox that is constantly being turned down by a bunch of people telling you about how much better their music is.
My advice to you during the first trimester is no advice at all. Your doctor will inform you of what you need to do and not do. You will conduct your own research on the questions you have. I trust that you have a mother, sister, aunt, cousin or friend you trust to consult during your times of confusion. If not, do not seek me out, I have nothing positive to say to you about this time.
The Second Trimester
Back to Cinderella. The clock strikes midnight. Her carriage “boops” into a pumpkin; her hair *bops* from an up-do to an up-don’t. She’s gone from a sleepy, romantic waltz to a full on sprint in the stroke of a clock. Prince Charming (or whatever his name is) is about to find out who she really is and she’s gotta BOUNCE. This is the instantaneous energy that comes from the second trimester.
For me, I didn’t wake up and suddenly have the energy of a thousand cold brews as the army of mothers from The First Trimester had promised. But the cloud of fatigue and moodiness either evaporated or became such a part of my life that I no longer noticed/was bothered by it. My energy was spent on things not of my nature– cleaning, organizing, taking better care of myself, etc. I found myself restless and desperate to “do,” which is in complete contrast to my non-pregnant personality of “treat-yo-self.”
This was a welcome change.
My advice to you during the second trimester is still no advice. The app you’ve undoubtedly downloaded will have more information than I could ever spit out. You will have identified the people you trust to guide you through your days. You will have become very familiar with your doctor and her staff by this point. Enjoy getting fat– it’s sort of fun.
The Third Trimester
I am freshly into this time of my pregnancy. Very freshly. Barely 28 weeks. My son feels like an actual part of my life at this point. To compare him to God like I have been so blasphemously doing this entire time, he no longer feels like a random thought or daydream but my entire world. My physical world. Someone I walk with and know intimately. Time is moving quickly and slowly at the same time. I am anxious and content, tired and energized, ready and terrified.
I no longer feel like “myself,” (whatever or whomever that was) but truly just feel like Gunner’s mother. This is the epitome of why I opposed motherhood for so long. Dying to self was the biggest resistance of my life.
It took me a very long time to love myself. 20+ years. I spent so much time wishing (and by wishing, I truly mean crying out to God from the depths of my being) I were something else: less black, blonde, taller, prettier, more black, thicker, smarter, etc. Once I grabbed hold of Kelsea and loved her, I never wanted to let her go. Like… ever. Hence the severe selfishness. But– to paraphrase CS Lewis— God has been “gutting the house” of me, if I may attempt to interpret His work. Removing load bearing walls and ripping up flooring. It’s been painful and ugly and, perhaps at times, traumatic, but I feel that I’m nearing the “walkthrough” stage. There is drywall and plumbing and maybe even electrical. I am nothing like the old house, though my bones are the same. I’m now a flip… anxiously awaiting my crown of shiplap and decorative lanterns.
My daily life can be marked by one word: discomfort. Lying on my back is a death sentence, lying on my side is a death sentence, sitting at my office chair is a death sentence. I die, daily. But I’m reborn again with every flutter and kick and stretch of my abdomen. The purpose I was called to fulfill– the me I have been meant to become– is also growing more and more uncomfortable. This is somehow… comforting.
My advice to you during the third trimester is, again, none at all. You are the very first woman ever in history to ever be pregnant with YOUR child in YOUR body but also take comfort in knowing that millions of women from the dawn of time have been doing this all over the world. You are a strong, powerful life-giving source and the most precious, delicate butterfly. This is the most euphoric and the most painful thing ever. Just be in it and experience it and write something down once and a while about it.
“It will all be worth it.”
xo Gunner’s Mama