One of the many unnerving things about pregnancy, I have discovered, is its effect on my ability to function as a normal conversationalist (at least compared to my own baseline standard, such that it is). By this I mean that I am constantly at war with my own preoccupation with my physical self: I’m hyper-focused on minute changes in my body, and have to bite back the urge to share these observations with people who don’t give a shit (ie, everyone except me). It is Seth who bears the crushing boredom of my prattling about, say, a late-breaking ache in my pelvic bones brought on by the baby’s dropping.
I remember working with a pregnant colleague who answered my every casual a.m. “How’s it going?” with a detailed catalog of ever-changing but always grim physical manifestations of her state. It was really tedious, but now I understand the self-sensitivity that brought it on and I feel like a jerk for not having the insight to recognize her need to document what can be a very strange period of life.
Naturally enough, coworkers and friends want to talk about pregnancy and parenthood with me now, which is cool, except when it’s not. For instance, someone told me early in my pregnancy that she “couldn’t wait” to see me “fat and waddling around in flat shoes.” The fat thing…sigh. In my experience, most ladies have a pretty complicated relationship with weight gain, but in the context of your average pregnancy, there is not a question of fat, just the inevitability of natural, gestation-supporting weight increase. As for waddling and flat shoes, that shit only goes down in the privacy of my own home. I’m in heels every day at work, gliding around as sylph-like as I can manage while carrying a full-term baby. But that’s a stupid annoyance.
There are real conversational landmines with pregnancy and parenting that I had only passing experience with in my pre-pregnant state. For instance, labor and delivery. A sample query: “You’re not one of those crazy people who thinks she has to have an unmedicated birth, are you?” (So of course I totally am.) Sometimes this query comes out in a much more subtle form, but it’s always been from ladies who had to have c-sections. These ladies each also said some variation of this: “It’s not a contest.” But who is turning it into a contest, the interlocutor who prompted me to state my ideal-scenario preference, or me?
I think we both know, and the part that makes me sad is that the line of questioning and the defensive posture suggest to me that there’s a certain amount of emotional scar tissue around the experience of birth that these particular women had (not that they necessarily wanted unmedicated births, but all of them had non-elective c-sections for reasons related to their own or their babies’ health). I mollify these women with the truth, which is that an unmedicated birth is my ideal scenario, but that it is impossible to predict how I will respond to labor. It’s also impossible to predict whether the position of the baby’s head, for example, will create a literal impasse that will require emergency intervention. In short, I’m prepared to roll with it. What else can you do? Birth is an experience that is outside the boundaries of control.