When I got pregnant, I think it is fair to admit that I was a little shocked. That sounds as though the whole event was unplanned, which is actually the opposite of the truth. Dave and I talked it out and timed out the months that would be best for us to create a new human. But nonetheless, when I got a positive test I was kind of unsure of how to react. Unsure of what to do next. Unsure of what this exactly meant. Unsure of how to show joy, excitement, fear, and nervousness in one action. Surprise would be the best way to describe the look on my face while standing in the bathroom holding a stick of plastic that I had just peed on. Surprised, in a way, that the whole sperm-meets-egg system actually works. Just like they said it would in health class. Nearly halfway through, I still find that a bit hard to believe.
The next few weeks gave me some time to let this information sink in, since the opening weeks of pregnancy are kind of tentative. But even as the time passed, as we told our families and eventually our friends, I never quite got over that hump of trepidation, and I could feel it like a lump in my throat every time I uttered the words ‘I’m pregnant.’ Which wasn’t as often as I thought it would be, because I actually found it difficult to say.
Everyone told me, continues to tell me, that being unsure is a natural condition associated with motherhood. And I believe that. But this was something more, and I knew it. But I couldn’t put my finger on it. Until the mystery revealed itself, as most mysteries do, during a chat about life with girlfriends.
I am not, I realized, afraid of having a baby. I know it will be difficult, at times, but worth it, at all the other times. I know there will be new challenges and stress and adjustments. But I am going into that with open eyes to the evolving nature of life, open arms to our growing family, open ears for advice and words of comfort.
What I am afraid of is losing myself in this whole experience. A uniquely selfish fear for those with the luxury to contemplate it, I realize, but my biggest fear nonetheless. The last few years have been an obstacle course for my personal identity, something I always nurtured and explored and held very dear. After obsessively following my own desires for, well, all of my life, I began to follow Dave and his dreams. And along this ride, keeping a grip on what was me, what was him, what is us, hasn’t always been easy. Without a career, home, close group of friends always in physical proximity, I used my energy to devote to dogs, writing, yoga, and developing new and sometimes temporary friendships wherever we would be. And it’s worked, for the most part, to make me feel comfortable in the balance between him, us and me.
But upon becoming pregnant, and being smart enough to realize the profundity in our decision to have a baby, the difficulty of remaining ‘me’ began nearly immediately upon releasing the news to the public. A pregnancy and the subsequent baby the results from said pregnancy is amazing to mostly everyone, exciting to those who love you, and consuming to their questions about you. I find myself diverting conversations to other topics just to ensure that I can, in fact, still discuss other matters.
Having admitted to you that my biggest fear about motherhood resolves mostly around me me me, I should add that I am, of course, thrilled to be going through this adventure at all. I realize it is no small feat, I love the baby, want the baby, can’t wait to see him or her and go through all this with Dave. My fear of becoming known only as a mother, of my name being changed to mom, of my blog being seen as a mommyblog, is all just a small sidenote to my excitement over the adventure of it all. So why mention it at all?
I mention it mostly because, although I know many amazing mothers, nearly none of them have ever mentioned this quandary to me in our conversations about their lives. And I know I am not the first strong, independent and complex individual to contemplate the meaning of her identity among this maelstrom of emotions and changes. Crazy, socially constructed ideas of what makes a woman maternal tell us that questioning your role as a mother makes you a bad one, that wanting your own life and dreaming of showing your child that the world does not, in fact, literally revolve around them makes you neglectful. And I actually believe the opposite is true. I think that by adapting our family to welcome a baby is much more healthy than creating a universe in which the baby is the sun and the moon. I think that by agonizing over my future role as mother, wife, and most importantly what it means to be ME, I am doing my child a favor. The favor of providing an example of someone who believes our role in a family is only strengthened by our clarity of our sense of self. An example that reminds our future child, as my parents oh so gently did themselves, that while we would do anything for it and even as we love it more than could ever have been imagined, we existed, lived and loved before it came along. A beautiful, humbling and life-changing revelation that I had as an adult, as a cumulative result of those lessons my parents were subliminally teaching by making themselves and their relationship a priority alongside their children.
Moms who are reading this can save their breath with the mumbled ‘just you wait and see’ comments. I promise you I have no illusions about my cluelessness when it comes to what lies head. I know it’s big, I just can’t fathom how big. And you aren’t going to be able to explain it to me, either. I know our schedule will be a baby-based schedule, I know our decisions will be based around having a child to care for, I know that my definitions of sleep and fun and joy and worry will all change. And I am welcoming that. But what I can’t accept, won’t acquiesce, is that the force of all these changes has to sweep me under the rug. I am ready to grow, change, alter my perceptions, just as I was before I was making a human being. This is the nature of life. But I am not willing to accept a world where things like hobbies, friendships or interests that don’t involve the baby don’t exist. I’ll fight for the balance, and hopefully, eventually, achieve it for a brief second, inspiring me to fight on.