It would appear I have come to the point in my pregnancy where people start asking ‘are you ready to be DONE yet?’ and I have no answer ‘nope.’ While it’s true that I’m bigger than ever, prone to heartburn and aching in places I can’t mention and insomnia despite exhaustion, I’m still enjoying this phase of my life. I know enough to realize that heartburn and crotch pain and sleeplessness will only end when I start with sore nipples and crotch pain and sleeplessness. That will come soon enough, so for now I’m enjoying having the baby inside my body, where it’s only mine, safe as I can keep it, and unable to make noises that I can hear. (if I am still pregnant in 5 weeks, I very well may change my tune and start chanting ‘OUT OUT OUT’, but for now, this is where I stand)
One of my favorite things about being pregnant is discovering a new kind of sisterhood. I’ve always held relationships with women very dear. Most of my role models and confidants and best friends and favorite humans are women who have come into my life any time from the day I was born up until and including some I met last week. Some of those women are mothers, some of those women are expectant mothers, some of those women don’t want children, but all of them came from women and have shown me a new part of themselves since I started growing a person.
If you spend 10 minutes browsing the blogosphere or message boards on baby websites, you will soon find that all the connectivity that technology gives us has created the perfect storm for an extremely hostile environment. Competitive mothering has become some kind of sport that women seem to excel at with gusto. Make a post on a blog or a message board about how you plan to give birth, circumcising or not, vaccinating, breastfeeding, being a working mother or a stay at home mother, piercing a baby’s ears, dangling your baby over a balcony, and expect a firestorm to unleash. Women judge each other harshly, probably because they feel strongly about what they believe is best for their offspring, and get kind of crazy about it. Even non-parents get in on the judging. Let’s face it, the internet can bring out the crazy in anyone. Even when it’s well meaning, having children seems to bring out the strongest opinions in even the most neutral of women. If you’ve never felt the stinging smack of competitive mothering, you are either the most unaware woman on the planet or don’t have internet access. And if you’re reading this, I have to assume it’s the first one.
The best way to avoid the trap of all this judging and bickering is to be both confident in what you believe but flexible in how you feel. It’s fine to feel strongly about issues, it’s fine to share your feelings with women you know, it’s ridiculous to think that you know better than them if they don’t feel the same way. I read and think and discuss and research more than I probably should, and after I form an opinion I put an asterisk next to it in case I need to change my mind later. Becoming a mom scares me because that’s not all I want to be, but I also want to be really good at it. A couple of weeks ago I wrote an e-mail to my friend Caitlin, catching up on all the happenings of my life, rambling on for many paragraphs. She wrote back like a good friend does, answering my questions and posing more and then gently questioning…how is the pregnancy going, how is the baby? I wrote a huge e-mail and didn’t bring it up ONCE. I felt at once both pride, because I obviously still had other thoughts in my head, and horror because GOOD LORD what kind of woman doesn’t even throw in a tidbit about her bump or baby name lists or adorable onesies? And I realized right then that avoiding the judgement of others is never going to be as hard as avoiding my own.
So with all this potential for judging from other women, the internet and myself, what is this new kind of sisterhood I have found as a pregnant woman, you ask? I’ve found that in this phase of life, when so many of my friends are joyously reproducing (my bestest best friend being just one of those), when my mom is discovering a new role, while my sister already begins to spoil her niece/nephew, as my niece grows up before our eyes, my sisters-in-law grow closer to me as we all grow up, when my friends who don’t want or have kids continue to see me for me, can be a time when I grow closer to other women, not further apart. Becoming a mom doesn’t have to isolate you, even if you do/don’t do things the same way. Unless the mother next to you is feeding her child rat poison while sticking it with pins (and please do call the police), chances are she is doing the best she can with what she has and knows no more or no less than you about what is the ‘right’ way to do things. If your friend doesn’t want kids, it doesn’t mean you can’t talk to her about yours or maybe be grateful for a friendship that can be more about you as you than you as mommy. Becoming a mom won’t make me more of a woman or less of a person, but it is changing me and helping me see the many facets of the support system I’ve been lucky enough to have growing around us over the years.
So to preempt your question, at 36 weeks and 5 days of pregnancy, no, I’m not ready for it to be over. I’m going to waddle around and get sympathy from people at the grocery store and eat a second dessert and wear Dave’s clothes because even my biggest are too tight. I’m going to take advice and feel the love and talk to my baby before it comes out squawking back at me. I’m going to foster the sisterhood, stop competing with myself, and then eat a THIRD dessert every day until this little buddy arrives on the outside. Because then it really begins.