Posted by: emjb | December 16, 2005

Glamour, drama,temptation

I have only recently been able to go back to reading the parenting/pregnancy forums that took up so much of my time before Nathan came. For obvious reasons. The whole topic of pregnancy and labor was just way too painful to read about, especially about women who had had easier births. Which is a lot of them, and that’s a good thing.

Anyway, when I do go over there now, I feel this longing to belong, to be like those other mothers, by trying again but this time doing it “right” and having a vaginal natural birth. Which is a temptation I am not giving into…the question of another kid is not resolved, but if we did do it, it wouldn’t be for that reason. I mean, Jesus, it’s not like we didn’t go through a wringer this time; risking a remotely similar experience isn’t something I take lightly. And then there’s the logistics, you know, the money and time. The second kid is often the one that puts you on welfare, if you’re not careful, if your finances aren’t in the best shape.

And besides, Nathan isn’t a trophy. By which I mean, he isn’t a prize I got for going through birth, he is the goal. Not the birth itself. To fixate on having a “do-over” out of some macho pride or desire to fit in is to treat him and a hypothetical second kid as if they aren’t important in themselves.

It’s weird to feel this way, because normally I’m not at all competitive. I just don’t care whether I measure up to other people’s standards most of the time, because I’m happy with how I measure up to my own. But I guess my own standards in this area have taken a beating. I really really do believe in natural childbirth, in breastfeeding, in more respect for laboring and birthing women from the medical establishment. It’s not a spiritual thing so much as a psychological one; I still believe encouragement and the right setting and coaching can make a lot of difference in whether a woman needs a c-section or is able to give birth vaginally, and in the ease with which she can do so. I just can’t point to my own experience as proof of that, and I suppose that’s what hurts. My own experience, for whatever reasons, fell outside those ideals. I can’t be sure that even in a better setting I would have been able to have a vaginal birth, because I don’t know exactly what went wrong this time. So my belief in natural childbirth ends up being much more faith-based, I guess, than I would like.

I don’t like failing at the goals I set for myself. I tend to lie awake and think, now if I did it again, this is what I would do to try to make sure it went better. Knowing that even if I did, the outcome still wouldn’t be entirely in my control. Though I’m pretty sure I could at least end up at a less crappy hospital.

And it’s not like giving birth is the only thing I plan on doing with my life, is it? How much time and effort do I want to spend on this process…what else can I be doing with my brain besides obsessing on the state of my womb? I think a lot of women have this same problem; birth is so Big and Dramatic, and you get so much attention, and there’s all this excitement and anticipation around it. It makes you interesting to other people, to be pregnant. And when you’re not pregnant anymore, that attention goes away, gets transferred to the baby. And you miss it. I think a lot of second pregnancies which are “unplanned,” might happen for that reason. I mean, it’s not like having one baby makes you forget how to use birth control, is it?

Nathan is, so far, not a very difficult baby, as babies go, and maybe that’s part of it; I don’t have to spend all my energy taking care of him, so it’s easier for me to believe I could do this again, but better. I could get into the club, pass the test, demonstrate my womanhood, whatever the fuck it is that I think having a “successful” natural childbirth means. That’s just messed up, and I don’t want my brain making decisions that way.

Maybe this feeling is so widespread because we women in general aren’t expected to test ourselves physically, to be competitive, except in this one arena, this arena no man can compete with us in. Men have sports or commerce or politics or art, but we have childbirth, and child-rearing, and we pour all our frustrated competitiveness into it because we’re allowed to, we’re not made to feel unfeminine for caring about how good a mother we are from conception on. Magazines and tv shows and books feed into this, they’re aimed at us, constantly warning us of dangers that might keep us from our goal; what to eat or not to eat, what dangers threaten your fetus or child, what you should be doing to further their potential. It’s very seductive, in its own way, if you’re a woman, if you’re used to being ignored or considered less important, being put in the background. Suddenly you’re the most powerful person in the world, you can make or break another human being just by picking the right books to read to them.

I’m calling crap on it, though. All of that shit. I’m not going to let myself stew in those obsessions or define myself that way. I am more than that, whether the shitty women’s magazine industry knows it or not. Nathan needs me to be a whole person, and not to make him the center of my world and the focus of all my ambitions.

To be honest, I’m still deciding what I want to be when I grow up. I was hoping that motherhood would be some help in clarifying that for me. I’m not sure yet if it has.

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