not as i imagined it {ramblings}

Pregnancy has not been as I imagined it.

I don’t know what I imagined it to be, exactly, or even what I imagined it not to be. All I know is, what I have experienced is something I really wasn’t prepared for. I’m beginning to think that’s because there isn’t anything that can prepare you for what it means to create a human life from scratch. No books, no talking to other people who’ve been through it, not even a good and active imagination (which I most definitely possess.)

It’s not until you do something this powerful that you have any idea what it’s about, what it’s like, what it is.

On the surface, pregnancy has been much harder than I expected. This, even though I feel I’ve been spared much of the normal stuff – I had no nausea or vomiting in the first trimester, no increased sensitivity to smells, no hormonally-driven emotional swings. On the other hand, I’ve had things that I didn’t really expect :: a great deal of physical pain, insomnia (and resulting exhaustion), severe food aversions (to anything healthy), excema and other weird unknown skin conditions, constant congestion (who knew that pregnancy increases mucous production?) And of course, other normal stuff – heartburn, fatigue, stretch marks, difficulty rolling over in bed, swollen feet, getting up the use the bathroom every hour at night.

It’s not that I didn’t expect it to be hard – I did. But I think what has really thrown me is how much this feels like it did when I was really sick. A lot of the difficulties are the same, of course, so that’s some of it. It’s hard, for example, after working really hard to lose 60 pounds to watch the scale go in the other direction – even though you know it’s supposed to. It’s hard to be tired after you finally had regained your energy.

But it’s not really the physical stuff that’s been the hardest. It’s the emotions I’ve experienced as a result. I don’t like not being in control of my body…which is how I felt when I was at my lowest point with chronic illness. But I didn’t accept that. I went through five doctors to find one who would help me, read more about hormone balance than most students do in med school, and undertook a brutal diet/healing regimen. I fought and clawed my way back into a semblance of health. By the time we got pregnant (which we delayed longer than we otherwise would have because of my health issues), I was feeling really good. But I knew I wasn’t completely healthy…I also wasn’t willing to wait any longer. I was “healthy enough.”

But being pregnant is a little … okay, a lot … like voluntarily giving up control of one’s body. From the moment of conception a process is underway that is not controllable. It just is. Amazing, really – while our actions set the process in motion, once it’s going it’s an unstoppable force (unless, of course, one believes abortion is okay, which I obviously do not.) The body intuitively knows how to take this single cell and grow a PERSON from it, creating a safe home for this new life for nine months, even growing a new organ to nourish it.

An amazing process…one that I have no control over whatsoever.

For a person like me, having lost any semblance of control over my body due to chronic illness, and then fighting to gain it back — giving it up again was harder than I imagined. I am not one person now, I am two. I can’t jump headlong into extreme diets or detoxification protocols. A lot of things that would be “healing” to me would be toxic for my baby and I have to wait.

I’m not much into being a victim. So wherever I’ve been able to alleviate difficulties, I have. Between chiropractic, massage therapy, and alignment exercises, the excruciating pain I dealt with in the middle of pregnancy is absent, even though I am now nearing the end when people say there’s not anything you can do about the pain. I’m not above taking Tylenol when I have a massive headache or Benadryl to deal with the awful spring allergies that I experienced for the first time in my life.

But sometimes there’s only so much I can do, especially when I’m so tired I can’t see straight. The thing that has disappointed me the most, I think, is my self. I haven’t lived up to my own ideals. I haven’t always eaten the healthiest food (see above re: severe food aversions specifically to anything healthy), I haven’t exercised consistently, I haven’t always taken my supplements correctly . . . all things that probably would help me feel better if I could stick to them.

I wanted to be one of those women who love being pregnant. It took me over half my pregnancy, but I finally admitted one day (with many tears) that I’m not. I’m not that woman.

I am thrilled beyond belief to be growing a baby. I love this little life and I am so excited to meet him or her. But I haven’t really enjoyed the process very much, and even saying that I feel guilty. How can I not love every day of growing this new life? How did I lose the overwhelming giddy happiness of the first few days after that positive pregnancy test?

Sometimes, I think, I just expect too much of myself. (My husband is rolling his eyes at this point and saying, “Well, duh.”) I expected myself to do everything right. To eat the best foods, take all the supplements and do all the exercises and everything to have the perfect pregnancy.

And I’ve failed. I know that even if I’d “done it all” it wouldn’t mean an easy pregnancy – at least not with the state of health I was in at the beginning. But I can’t help but tell myself it would have been better.

So part of me just wants to be done. I know that’s a normal emotion at 37 weeks, but I think it’s more than that normal feeling. I want to be in control of my body again. I want to get back on the healing path. And there’s the thought…I want to get healthier so that the next time I’m pregnant, it’s not like this.

I guess there’s nothing wrong with that sentiment but I can’t help but feel that in some small way, I’m distancing myself from fully celebrating this pregnancy and this baby by already planning for the next one to be different and better.

I don’t want to create distance. It doesn’t matter how hard it is, I’m willing to go through anything to bring life to this child inside me who dances to Beethoven and likes to kick when daddy talks to my belly.

The fact is, I’m not guaranteed another pregnancy. While we hope to have more children after this, the fact is that we don’t know what the future will hold. Right now is all I have. This pregnancy is the only one I’m guaranteed to have. This child may be the only one that I hold in my belly, and even if I haven’t “done it perfectly”, even if there are many things about pregnancy that I don’t love, I love this baby. As the days tick closer to the birth day, I grow more and more excited to hold this child in my arms, to meet him or her, to get to know this person – this soul – that my body has grown over the last nine months.

I know that moment when I bring my child up to my chest for the first time, all the discomforts and difficulties of pregnancy will fade away. The only thing that will matter is the squirmy little person cuddled against me, the person that started as a “ + “ sign on a pregnancy test, with tears and laughter of disbelief. The person that’s okay with the fact that I’ve already not been a perfect mom – and am not ever going to be a perfect mom. The person that just wants to be held, and loved, and known.

That, I can do.