reset the 1 days without pregnancy tears counter, gorilla newborn bonding is trending on twitter *sobs*

I was doing pretty well for awhile. I almost lost it earlier this week when I went to the grocery store and brought home a seedless watermelon with every intention of eating half of it in one sitting, cut it open, relished the smell, bit into it and almost puked because it was overripe and mushy. I cannot convey with words the depth of my disappointment as I silently carried it out to the trash.
But then this morning, this:

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Had an appointment yesterday for an ultrasound to screen for any potential genetic issues, and a short rehash of high school biology class re: chromosome duplication in the human reproductive process, although I didn’t  really process much of it because 85% of my brain was concentrated on not peeing on the genetic counselor’s couch. For the ultrasound they say that a full bladder is required, and that one should drink 24oz of clear fluid an hour before the appointment. To which I think every pregnant woman could respond by paraphrasing the Hulk: My bladder is always full. Combine a constant need to urinate with a ton of water and an hour of wait time and then my bladder was so full it was pushing the uterus back and away from view, so then I had to go empty my bladder anyway in a shared bathroom with three doors, one of which I noticed from my seated, out of reach position was opened into a hallway, but I was operating on pure lizard brain by then and relief > shits given. Such, such are the joys.

The ultrasound was really neat, though, because most of the utter bewilderment and raw panic had been burned through the last time we had an ultrasound, and because it was abdominal rather than via a big phallic rod up jammed up in my business (though they would have resorted to that if needed to get a good image). The baby was visibly bouncing off my uterine wall and it gave me all the squishy mommy feels, because it seemed so much like exuberant little bouncy house bouncings in there that I could feel sort of awed and something like happy about it all.

The genetic testing was new to me this time around, and since I’m above x age for certain statistical probabilities of risks of x,y, and z to increase, we opted to screen for everything. This is a bizarre process, because these tests are done early enough in the pregnancy that you have the feeling that if certain results come back, that there are certain very hard choices that people have to make, but even though you get a 20 minute slideshow of what human chromosomes look like and a brief lesson on trisomy, those possibilities are never mentioned and you feel like a monster for even assuming  some people do choose to end pregnancies when testing shows certain conditions about which nothing can be done. If it were only me, I think I’d not test for anything, because if a screening shows a chance of something, I’ll make myself sick for six months worrying about it, and the cortisol onslaught would probably be more harmful than any genetic potentialities. I also know that even if tests came back showing something, I don’t think I could choose anything other than continuing on and hoping against everything in my cynical nature for the best, though I don’t judge anyone’s choices to do otherwise. Heavy shit for a Monday morning.

The way they do this particular test, the NIPT (non-invasive prenatal testing), is to have blood drawn so that they can count fragments of the baby’s DNA that are in the mother’s bloodstream from the placenta. Having watched Alien: Covenant this weekend, let’s just say that thinking too much about sharing a bloodstream with another creature, even my baby, makes me queasy. Thinking too much about the mechanics of the biological structure housing me as a person makes me queasy anyway, which is why I could watch the baby during the ultrasound but when they started checking out my ovaries I stared at the wall. I know consciously I’m just the illusion of a self delicately tethered to this meat, but I don’t want to think too much about the actual status of the meat, k? And I am a huge baby about having blood drawn. Huge. I once tried to give blood in high school and passed out during the health questions they ask you *before* the needle was even in view.

So despite having had a triumph of self control and having blood drawn last week like A Grown Ass Adult without incident, unless you count staring at the wall and stress babbling like a manic standup comedian, yesterday’s blood draw was rough. Bedside manner is everything; the wielder of the needle should not try to drag me back from my disassociation from my own body by meta talk about the process which she is doing, the status of my skinny veins, or any potential difficulties she foresees ahead, lest she drag me back from my vacation in Camp Denial of Reality. This lady was a nightmare, patting my veins and sighing, rattling tubes, et cetera, while I closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing for four counts in, four counts out like just I tell my poor anxious kiddo to do when he’s stressed out. Luckily my significant other was with me holding one shaky hand and with the other steady in the middle of my back in case I lost it. We aren’t much for explicit discussions of big feelings, but I have to say that feeling a steady hand on my back even when I’m upset about something that seems silly from another person’s perspective was a pretty big deal. As is being comfortable enough to be vulnerable and visibly under duress in front of another person. I don’t do that well.

It was good he was spotting me, too, because even though I made it through the draw process just fine, after she was done and had me hold the gauze chunk on my arm, she drew it back a few times and said, “Oh, you’re a giver.” That blew my fragile little mind and I started to feel pukey and floaty and to feel an urgent need to get off the exam table and onto the cold floor where I had nowhere to fall, which came out as a seated person insisting that she needed to sit down, so they just laid me down for a few minutes. Vasovagal response, maybe, where your heart rate slows and blood pressure drops in reaction to certain triggers. Since anxiety increases the heartrate, it’s unusual to actually faint from it, unless you experience a vasovagal syncope, which I think might be why I once passed out and crashed through a book display at a Barnes and Noble job orientation. (And never went back, despite working in a book store being a long-coveted job of my youth.) Yikes. My mom does the same thing over stuff like her kids getting injuries, changing earrings for the first time, or stabbing herself in the finger sewing, which is kind of hilarious, because she’s pretty damn invincible otherwise.

But we made it through the process, and we’ll have results relatively soon. What’s also cool is that we get a gender reveal out of the deal, since the chromosomes will make that obvious. I’m glad we’ll know that soon, and have been brooding a lot on what potential differences there might be in parenting a boy and girl as a person with a lot of complicated thoughts on gender and society. More on that after I stew, for sure. Also fun was that they think from the fetal development I’m a bit farther along than the initial LMP based estimate, and my due date is now Halloween, which brings joy to my black Morticia Addams heart.

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images of mothering…

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This photo is from my book stash, a Mode Illustree from the 1880s, if memory serves. I love it because it seems so candid for a fashion illustration. The woman’s hair is down, which seems a rarity in these old illustrations, and the affection depicted is something universal and warm, one of the best feels motherhood has to offer, really.

But there are many feels in motherhood, and people don’t usually talk much about the not-so-pretty ones outside of Roseanne reruns or feminist discourse about the economics of human labor. Somehow it seems rude to talk about the less than blissful elements without airbrushing them away with platitudes. It is all worth it, of course, but for those of us with a gloomier turn or problems with touch or physical proximity, there is much to keep to ourselves.

I have my first doctor’s appointment in about two weeks, at which point I’ll be nearly 8 weeks, and I have a laundry list of things to tell her. Please don’t worry if I cry every time I get off of the scale, it’s fine, I just get upset. I always get upset after a pelvic exam, please don’t be alarmed. It’s an invasion of body boundaries thing. Rationally, I completely understand the necessity of what you’re doing and I want it to be done, but I can’t help crying at the feeling of being overrun physically. My pulse goes crazy at the doctor. It’s an anxiety thing, I promise. I’ve had an EKG done with my GP over this. Needles sometimes make me pass out. I’m sorry I’m so intense. I don’t want to be this way and am deeply embarrassed by all of the above.

Maybe it would be different if my being felt less defined by its physicality than it does at this moment, but somehow, pregnancy makes me feel reduced to it, caged by its hormonal upswells and digestive tempests, an automaton that can’t help dropping into sleep mode when resources so often deplete. Capsules to take, pressures to measure, fluids to fill. I wonder if it’s similar to the frustrations of aging, when the will is strong but the body takes primacy with pained joints, physical constraints and dangers, easier fatigue.  I can sympathize with that kind of frustration.

I have a sister who loves being pregnant and who is master of her domicile in a way that I can only marvel at. Sometimes I wonder if it is possible to be allergic to progesterone and that’s why I fall into an almost immediate depression while my sister beams with excitement and enjoyment of the feeling of bringing another person into the world. I understand her reasoning for her feelings, but those buoyancies and happy forward lookings can’t cut through the fog of whatever it is that descends on me when I’m gestating a kiddo. People admonish me, “Oh, enjoy it. It will be the last time. This is a precious experience.” None of those things are wrong, but there’s also a shit ton of pain involved in this experience, and somehow, no one used this logic to gloom-shame me when my wisdom teeth were extracted, even though that was the last time I’d have that particular experience.

I feel like even writing that sentence is somehow a shameful thing. My great aunties would be appalled that I would compare a miraculous event like bringing another precious life into the world to something like having a tooth pulled. I am being flippant, really, but the fact that a certain range of feelings seems unutterable among polite people is strange to me when it’s a process that also involves me being pantless in front of strangers. I can’t feel excited yet, and I certainly can’t will myself not to be afraid. People act as if it’s a waste that I feel such apprehension. There is some truth there, in the same way that feeling any anxiety is a waste of energy. Anxiety is a deep, dark well of anguish that you fall into and climb out of over and over and over again, and though you know the process is a waste, you can’t brick it over. You know that anguish lies waiting to receive you, and there’s no vigilance or act of will that will stop your fall back in.

The cultural image of mother in our time seems a cheery, breezy thing, laughably neurotic about nesting urges or food cravings or teary-eyed at silly little domestic spats, but on the tv and the ad spread she is dressed in Breton stripes with whitened teeth in a sunny kitchen in a sleek, orderly beige house, yelling through a smile for her kids to come to a healthy, gourmet dinner that she either whipped up in a spasm of uncomplaining efficiency, or better yet, crockpotted on her way out the door to work that morning and plated up on a dish set that perfectly coordinates with her carefully curated decor.  She’s heath conscious enough to make her own baby food, but not opinionated enough to be off-putting or difficult.  If she breastfeeds, we never see the tension when she has to decide between making people with old school ideas about it feel uncomfortable or having to isolate herself and the baby for half hour chunks of time when everyone else is at the family BBQ enjoying themselves. We certainly never see her snarling obscenities at her breast pump at work, while she sits cross legged on a dirty bathroom floor to reach a power outlet and cringes any time someone tries the door.

Clearly I have nothing in common with this woman, except maybe the occasional Breton stripe. But imagine my surprise and my happiness to find this portrait among the Schlesinger Library portraits of breastfeeding women, alas unnamed:

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That expression speaks volumes to my heart, somehow. I’m unclear what cultural images of motherhood were during the Victorian era, though I suspect it must have been seen as a celebrated role if it would be photographed in this way. I know that the seriousness of her expression is probably more about the way people carried themselves in portraiture of the era. But I can’t help but love that look and relate to something in it more than the plasticized expertise or earthy granola joy imagery of contemporary maternity. That expression says I love being a mom but this shit is complicated and I have a lot of feels and I will cut you if I have to.