Pregnancy is so interesting. Immediately and constantly, people keep telling me that everything is all about the baby. I think that means I'm supposed to stop asking questions.
They said that when I was really sick for months, and I got a little depressed about not being able to get out of bed. "Just think of the baby!"
They said it when it looked like I might have gestational diabetes, and I was upset because there is already so much damn diabetes in my life. The type 1 diabetics closest to me: my husband, my father, my brother, my mother-in-law. "The point is just having a healthy baby! Just take the test and don't worry about anything else," people said.
"Don't provoke your doctor," people told me. "Be agreeable. They know what to do, and your baby will be fine."
They say it, I've noticed, about birth, in general. "Well, I had a TERRIBLE time, but they got the baby out and that's all that matters!"
They will probably say it about motherhood, later.
But I find myself caring about the in-between moments, before the baby, surrounding the baby but not necessarily touching the baby, and yes, myself, my body, my experience of everything.
That is selfish, I hear. Because I am now no longer one person. I am two people. And this other person, the tiny one who is poking me insistently from the inside as though trying to catch my attention, this is the one who matters most. That is being a mother, I guess.
But it can't be. There must be more to the story. I find myself disagreeing automatically.
I don't feel selfish for asking questions and reading books and trying to figure out exactly what I want and what I am comfortable with. The birth feels like a really big, scary, meaningful deal to me, for example, even though of course it is a brief thing, comparable to life afterwards, comparable to having a baby, as in living with a baby, raising a child. But you have to pass through the birth first, the way the baby has to pass through my poor little anxious vagina. God. Anyway. I want to make it as easy as possible, of course. I think "of course," but people don't come to the same conclusions as me.
"Don't overthink it," a relative tells me. "You're doing too much research. Just find a good doctor."
I thought that was what I would do. Not get all overthink-y about the whole thing. Just do what normal people are supposed to do.
But when I interviewed doctors, I couldn't help asking questions, and they seemed annoyed, even though I thought I was being very polite and smiling a lot.
"Look," I was told, "This is about statistics. It's not about you, as an individual."
"I'm not judging you," someone close to me told me when she heard that I wasn't happy with the answers I was getting. "But you know, when I had my baby, I cared more about the baby than myself. You know? I cared more about my baby being safe than about 'getting the experience' I wanted." I could hear the quotes around her words.
I get the impression that people sometimes think it's trendy to care about your own experience. It's kinda wishy-washy and hippie-dippy. I think sometimes people tell you you're being selfish to make you stop talking about whatever you're talking about.
Do I really need to say that I care about my baby's safety? Why would I let it grow inside me like this if I didn't? Of course I care. But my baby is a part of me. We are this shockingly intricate, interconnected duo, growing and changing together. And when things happen to me, they happen to my baby, too. So I want to reserve the right to make good decisions for both of us by making good decisions for me.
My body is rearranging itself from the inside to make space for this new being. My ribcage is expanding. Can you even believe that? My ribs are moving apart like tectonic plates on fast-forward. This shit is insane. And I am trying to make space in my mind and in my life for a person I created.
A few days ago, for the first time, the baby kicked me and I felt it. And the kicking hasn't stopped since. The first night, I froze, lying in bed, and then I told my husband, Bear.
"Weird!" he said.
"SO weird!" I said.
"We made him!" he said, clearly impressed. "We barely had to do anything, and now he's alive in there!"
"Hey baby," he said, going down to the baby's level. "I'm so proud of you. You're a great baby. You're moving around and stuff. I'm your daddy, and I'll love you even if you never accomplish anything else."
"You'd better accomplish some more stuff!" I told the baby. But I'm not even sure about that. I'm already kind of proud of him. I have this helpless love, expanding like my ribcage, mysterious, unstoppable.
But none of that stops this from being my body. My mind. I want to participate -- I can't prevent myself from participating. And I'd like to think that one of the things that will make me a good mother is my respect for myself. I like this body, and I've fought to like it, and it is a victory that I am sitting here liking it now, even as I share it with this new person who is changing me. I'd like to think that we'll both be better off for that.
A version of this piece appeared originally on Eat the Damn Cake