Teach me to have a childlike heart
Here's the thing: pregnancy seems to free up some people to lose their inhibitions and speak more freely than they perhaps normally do. That's the only way I can explain why I've had numbers of people (including staff members at Ethan's school, and the plumber) ask if this baby was a "surprise." Then there is the well-meaning church member who for several months has liked to comment about how a. big I am b. tired I look or c. both whenever I see her. And then there are the touchers. Thankfully, I don't know many of those. As someone who's not normally a huge hugger, there's nothing scarier than someone you don't really know coming at you and wanting to touch your stomach.
But I guess that's not even what I mean when I talk about loss of dignity. Maybe it's the physical ailments. Any woman considering have a child should crack open the "What to Expect" book and jump to month 9 of pregnancy, the "What you may be feeling" section. It's enough to scare anyone away. I recently ran down the list, mentally checking off items. Heartburn? Yup. Swelling feet? You got it. Breathlessness? Check. And on and on. I knew if I attempted some much-needed deep cleaning around the house, I'd feel wiped out. But what's really bad is when climbing out of bed or getting dressed leaves you panting and wanting a nap.
Or maybe it's the visits to the doctor's office, being poked and prodded and studied. I had one doctor unceremoniously squeezing my legs the other day, reassuring me the "swelling wasn't too bad." The sharp pain jutting down my leg to the back of my knee was blown off as just "the baby sitting on a nerve." The male doctors? I have to bite my tongue with this certain one, because he likes to hand out platitudes or wave his hand dismissively. "Every pregnancy is different," he likes to say before I can even finish asking a question. I want to ask him to just pretend to care or listen, because he hasn't done this, and no matter what his books or his experience have taught him, he just doesn't know.
As I'm writing, I guess it's dawning on me, the real source of my indignation. Like new moms, it's good for pregnant women to hang out in "tribes." If you have a group of women basically going through the same thing, who are in the same stage of their lives, you can all commiserate instead of whining to everyone else. Only -- now I'm an older mom. Most people my age have moved on. Their kids are in middle or high school. They're not talking diapers but dating, for goodness sake.
This is a very weird experience, having grown up with parents who had me when they were 20; having a December birthday that always made me the youngest in school; starting several jobs where I was the youngest in the department.
There's nothing like pregnancy to expose it. Darn, when did I get so old? People my age are rejoicing at having some independence; getting their bodies into the best shape of their lives; working jobs and exploring hobbies and are decidedly not walking science experiments, like yours truly.
If I'm really honest, if I really want to shed light on some of that pride I supposedly don't have, I can see that for a long time, I kind of relied on being the youngest one in the room as a sort of excuse. If I hadn't "arrived" yet; if I did something dumb; if I didn't have all the answers, well, it was because I was young and naive. I don't have that luxury anymore. It's time to grow up. Of course, part of growing up is realizing that it's okay to always be learning and to be vulnerable.
In the end, it's all okay. My child is a gift and I already wouldn't trade her for the world. If I lose my dignity but gain a miracle, how can I complain? And like that long-ago song, about the childlike heart, about walking over the pride I claim I don't have? If being undignified means being more like a child...letting go what others think and of my own excuses...being real once again so someone doesn't feel alone in their struggles...having my flaws exposed...living honestly...loving freely...
...well, then I can shrug off a few well-meaning comments here and there, and I can soldier on through my ailments. The results are well worth it.