Found out I was pregnant at the end of March, and was quite obsessed with the fact for weeks, to the point where all I could imagine writing about was that. But we didn’t want to tell the internet at large until about now, the beginning of Trimester 2, in case. And then, from about two weeks after I found out until now, I’ve been really ill with “morning sickness,” which is a convenient name for what turns out to be a complicated, inconsistent, and inconvenient problem. You can’t even call it a disease, though I’ve felt, honestly, like I have developed a chronic disease for which there’s no cure, but a thousand ineffectual treatments. And I figured—who wants to hear about that? I don’t even want to write about it. My personal journal (leather, paper) has been uncharacteristically blank for the past weeks, too. I feel like I’m in some kind of limbo for people who have committed crimes of optimism. Which I possibly have, as far as pregnancy / motherhood goes.

I’ve told all the dear people in my life about my being pregnant, and when I told my very dear former professor, Matt Hearn, about how sick I’ve been, and how it’s preventing me from writing, he said, “Write about that.” This morning, after tossing my dinner, enduring a rather sleepless night of sweats and stomach-knuckling and nausea, and some pre-breakfast dry heaving, I decided to write about that.

When does it end? She said, looking up at the sky. I want to be interested in pregnancy again, I want to take all my pills and plan meals and do prenatal yoga and look gorgeous in maternity clothes. Most of my friends started feeling better (or downright awesome) at 10, 12, 13 weeks. And I’m still a small whirlwind of chaos and distress at 14 weeks. I’m still having “food aversions,” so sometimes I think I bring on the vomiting by just not eating enough, or not eating the right kind of thing, but last night after I threw up the peanut butter and honey sandwich I so faithfully made myself eat just before bed, I just came out to where Marshall was, lying on the couch playing with the tablet, and laid my head on his shoulder and cried some. The apartment is a mess, I’m a mess, and I can’t find an exit.

Crimes of optimism. I spent the last few years of my life romanticizing pregnancy, from conception to labor & delivery. I “loved” all of it, wanted all of it. Read books in which nostalgic mothers or mothers still glowing in the burst of post-natal oxytocin reminisced about the magic of pregnancy and of delivering a baby without drugs. The most formative book, probably, as far as my thoughts about pregnancy goes, is Beth Ann Fennelly’s Great with Child, an epistolary non-fiction addressed to a young friend who was pregnant with her first kid.

The whole thing is quite beautiful, of course, since Fennelly is a (really great) poet, but I’ve come to understand, since, that it’s also colored with nostalgia. Fennelly, at the time she wrote these letters, was trying for a second baby, and spent lots of time remembering her pregnancy with her daughter, who was, I think, around 4 or something at the time. But none of her memories—with the notable exception of a miscarriage she had, prior to becoming pregnant with her daughter—are of any real suffering (that I can remember). Maybe I’m having selective memory, here, but. And maybe, in all honesty, she was one of those “lucky” ladies who had an “easy” pregnancy. There are, I’ve found, quite a few of those.

But I haven’t read books about pregnancies that are full of disappointment, or suffering. It makes sense that people don’t want to remember that shit, and maybe even can’t remember it. Especially if they spent enough time not remembering. The loveliness of new motherhood, perhaps, dims memories of pregnancy, or casts them in an entirely new light. I’m inclined to believe it, especially since I’ve been writing my friend Rachel, who just gave birth to her first baby (though she had adopted, earlier). Rachel’s pregnancy was full of suffering—physical and emotional. As she moved into her second trimester, she started having heart problems that couldn’t be treated with normal meds (since she was preg), and which landed her in the hospital roughly 20 times over the length of her pregnancy. Medication she’d been given early on, before coming from the Caribbean island she lives & works on to her hometown in Ontario, had the potential to cause serious birth defects, and it was just a time of terrible anxiety, stress, and loneliness.

So when I wrote to ask for some insight on this peculiar time of suffering, on disappointment and loneliness during pregnancy, she said this:

“You know what’s funny to me? I too thought pregnancy would be so romantic, and during it it WAS NOT! But in hindsight I cherish it. I feel privileged to have suffered so much. To tell my daughter the story one day will seem like a grand adventure, instead of the misery it was. That’s the beauty of time, and memory. I think I can more fully experience the joy of my pregnancy now that it’s over.”

I wonder if anyone reading this post finds it resonant.  I hope so. I’m so lucky to have Rachel in my life, because I need these kinds of truths spoken to me, right now. I’m still so impatient, but it rearranges my inner furniture. Gives me a small vista. I can see a little further into the future.

 

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