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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Stop the pregnancy, I want to get off!

Parenting forums are a hotbed of emotion, and divided along party lines.  There are the SAHMs (stay at home mums), the working mums, the desperately TTC (trying to conceive), and so forth.  But these mums do share one attitude: they are almost exclusively pro-baby.

Heaven help the poor woman who falls pregnant and then gets stage fright. The forums don't offer a lot of comfort and companionship. God forbid that you should post such a thing and have it read by a TTC mum.

But really, is resenting one's pregnancy so rare? Or is it just that talking about it has become taboo, in this age of increasing fertility problems?

I'll fess up. I'm one of those mums who got cold feet.  Here's my pregnancy story... because maybe you're hating being pregnant, and shocked by the thought of the changes it will bring, and you think you're the only person in the world who's ever felt like that. And that maybe you're some sort of monster.


From the time I realised that I was a girl, and that girls had babies, I did the usual things that little girls do.  I thought about how many I'd have, what names I'd use, what they'd look like.  Fantasy babies.

High school brought the usual sex education classes, which in those days consisted of learning what to do with a baby if we should happen to find one on a doorstep.  Or something.  But in the highly academic private school I attended, that all seemed monumentally irrelevant- not just to me, but to my peers.  We were fast transforming into Liberated Young Women. The days of fantasy babies were long gone; we wanted, and assumed we would have, a career

And that's about the point where the two main types of woman I find on the parenting forums start to diverge- the ones whose self-love is based on partner-and-motherhood, and the ones whose self-love is not.  Instead the second type of women relies on her work, sexuality, lifestyle and/or activities to create her sense of self. 

But the pressure to reproduce is huge.  What with parents who want grandchildren, friends'  expectations and the irritating but ever-present ticking of the body clock, most of us cave in eventually.

Fast forward to my life as a married woman of 28. My career was going gangbusters. Finally I was teaching the right subject, the right way, in the right school, to the right kids, with the right colleagues.  I was writing music which was being performed regularly, even being played on the radio.  My students were in the top 10% of the state.  I was as happy as the proverbial pig in mud.

Cue comic card from a girlfriend: "Oh my god! I forgot to have children!"

Damn.

Went off the Pill for three months, and onto a diaphragm.  What the hell, if it fails, it fails. (Can you see a certain level of denial in my attitude? My head was firmly wedged in the sand to above the level of my ears. 'CAN'T HEAR YOU, LALALALALA....'.)

Tick, tick, tick...

What the hell.  Abandoned the diaphragm too. I probably wouldn't get pregnant for AGES, anyway.

And bingo, with a speed that would make the TTC women cry, it happened.

Happy? I'm meant to be HAPPY?

I cried.  I howled. I was completely irrational with grief. Suddenly the fantasy baby out there which I'd been putting off till 'someday' had lodged itself firmly in reality, and I was completely unprepared.  I couldn't see any way of reconciling my current way of life with the wailing bundle of uncertainty and need that was about to lob in the middle of my wonderful life. Maybe it was something to do with the onset of Crazy Gestational Hormones, but I couldn't find my way out of my misery.

It's not like I was even sick. I didn't have a single moment of morning sickness.  I had the perfect pregnancy.  I just Didn't Want Change.

Are you tut-tutting and calling me an ungrateful bitch? Go away. They're my feelings, I own them, and they're not yours to judge. Go AWAY.

The headmistress was obviously shocked when I told her.  Not by the fact that I was pregnant and she'd have to replace her most popular and successful teacher for a few months- oh no.  She was shocked by me saying 'Hey, it mightn't last, you never know.  Early days.'  And showing no signs of joy whatever.  She didn't have a clue what to say. 'Congratulations' was clearly not received well.

For me, it was a collapse of everything that made me me. All my adult life I had been building the life I wanted.  I knew exactly what happened to women who took their foot off the accelerator and had babies, because I'd seen it all around me with other staff.  They sank, never to be seen again.  I was already drowning.

So what changed things? Here I am, with a son who's become a successful adult and says I was a great mother, caring for little kids still and trying to give other people advice on parenting.  How the heck did that happen?

It's a bit like accepting death, really.  First you're in denial, then you're angry, then you grieve- and then one day something clicks and you accept, and go with the flow, because you realise that control is an illusion.  None of us, really, are in control.  And sometimes what happens is a whole new and exciting direction that you couldn't possibly have anticipated.

What made my 'click' happen was a friend's phone call.  She's one of those rather psychic types who has predictive dreams.  She knew that I had somehow pinned all my last hopes of sanity on having a girl; I'd been working with girls for five years by then, and I thought at least I'd have a head start.

'I hate to tell you this,' she said, 'but I had one of those dreams last night.  It's a boy, and he has blonde hair and blue eyes.'

We had a laugh.  My husband and I were both dark-eyed and dark-haired.  Yeah, right. 

But somehow that phone call turned the growth in my uterus into a person. 

I started talking to him. 'Okay, you're a boy. What sort of boy are you?'

That's where I get the part of my philosophy that says you have to treat your child as a person, every moment of every day.  Not as a chattel.  Not as a pet.  Not as an inferior. Talking to that baby in an adult way, from the time I realised that another person was there inside me, was the start of our relationship. 

And you know, from the time I realised that he was there, I got curious.  I got interested.  I started to wonder and then to feel what he'd be like. I listened to my intuition, and booked him a place at an academic boys' school. I short-listed names.  I talked to him constantly, played music to him, and discovered to my amazement that actually, I couldn't bear the thought of this little person not being wanted.

Surprisingly for such a liberated woman, I became anti-abortion.  Not for others- for me. I knew from that moment that I could never delete a child. So no more risks, no more Russian Roulette with birth control. I'd found I could want this child after all, but then it was back to my career- as soon as I could do it without compromising his care. Damn it, I would find a way to fit this small person into my life and still be me, but I knew that another baby would tear me to bits.

And so I started reading obsessively about parenting.  Damn it, if I was going to do this, I was going to do it RIGHT.  Information is power.  I didn't need any nasty surprises.

By the time my 9 months were up and my boy was born, I'd effectively done a parenting course at home.  When I snuck a look at the nurses' notes at the end of my hospital bed, they described me as 'an unusually confident mother showing a close relationship with her baby'.  Yep, that's the baby I didn't want to be pregnant with.

Oh yes- and by the time he was a few months old it was clear that he had blue eyes and blonde hair.

7 comments:

  1. So honest. So many people feel the way you did, yet fear that by expressing themselves, or sharing this information will persecute them. I love the way you write because it is raw, authentic and from the depths of your heart. Keep it up, people identify with what you write about.

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  2. I agree with Venus. there is something so raw and honest, and incredibly non-judgemental in the way that you write,... women all over the world are sure to be nodding in agreement. xx

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  3. In all fairness I must add that some women who read this took offence because they had, indeed, found some comfort on the forums when in distress. I'm glad that they did; perhaps some threads are immune to the sort of narky, judgmental comments that I've found extremely worrying in many opinion threads- even to the point of a whole 'clique' group joining in to bash some poor mother who's posted something they find threatening or vaguely ridiculous.

    But I also have to say that, knowing that those sorts of unpleasant people belong to the forums and have anonymous access to all threads (in fact some have been known to follow certain posters about harassing them), I would never feel confident to post anything that close to the bone.

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  4. Dear Aunt Annie,

    Here is what I would like you to talk about. Just recently I was visited by a distant friend of mine, who has sole custody of his two children, a seven year old girl and a five year old boy, both Aboriginal (he isn't). They're lovely kids, pretty as well as well-behaved, and he obviously adores them. They're in the process of moving interstate, and spent some time here as a part of the trip.

    The kids are dislocated from everything and everyone they ever knew and have no home base, so they're understandably a bit fretful. Wouldn't you be if the adults in your life were making decisions that changed your whole world?

    On the first night, one of his kids ended up in a crying jag, the kind where the kid is eventually crying convulsively, unable to stop, and probably unable to quite remember why they started. Normally I'd cuddle them, then shut the door on them for a while. He instead stood over the child and kept ordering her to stop crying, with increasing amounts of threat in his voice. He was trying to calm her by force of will and by command. I was appalled.

    The following day, we went down to the nearby seaside town so that the kids could have a bit of fun. I told him there were carousels, jumping castles and things there, so he said he'd let them have one ride each, because he didn't have a lot of money. Fair enough. But AS SOON AS we got down there, he plonked them on a ride - the ride of his choice. After that two minutes of fun, the kids were trailing around after us, bored and with nothing to look forward to, and getting increasingly miserable. If it had been me and I could only have afforded one ride each, I would have saved the ride till last, so that the whole time we were down there the kids had something to look forward to, and so that it would end on a happy note.

    After a long time I took pity on them, and bought them each an ice cream. Then instead of just letting them eat the ice creams as they wanted and getting covered in melted ice cream the way kids always do, he was hectoring them and standing over them telling them how to eat their ice creams and hurrying along the eating process, and took all of the joy out of the ice creams, making even something as fun as the ice creams stressful for the kids.

    Afterwards, when the kids were asleep, I gently raised the subject, and pointed out that the kids were ungrounded at the moment without a home-base, anxious about their future and quite naturally fretful, and he should cut them a bit of slack. I also mentioned the ice creams, not mentioning his behaviour but mentioning how stressed the kids seemed whilst eating them. His answer? "Yes, that's why I let them eat it any way they liked, and didn't say anything." What the -

    I'm not asking your opinion on how to handle the kids - I think I have a fair idea - but on how to handle the father. How do you talk to someone like that so that they are NOT offended and are likely to hear your concerns and maybe consider changing their behaviour, as opposed to saying stuff and getting them offended? I know I was too careful of his feelings to be forceful in our discussion afterwards but as a result of that I don't think he really understood how concerned I was about the effect he was having on the kids. I also don't want to drive the point home so that I lose the friendship.

    How do you handle PARENTS?

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  5. Okay, I'll turn this one into a separate post, Nisaba- way too much to say for this little comment box. Stand by!

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  6. i want to thanking God for what he did in my life through Dr MASADE with his roots and herbs.Dr IYABIYE who God sent to the world for my sake,i once brought my daughter who has suffered barrenness for 12years to him and he treat her with his roots and herbs.God confirm the word of his servant in her life and to the glory of God as at today,she is carrying her own baby on her back.i want to thank you once again Dr MASADE for the help and the happiness you have brought in my life any stander out there trying to conceive or facing miscarriage email Dr MASADE without wasting your time for the solution of your problem email via: masadeinstanthelp@gmail.com

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  7. I just want to give a quick advise to any one out there that is having difficulty in his or her relationship to contact Dr.Ogudugu because he is the only one that is capable to bring back broken relationship or broken marriages within time limit of 48 hours. You can contact Dr.Ogudugu by writing him through his email at ( GREATOGUDUGU@GMAIL.COM)

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