Confronting the Panicky Truths of Impending Motherhood
I feel very mortal. I am overwhelmed. Elated.
I feel surreally capable of my body’s ability to deliver my son. And yet I haven’t slept in three days because, at the same time, I know I will panic and want to turn back.
I know I will feel out of control — or, at least, that it is one of two equally possible routes I can take.
One, proud and confident, I will give birth standing up, looking like Medicine Woman, and I will grab by son from beneath me to hold him up in the air like Simba in The Lion King. The other, hysterical and afraid, I will scream, “I can’t do this” while my child enters the world and instantly judges me for my weakness with his shifty, baby eyes.
I have never leaned into the gravity of anything. Throughout my life, I have been found mocking the very ground every meaningful moment stood on. I am the type to spit out a spurt of laughter at a funeral or undermine the weight of days like my wedding or college graduation with a tacky joke or two.
But I can’t run from the weight of this.
This is unmistakably real. Now, 32 weeks in the oven, my son kicks and squirms against my organs and the front of my belly for several hours of every day. With each movement, I picture my husband holding an infant — I have never had a doubt that he will be a near-perfect father. I think of little drawings in crayon, taking a toddler to the zoo, and I have the most vivid image of the tiniest hand wrapping itself around my forefinger and giving its first squeeze.
And at other times, I can be reminded of the triviality of procreation — as mammals. It isn’t just the few newly sprouted, sporadic hairs popping up in unexpected places from the hormones — I can really see myself as a talking monkey. It feels animalistically necessary to have a child.
I am very aware of my total lack of choice in the whole matter at times. And others, it feels profoundly evolved to think of having a child, to open yourself up to that kind of purpose.
But selfishly, I spend a lot of time thinking that I need to be thought of as brave after this is all over. I need my son to hear a certain kind of story about me. It feels a bit manipulative, in a way, to purposely try to react or create a story based on how you want to be perceived. But I have spent my whole life to this point never really caring what another person has thought of me. I have been known to callously snap at close friends sometimes. I am capable of being rather classless at others. I have never really cared if people thought I was foolish.
But I do care about what my son will think of me. I care what my husband will see in me — what kind of person will I be while experiencing the worst pain I have ever encountered?
Will I reveal some ugly truth about myself? Will I be weak? Will my son know I spent months being afraid of his arrival? What will it feel like the first time my son sees a less-than-admirable quality in me?
And if we don’t try to aim to be the best versions of ourselves, how we can be expected to get anywhere close? If we aren’t willing to say we feel brave even when we feel scared, how are we ever meant to learn to embrace one feeling over another? Can’t a human choose what type of person they want to be, even if, at first, it starts with an optimistic lie?
So I started weeks ago, saying to myself out loud, “You are brave. You are well and will be well.”
And then I barely believed it. But as we get closer, it’s starting to sound possible.