Every body is different. And all women respond uniquely to pregnancy hormones. Most of us are used to seeing pregnancy glamorized in movies and television: The expectant mother aglow with giddy joy as she decorates the baby's nursery. Or, on the flip side, crying irrationally, but somewhat cutely, while she polishes off a pint of something frozen and creamy. Every once in a while, you get the naive New York girl impregnated by the Dark Lord himself…but let's not get carried away. That last scenario (probably?) never happens.
Even before I knew I was pregnant, I was feeling more sensitive than normal. It's easy to see it in hindsight. As the pregnancy progressed, I hoped that I'd balance out. But, being 40 and pregnant, there were so many risk factors that the first four months were filled with tough decisions, waiting in agony for test results. Surrender. And there was also the fact that I was nauseous virtually 100 percent of the time, too.
My amazing partner wanted to bond more than ever during this time. He wanted to cuddle, massage my feet, make love. Mostly, I wanted to stab him. Don't get me wrong, we didn't fight, nor did I ever even attempt to pierce his skin with anything sharp. It was mostly an internal dialogue that made no sense, really. I know this, logically. I adore him and love his touch. The fact that I felt so disinterested only added to my stress.
Still, I wondered, if I actually stabbed the guy who cut me off in traffic or the rude cable guy while pregnant, would I be found guilty of murder? Am I not at least temporarily insane? THERE IS A HUMAN BEING GROWING INSIDE OF ME.
It's not uncommon for pregnant women to feel withdrawn from their partners and generally on edge. Nine months in the (hopefully) bigger picture isn't really that long. But when it's time filled with anticipation, discomfort and irrationality, it can seem like an eternity…and that's before the grand hormone finale of actual labor, which I understand is the Reader's Digest version of the last nine months condensed into a matter of hours. Oh, joy.
When you think about hormones, it's actually pretty incredible. There are more than 80 of them that play a part in our development. Our personalities are highly defined by our chemical makeup. Our day-to-day and moment-to-moment moods, too. Who we are, more or less, depends almost entirely on how these chemicals balance out in our bodies—not just during puberty, or in utero. Each human being is a slightly different recipe of hormones.
Now, at 30 weeks pregnant, we're in a birthing class. It's supposed to help us get more comfortable with our home birth and forthcoming (apparently inevitable) labor experience. While we discuss practical details like how long it may take the cervix to dilate, we also dive into the emotional realms, particularly as it pertains to our pregnancy hormones and how they effect our poor, unpregnant partners (whom we most certainly love dearly despite the hunch I have that every woman in my class also a little bit wants to stab her partner).
It's the horrified look on these men's faces that reminds me just how bizarre this chemical cocktail really is. On some level, clearly, they know they can't possibly understand or even change what we're going through. But, they're also men--with masculine hormones that make them like to tinker and fix things. They're people who think most any issue can be solved with sex or sports or beer. I envy this. Which just makes me more irritated.
And then there's my unborn daughter, who for the last several weeks has had at least all of her body parts lodged into my right ribs for hours at a time. I'm also pretty sure she has an Ikea catalog down there too and has been busy building large sectional sofas and entertainment centers. But, that's actually the least of my worries though. What I have trouble pulling myself out of is the loop running in my head that my "moods" are somehow going to have negative consequences on her for the rest of her life. This hardly seems fair.
Deepak Chopra isn't someone I would normally quote, but this one certainly makes me think twice: "The unborn baby is part of her mother's body. Therefore, a mother's thoughts, emotions, and feelings translate into molecules that enter into the body of her fetus." Not exactly reassuring to women who feel powerless to emotions, reactions and frustrations that are not uncommon during pregnancy.
Granted, I haven't ever really come close to stabbing anyone (really!). But pregnancy hasn't been all roses and baby clothes, either. As my due date draws nearer, I can't help but wonder if perhaps the vast range of emotions and feelings aren't just there to give our growing babies all the options and not some terrible version of ourselves for no reason. If, like Chopra said, our thoughts and feelings enter into the child, perhaps we're experiencing all this to help program her towards her own spectrum of emotions—to make her own individual chemical soup that perfect temperature. At this point, it's the story I like best. And if it keeps me from stabbing anyone, it's the one I'm sticking with.
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Image: katya alagich