Friday, August 6, 2010

Losing It

Your body, that is. I had this great conversation with the friend last week about the unexpected hardships of having a baby. I knew that I'd be tired, and frustrated at times. I knew I'd be acquiring new skill sets rather quickly via the sink-or-swim method. I even knew that my body would change, I just didn't know how I would feel about those changes.

I've always been very into creating and living a persona. I like to plan outfits around a specific look, then act the part. I can almost guarantee that I'd hold my pinky out while drinking if I'm wearing a dress and heels. However, all of my experience in this arena was by choice. Even more so than pregnancy, birth changes your self-perception. During pregnancy, your body changes gradually over a 9- or 10-month period, giving you plenty of time to adjust to said changes and integrate them into your perception of yourself and into the perceptions those around you have. Birth essentially undoes all of that work in a matter of hours or even minutes, without your conscious consent. It's a challenge, to say the least.

Maybe this viewpoint grows out of a discontent with my birth experience. I had wanted to go med-free but caved after two days of back labor and got the epidural as soon as they would let me. After the spinal block, I promptly fell asleep since I'd been sleepless for both of the nights I'd been laboring at home; therefore, I wasn't as involved in the decision-making progress as I would have liked to be. I distinctly remember the doctor breaking my water; not because I felt anything - I didn't - but because he took my baby belly from me. I'd gained all my baby weight in my belly and nowhere else, my belly was beautiful. It was perfectly round and high. I thought about it as a big egg, sometimes, inside my belly. And after he broke my water, my belly collapsed around my baby, leaving something I didn't recognize. My beautiful, swollen belly had been turned into a flaccid sack with the tiny, writhing figure of my baby inside. I wasn't ready for that, and I didn't have time to process that change at all.

And this is only the beginning. Actually having the baby is a whole other story. In 6 hours, my body had completely morphed from pregnant to post-pregnant. It's not like it reverted to pre-pregnancy status, something I would have recognized as mine. It became something else, something completely new, that I'd never seen before and didn't identify with. It's only now, weeks later, that I'm finding the ability to figure out what this change means for me. I'd never really been happy with my body until I was pregnant, and it's a bit of a rude awakening to crash back to a state of dissatisfaction after riding such a high of self-esteem for so long.

I can understand, now, why a woman would want to have more than 1 child. It's intoxicating, being pregnant is.

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