Monday, November 28, 2011

Having a child changes your life.

I'd heard that before we became pregnant, but there was no way for me to truly understand until we actually experienced it. It isn't just your responsibilities and priorities that change, it is your entire perception of the world around you.

Actually, I'd heard that too. There really is no way to explain it. It is an experience.

I'd always resented women who acted like they knew better than everyone else just because they had given birth; as if getting knocked up and pushing a baby out of your vagina somehow made you an instant goddess. As if you weren't already a goddess, or just a bitch. You know the ones I mean. "Well I had a baby, so your opinion on the socioeconomic crisis of our generation is invalid. I had an intervention free home birth while eating fair trade, cruelty free, organic, hand made, vegan burgers." And so on...

And then I became pregnant.

In pregnancy and birth there are a LOT of hormonal changes in a woman's body. Sure, I get that. Pregnant women are 'crazy', right? Well, I never felt crazy. I felt many things, but never out of control. I felt a lot of fear though, and I can see how that might make someone a little batty, especially if they do not have the coping skills to deal with such a large and prolonged amount of terror. Luckily for me I have years of therapy for PTSD on my side, and so becoming pregnant, and even having my baby 5 weeks early was manageable.

This is with no thanks to the barrage of information that was hurled at me, telling me that if I ate canned beans or had a hot bath I would give my baby autism, and so on. Eventually I had to stop. Stop reading the news. Stop looking at things on the internet. Stop, take a deep breath, and enjoy my canned beans in the bathtub.

So, maybe these women weren't actually the puffed up turkeys I'd thought. Perhaps they were only overwhelmingly relieved, and just happy to share their experience. Or perhaps they were just bitches. Personally, I think you can be empowered without invalidating the experiences of those around you.

So, how does having a baby change your perceptions?

Definitely, there are physiological changes. I feel different. This, actually, was quite unexpected. I mean, obviously my body was going to change, but my mood and attitude has changed. I mean, I guess that is obvious too. Hormones change the way we feel, but somehow I just couldn't conceptualize the way those feelings would translate into my everyday life. I feel connected emotionally to everything around me.


That dinner I just made? I am excrutiatingly aware that the meat is probably from some tortured factory chicken, and the cream in the soup is from some poor dairy cow that is pumped until she is dead while her baby is slaughtered for veal. However, we just can't afford organic chicken. and I'm not about to stop eating meat. I think protein is important for my brain. I CAN make sure I am buying as locally as possible, and supplement with greens from my balcony garden.

I still can't read the news. Now, because I am seeing through a mother's eyes. Not that stories of children going missing and the like didn't make me feel sad before, but now, they break my heart, and I think about them for days. What if that was my baby?

So with this new awareness and connectedness, comes the realization of the limits of my own power. I have become well practiced with acceptance.

It has changed the way I think about my relationship with my own mother as well. When I am holding my son in my arms and feel that strong connection, that fierce love, I realize that my mother must have felt the same. Maybe she still does. Which makes me realize how terrified she must have been while I ungracefully flung myself into the deep, scary world as a young woman.

I suppose these feelings could all just be a byproduct of sleep deprivation. It's been 10 months and I still haven't gotten more than (generously) 5 hours at a time. This makes it much easier to be witty on the internet than in person. In person I am a zombie.

It could be the reality that the consequences of my actions directly affect more than just me. Not that I didn't already know that, or that it wasn't already true, but now, the reality is immediately apparent. This innocent being relies on me. I mean, a whole little person. My choices about and around this person will shape their very character and ability to achieve in adulthood. This becomes more and more apparent as he gets older and you can literally watch as the neuronal connections are made. Watching a child master cause and effect is a good example of this. It's amazing. And terrifying.

So yeah, things are different. I am different. Because I am changed, my life has changed. Or maybe it's the other way around. Or perhaps the two are mutually inclusive.

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