I Can’t Take It Off

Today I am officially full term. But, that is not what this post is about – it’s just to tell you that this week on the blog will be a little pregnancy chatter heavy. And identity. And feminism. And all of that, because I am realizing they cannot be separated for me. Everything is a big stew of lady parts, my lady parts specifically.

On Friday a bunch of my favorite people from the office went to happy hour to wish another one of my favorite people bon voyage, as she was promoted and is now moving on to a different office. I haven’t been able to go to these events because by the time Friday rolls around my energy reserves are tapped out… dry as a bone… and I just want to go home and maybe have a pizza night with Kamel and then go to bed by 9:00pm. This was not always the case – I was a do-er! I was fun! I was social on Wednesdays and always up for happy hour and group gatherings! Bring it on!

Pregnancy for me has been saying a lot of no. Sometimes it is empowering, but other times it is really disappointing. And here is where identity comes into play.

I can’t take off my pregnancy. I can’t leave it at home or get it a babysitter. I can’t have Kamel look after it. It is on me all of the time. It is obvious to the world all of the time. And it is my job to protect it, not just sometimes, but – you guessed it – all of the times. And on Friday, when I had to leave early from the gathering to catch a train home, when I had to decline adult beverages for my soda water with an orange slice. When I had to have the same conversation I always have about how I used to drink, yes I did, and have the same people with their shocked faces say, “Really?! I can’t even imagine it!” it all just became overwhelmingly sad.

I am not always one thing. I am always lots of things, and I have always gotten to decide which one of those things I want to highlight at any given moment. Sometimes I am professional Lauren. Sometimes I am Kamel’s wife (yes, sometimes I am… and sometimes he for sure is Lauren’s husband). Sometimes I am creative, writerly, MFA Lauren. And sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I’m not a wife, or a writer, sometimes I get to be nobody at all – I get to wander around, go to a movie alone, go shopping by myself, no one knows me and I can blend into the crowed and just be with myself. Everyone is lots of things, I am not unique in this.

But now, though pregnancy is coming to a close (eventually), I am really struggling with being easily boxed into 1 thing. I am pregnant. I am going to be a mom. And this means something to people. It means that strangers can ask me when I’m due in the elevator when I would much rather just stand there, being quiet with myself. It means that every single person I come into contact with, who doesn’t know me at all, can make a comment or ask me personal questions. The guy at the sandwich shop, the lady in the lobby, co-workers, and strangers on the street, people on the train, people on planes, everyone has advice or kind words or a guess on when I’ll pop.

But ultimately, at the moment, it means I am not free to be all of the other parts of me. I can’t separate myself from this one thing. Pregnancy and me are the same. I take it with me everywhere. I never have a night off, I don’t have the luxury of staying out too late, having just 1 more glass of wine when I shouldn’t, taking spontaneous roadtrips, or even just…. being invisible. And this scares me, because I don’t want this to be what it’s like to be a mom. I want to have babies and I want to add this hat to my other hats, but I don’t want it to be ALL of who I am.

And just like I could have never anticipated what pregnancy would be like, I know that I cannot anticipate what it will like to have my child placed on my chest and have that relationship be forever. I don’t know what it will feel like. And that scares me too. I don’t want to suddenly change who I am. I don’t want to suddenly be ok with being only 1 thing. And I really don’t want the world to only see me as 1 thing. Simplicity is dangerous because it is false and limiting. And pregnancy, though a finite state, is a very long time. And I’m worn out with it. I need more than this. I’m ready.

22 thoughts on “I Can’t Take It Off”

  1. Are you in my brain?! What you say about pregnancy being completely about you is exactly how I feel. And it’s so weird because there is nothing else in my marriage that is like that – we share everything to some extent.

    I have also struggled with the fact that everyone can see so clearly that this thing is happening to you and feels like they can comment on it. It’s sort of like when you’re engaged, but at least if strangers don’t know then they generally don’t comment on it. Plus you can take off a ring…

    I guess, the thing is, you won’t only be one thing: you will still be you, a writer, a wife, a friend, a daughter. You’ll also be a mother. This is what I’m clinging to, anyway.

  2. I swear, if anyone is going to talk me into have kids, it’ll be you. The way that you’ve approached the whole pregnancy thing is remarkably comforting to me, Everything that you’ve described makes it sound more real, less whitewashed, and just a whole lot more approachable than the way many women I know describe having a child. Hearing you talk about it as everything from amazing to scary to uncomfortable to hopeful really is incredible. So I’m going to blame you if I ever change my mind from my no babies stance, mkay? πŸ™‚

    1. ha! I so appreciate that compliment! I am glad I haven’t completely scared people away, but also haven’t been totally “THIS IS THE BEST EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE!” If it was, I would for sure be saying that… but life is way more complicated than that. Thank you for hanging out with me while I talk about it!

      1. I think any woman who is saying that “this is the best experience of my life” is on crack. Because let’s be honest – it’s an incredible process, but not all of the reasons for that are good.

        1. They’re on crack or they’re in the vast minority. I know exactly one person who has ever talked about pregnancy like it was fun and about 3748 people who used to sit down and have pregnancy war story storytime. That wasn’t terrifying at all.

          But the interesting thing was I had the same reaction to hearing this stuff and visiting a friend with kids. Seeing the actual reality as an adult and not a kid babysitting for people let my brain calibrate what this could be like: good/bad/beautiful/ugly/scary/thrilling. All at once. That’s not a bad thing at all.

  3. You know… I am sure that when you are a mom, you will be able to wear that hat and all of the others too. I know because of what I *know* from you from reading you, because it is something that you deeply want and because I have seen it around me. I have friends who are moms, but are also all those other things: baker, sister, mother, friend, photographer, climber… I am sure it will be hard, I am sure it will require adjustment and most probably there will be times when it’s easier and times where your child deserves all your attention. But it does not mean it can’t be done. Also, you will learn along the way. I know I will bring my future children on our impromptu road trips and travels, right from the start. I will do what it takes. And there are blogs out there, of girls with children paving their way while being themselves. there is Cara of Peonies and Polaroids and Hill of Because my life is fascinating. I am sure there are more. I am sure you will be one of them.
    BTW; I went to an exposition on Jan van Eyck today. He painted a lot of pregnant ladies (lots of them were the Virgin, given he lived during the late Middle Ageas / Early Renaissance, but many were also “random” people). And I was wondering, would I have this deeply ingrained wish to be pregnant, to physically experience it (all of it, yes also the bad parts), to have a healthy baby that was made inside me, if I were a boy? Is this a yearning that comes with my lady parts? I know that Mark wants to have our babies too, our specific, particular him + me mix babies. But does he feel it in his body as well? Is this something that happens to boys?

    1. I asked Kamel about this on the way to work this morning. His answers weren’t as deep or rooted to his body. He wanted to have a kid by the time he was 30, he always wanted children, but it never became a deep down ache or a distracting thought. For those who really want kids, because they don’t have as many physical limitations as women, maybe the distract-able ache comes later. But I do know that we are definitely not the same in how we have mentally approached baby-making. On a biological, gendered, societal, hormonal level – we are just not the same.

      What does your husband think? I’m curious what other people’s male partners feel about this.

      1. Well as AmandaΒ΄s husband I can say that my baby wish has nothing to do with my body and everything to do with my mind. I see the baby both as a union of Amanda and I. The baby is proof of our love. Also it is a legacy of who we are/were. Seeing the text I just wrote it all seems a bit selfish to have baby, but I guess it always is in a way.

      1. whoops, hit reply too fast. Anyway, was just going to add that… I don’t see this yearning/desire as something that necessarily comes with having female reproductive parts. I used to feel “broken” (and sometimes I still do), but I’ve met or read about enough other women who also feel this way, that it seems like just another way of being. Now if only the culture at large could understand that. πŸ˜‰

  4. This is wonderfully written… I have felt this before and have never known how to say it quite so well. A lot of people become MOM when they have children, but I think it’s because they want to. I know some women who never intended to give up their other hats – so they didn’t. When I think of them, I see every side, not just their sweet babies. It is possible!

  5. I just came up with a cockeyed theory. Please forgive me.

    I wonder if in our age of go go go and social media (ie. communicating virtually and not in real life), if people that miss in-person social interaction see a pregnant woman and think that because she is a mother, so she must be a giving type of person. And that is why they ask personal questions. Basically what I’m saying is that pregnant women might be a target for socially-deprived people because in our culture mothers are supposed to be accommodating to the needs of others. Also, there are a set of ready-made questions, not weather related.

    1. Oh for sure!! I am freaking mother earth at the moment. And no one is mean (except for the people on the street bugging me to donate to 1000000 causes who always always always try and use my pregnancy to guilt me into it), they are all very cheery and kind and they just want to acknowledge me.

      Sometimes it is super inappropriate, like asking me if my boobs have started leaking yet … at work…. in a crowded room. Or telling me i should stop scratching my belly otherwise I will get stretch marks… or the cliche of telling me gross horror stories unasked. But in general! People are nice, just … boundaries.

    2. I’m feeling a little guilty here for every time I’ve asked a pregnant woman when she was due. (It’s the only thing I’d ask, because it’s the only question that didn’t drive me crazy.) But for me, especially in the first months after having Frances, I just felt incredibly connected to other pregnant women. Like we had all on through this crazy, life-changing experience. So if it seemed appropriate, I wanted to acknowledge that this other human being was going through this crazy thing too. But now that I’m far enough removed, I don’t ask random women when they are due any more πŸ™‚

      The constant commentary is annoying (and I think is just an extension of being female. There is this expectation that women will talk to you/want to hear your opinions on their hair/outfit/life choices. And being pregnant seems to make you EXTRA female).

      I like to hear your musings on this. Identity is a big thing. One that I think about. I will say that it is much easier to take “mother” off than it was to escape “pregnant”!

  6. I remember the first time I went somewhere without my brand newborn baby, I felt seriously weird. Like I finally got back to being overlookable, but since I also felt so deeply responsible for my baby human, it seemed wrong that I had no outward signifiers of motherhood if I wasn’t actively carrying my infant. It’s so true that oversimplification is tough. Congratulations on reaching term, though, that is amazing and I wish you every possible comfort in the last stretch before you meet your babe.

    1. Yes, Vmed, I felt the same way.

      And Lauren, I love this description of pregnancy. I haven’t seen it articulated this way before but it is spot on.

    2. Well-said, vmed! For me, that (going out without the baby, and just being an anonymous person again) was in *such* contrast to things like grocery shopping with the baby, where everyone wants to talk to you/comment/advise/etc. all about the baby. People tended to leave me alone while I was pregnant, so this was maybe extra-jarring to me.

  7. Amen, amen. I’ve been treasuring the little moments I have of wearing hats other than the pregnancy hat. Kicking butt on a problem at work, doodling for a couple hours, or trying out some new weird recipe (and then realizing I’m almost too tired to eat it afterwards, heh).

    Those moments seem to be fewer and farther between right now, and I’m sure they’ll get even more so for a while after the baby comes, but remembering to hang on to them has been a conscious effort, and I think it helps.

  8. As always, so much YES.
    On the plus side, once you have the baby, you *can* leave it with its Dad, or Grandparents, and go and do things without it, so there are ways for you to be out in society without being “mother”. Of course, the first time, you’ll frantically worry about the poor thing, but it will probably be completely fine.

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