This week is a bit of a countdown for me as by Saturday, the baby is deemed cooked enough to be able to be delivered at the hospital I have chosen rather than at the women’s hospital specialising in preterm and emergency type deliveries. It is a big milestone because it says the baby is able to survive outside the womb etc.
I had my doctor’s appointment yesterday and started working on my birth plan. I have to say that choosing a doctor is one of the most important things (and privileges) to me. With my various and unrelated medical issues coupled with some mental health concerns, I chose a doctor that my sister recommended since a friend of hers with complications had seen her and my sister had seen once or twice during her own pregnancy. I prefer to see women doctors. Something that became obvious to me when I was first sick with Crohn’s disease is that women’s parts and women’s hormones can affect progression and symptoms of diseases differently to men and if you don’t experience those quirks, you may not instantly account for them. Or understand them. Which was the case for me describing issues with exacerbation of my Crohn’s symptoms at certain times of the month to my first few (male) doctors.
I instantly liked my doctor on the first appointment when I asked her if it was true I was having a “geriatric pregnancy” – a term, by the way, I have only heard male doctors use. She scoffed at the term, rolled her eyes and said, “oh yes, cause you’re *so* ancient”. My GP had given me the same response. Instant bond.
Yesterday, I had a frank and open discussion with her about things and my concerns. I’m so happy with how supportive she is – she’s very professional and calm and cool but also very funny and concerned that I have the experience I want. I haven’t yet asked if there is a teleportation option though, which is really the experience I want.
What strikes me most about pregnancy so far is how much difference there is for me in knowing something intellectually versus experiencing it emotionally. For me, I guess a lot of my feminism was intellectual. I’ve argued for and believed in it vehemently since I was very young. And my views have not changed. But I’ve come to understand a lot of issues at a deeper level, having not really thought a lot of them through at more than an intellectual level. This is something my friends had warned me about. But it’s still quite something to actually live through.
Obviously there is all the judgment stuff that you experience. You can’t walk five steps without people having to tell you how to do something, based on how they did it. As though all experiences are the same. That’s been my first lesson – my pregnancy experience is mine, and unlike anyone else’s. For a start, I have Crohn’s disease. I went in with a few symptoms which pregnancy heightened. I have food allergies and intolerances and am vegetarian. All of which means that the ways in which I can deal with different symptoms and issues is going to be complicated. So many people told me “you wait til [insert horrible symptom or craving] happens” and you know? Most of that shit didn’t. I didn’t have heightened sense of smell (my smell is already pretty heightened normally), almost no smells turned my stomach (maybe I couldn’t stand peppermint for a bit?), I haven’t had any real cravings (like, maybe strawberries? And I would have eaten maybe 3 or 4 punnets in the last 8 months?), in fact I’ve had almost no appetite for most of it, I felt nauseous constantly til 22 weeks. I felt very tired for a lot of it. In fact, I’ve only really started to feel *good* in the last couple of weeks. Yesterday, the midwife said she thought that was the first time I’d said and sounded that I felt well the whole time. I haven’t had much swelling though I have had carpal tunnel. And I can’t much sleep. And so it goes.
But this whole thing has taught me that experience is individual. And whilst advice is helpful, it’s not always useful or applicable. I think also there is a difference between people who are genuinely listening to what you’re going through and providing a supportive ear and some suggestions versus the people who just want another chance to work through their own horror story by downloading it on you or by trying to one-up your experience. With the latter, I am developing a technique whereby I smile and nod and flick elevator music on in my head. That’s the *polite* and *feminine* way to deal with the driveby when really I want to be able to just tell em to piss off. But you know, that would be “aggressive*.
I have a new respect for women who try many times for a successful pregnancy. I always understood the emotional turmoil of losing a baby. But I never really thought about the physical aspects of that. After going through my first trimester, and being aware that mine was not even the most extreme of experiences, I began to think about women who try and miscarry multiple times. I do not think I could go through that 5 or 6 times and feel so unwell each time only to then have such a devastating outcome (on the other hand, I was lucky in my pregnancy so how can I really understand the flipside? Of really wanting a baby, of carrying it inside you to term and not being able to?). And the physical strain as well of being pregnant – I now look at women who have 5 or 6 babies and I just marvel at how much toll that takes out of you physically – the pregnancy, the birth and the feeding afterwards. (And bearing in mind that not everyone has the same experience as me, I guess if you have relatively few symptoms and easy births, this whole thing would be a lot less taxing and a lot more enjoyable).
The freedom of choice is something that is at the forefront of my mind right now. There are a lot of choices. A lot of ways of doing things. A lot of things to prioritise. And a lot of options and methods which will only become apparent as to which one is right for you and your baby when your baby arrives. We took our parenting classes and we listened to a lot of things. I was most interested to note that whilst last week’s class on feeding stressed that it’s everyone’s choice whether to breastfeed or formula feed, no time in the class was allocated to going through the formula feeding option. We throw the word “choice” around a lot but we attach the act of judging to it in the subtext. I’m already aware of how much judgment others like to place on the choices you make. And I know this is only the beginning. Something I’ve been working on in this pregnancy is learning to set my own boundaries and enforce them. But the thing I’m realising I really need to work on is giving myself permission to feel the freedom in my freedom to choose. To make my choices and not be weighed down with the imagined judgment from others about that choice. Because if I can’t do that, I am not truly free. And I’m learning, that in this game, I will always lose.