Thursday, December 14, 2006

I didn't order the side of guilt, thanks

I hang out on a message board full of other women who are around the same stage of pregnancy as I am. Sometimes it’s nice to get reassurance and commiseration; sometimes I feel like a total alien. It’s supposed to be a more independently-minded corner of the Internet than most places pregnant women congregate, but occasionally conformity rears its smoothly-shaped little head.

Someone said she’d been feeling guilty for feeling so crummy all the time; people kept telling her that she “looked good” since the start of the pregnancy and she felt bad for looking great but feeling like roadkill. Someone else said she felt guilty for feeling crappy, too, since people expected her to be super-excited and it’s hard to work up enthusiasm when you’re puking your guts out on a regular basis. She said she doesn’t discuss or even mention the I Feel Like Hammered Shit factor of pregnancy to anyone except her husband. Some women said they felt guilty for not being Ms. Happy Happy Joy Joy about being pregnant when they know there are a lot of women who want to be pregnant but are unable to be.

I piped up and said that I’m pretty candid about it. Causal acquaintances, I’ll smile and say “oh, much better” when they ask how I’m feeling, but everyone else is fair game. Maybe I just have a more understanding or intimate circle of friends and relatives, but when my mom or my college roommate asks “how are you feeling?” I can say “all I eat are pretzels and soda water, and sloths are more active than I am” without fear of reprisal or someone screaming at me that this is the happiest time of my life so I should count my blessings. My mom finds some of my symptoms funny, my extended relatives hang on every update, and my friends with kids are sympathetic, and many of my childless female friends are curious.

As soon as I mentioned that I didn’t give a bright, shining happiest-of-happies response to inquiries about my condition, I could feel the other women on the board drawing away. It was that rustle you know all too well as a girl, the sound of every other woman in the room moving the other direction and whispering about you.

I have to say I don’t get it. I’ve seen women act like pregnancy is this fabulous exclusive club we should all be so grateful to join, as though we’re all going to be canonized for pushing babies out our vaginas and are the luckiest people in the world because a sperm met an egg. I can’t quite wrap my brain around that mindset.

I am a pretty no-fuss gal. My husband and I had a ton of sex for three or four weeks straight, and I got pregnant. There was no charting of temperatures, no thermometers in my vagina, no screaming “I’m ovulating!!” into the telephone, no scheduling of sex, ordering him not to masturbate, or dictating that we do it only on certain days or only every other day. We wanted a baby, so we went at it. We just had a whole ‘lotta sex, and that was that.

So now that I am carrying what, by so many accounts, I should be viewing as a gift from God and a precious, beloved miracle, I am not one to lie about it. I don’t think pregnancy is some clandestine order full of secrets to be hidden from other women. I am not going to smile and tell someone I feel like Mary Fucking Sunshine when I’m really about to puke on their shoes. If someone tells me I look good, I can say “thanks,” but I’m not going to feel guilt about looking good while feeling shitty.

And I am certainly not going to feel guilty about getting pregnant when other women can’t. I have enough shit to feel guilty about in my life, I don’t need to make things up. I’m not insensitive; I certainly wouldn’t prattle on about how being pregnant sucks to someone I knew was having fertility problems. But I’m not going to search for guilt where there is none. I’m pretty sure my friends that have bought houses at night don’t sit around going “God, I feel so bad relaxing in my own living room when Weetzie and Max can’t even make a downpayment for what this cost.” I’m pretty sure some dude who lives in Newport Beach in a fancy condo and drives a brand-new Ferrari didn’t feel an ounce of guilt buying that car even though most people can’t afford one. There are a lot more people who can’t afford a Ferrari than people who can’t get pregnant. I don’t see why I should be expected to feel guilt over people I don’t know, have never met, will never meet. I know there are women who would give everything they have to be in my shoes, to be carrying a child, but that does not make me less tired, my muscles less sore, or quell my nausea. It does not make me feel better to dwell on the misfortunes of these women; I’d like to think that they don’t want me feeling guilt or pity for them, that they would rather I enjoy my child while they wait for their own to arrive.

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