You pee on the stick and the plus sign shows up. Before you’ve finished washing your hands (wash them!!! Use hand sanitizer!!!!), you’ve been conscripted into a war that you previously didn’t know existed: the war to correct every parenting matter that your parents’ and grandparents’ generations got wrong. Mistakes so grave that they
resulted in…. you.
And so it begins. You’re not just going to make a baby. You’re going to reclaim your body and your baby’s health from 100 years of patriarchal western medicine (until he needs an allergist, a SIDS-proof
sleeping blanket, and a bucket of Ritalin).
Now, pregnancy sounds pretty simple: you get knocked up and then you walk around with the critter inside of you until your body spits it out. Which it definitely will. But no. It is not enough to wait patiently for this child to come
out, taking good care of your body until it does. You have to study for that day. You must read three books, take a class, go to “Baby In Me” yoga, and learn to keep a straight face while doing Kegels in a staff meeting.
If you answered “for my baby,” I hope you’re enjoying your third
trimester. If you answered “I can’t remember,” I hope that your kids
aren’t playing with matches while you read my website. Feel free to
print out a coloring page for them to work on while you read.
Because in your old job, you got performance reviews and in school you got grades.
Because that’s the most you can possibly do to prove yourself to this child and to everyone around you. Because some science shows that
while not critical to your baby’s future, it’s got some legitimate
benefits. Because you can’t deny your baby some legitimate benefits,
however negligible. What kind of mother does that?
Because the day you peed on that stick, the theory of diminishing returns became about as legitimate as leeching. Suddenly, good enough is no longer good enough.
Because pregnancy hormones could turn Jerry Garcia into Martha Stewart.
When the baby finally comes, it will happen in one of a few ways. The mother could soldier through labor without drugs, and see the baby placed on her chest for that first precious moment of bonding. An anesthesiologist could insert a needle into the mother’s lower spine before labor has progressed to its most painful stage. Or something could go wrong, causing the doctor to remove the baby through an
incision just below the pubic hairline.
I was going to have that first kind of birth. I hired a doula. I read books. I took prenatal swim and yoga. I could lift a cinder block with a Kegel.
Then, 20 or so hours into labor, I got an alarming phone call from my cervix.
“Fuck you,” it said.
Twenty-one hours after my water broke, my doula let me know that I would be getting abdominal surgery. To my credit as a mother, the doula was wearing clogs and had an impressive array of aromatherapy devices
My first day as a parent, my cervix let me down. My first day as a parent, my best efforts were not good enough. Several people have since intimated that the cervical mutiny was my fault. I should have held out
longer (than 24 hours) before agreeing to the C Section. If I’d had the right people in the room to yell at the ignorant physicians, my baby would have come out the cellar door instead of the living room window,
as God and Dr. Sears intended. I must have done something wrong, because something went wrong.
Something happens the day you pee on that stick. “Best” becomes the standard—at any price. If there is a mommy war—and I’m skeptical – it is not between women who stay out of the paid work force and those who
have paying jobs. Nor is it between the people who are “supportive” of natural birth, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, and leaving the paid work force and those who are not.
It’s between bullies and well-intentioned parents of all stripes. It’s between theory marketers and people with entirely non-theoretical lives.
If there is a mommy war (and I remain skeptical), it’s between the belief that we are obligated to provide “best” at any cost (and that failure to do so is proof of the ultimate sin: ‘selfishness’) and the belief that if the kids we see before us are happy, healthy, and good enough, then we can be too.