A few months ago I went for a massage (that Mayan abdominal massage that’s supposed to help get you pregnant and cure evil cramps…I’ll take all the help I can get, and hey, it’s a massage!).
I have a bit of a tendancy to get emotional at a massage, especially with this therapist, who always seems to ask annoying (oh, I mean disturbingly intuitive) questions that get me going just when I think I’ve relaxed. At that visit she asked what I was looking forward to in a pregnancy.
There I was, completely relaxed (or as completely relaxed as I get), and that totally stopped me cold. I had absolutely no idea what I was looking forward to, and when I tried to think about it, I cried.
I didn’t say anything (she’s not a psychologist after all…I don’t *have* to talk), but I did try to think, and feel in my body, what I might look forward too. I imagined growing a child in my body, and immediately had to stop thinking about it, and cried some more. I imagined birthing a baby, and cried some more. I couldn’t muster more thank a 2 second thought about what I might be looking forward to.
Now, in real life, I can. I could wax eloquent for days about how great this will be or how there is this or that problem we’ll need to figure out and generate about 300 plans for appropriate child care arrangements. But that day, when I was imagining a child actually inside my body, I couldn’t do it. The sadness I felt wasn’t from being tired of trying, or fearing my body won’t be able to pull this off. I know that feeling and it is different. It was something else.
I think those tears were about what I didn’t have with Leigh, that I’m grieving a bit what I didn’t get on the first go round. I hesitate to look forward to experiencing pregnancy and birth, on some sort of base body level, because what would that say about who I am to Leigh? That somehow I’m less her mother? Or that I’m still incomplete as a parent only to her? That she isn’t enough? (to be clear, Gail is also dead set on two).
You might have picked up already that Gail and I are really serious about sharing parenting of Leigh. Because we were so conscientious of this right from the get go, and because Gail didn’t even bat an eye at shoving over a bit and sharing the mothering (and parenting) of Leigh, even from when she was teeny tiny, I really can’t say I’ve missed much. What I missed was quite confined in time, and what I got was worth so much more. I love Gail to pieces and am thrilled when I see pieces of her in Leigh. I know I am truly mother to Leigh in my deepest self.
So really, there’s just this tiny glitch left, this slight conflict between both wanting to carry a child, really really bad, but already being a complete mother to a child I didn’t birth myself. It’s not even an intellectual conflict, we’ve got that worked out. It’s something in my body. Some little piece of sadness left about what I gave up when we chose to bring Leigh into our family through Gail. Culturally, “maternal sacrifice” is usually taken to mean those stretch marks, the sagging boobs, the “days of labor” (which was true in Leigh’s case…the labor…not the sagging boobs), those really tangible things. But I gave up something intangible, an invisible sacrifice that had faded away, but now comes back to sting just a bit. It also seems strange, that those more tangible and visible sacrifices, that I’ll hopefully be making this go round, in this light seem somehow a little selfish. If they weren’t, why wouldn’t it be OK with me for Gail to try this time? (Not that she wants to. She seemed pretty thrilled to pass off biological duties as far as I could tell)