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Pregnancy Is Not A Delicate Condition: It's a Volcano

In my ramblings across all things pregnant on the web I happened upon this personal essay by Mahvesh Murad in the Herald Tribune. I was so moved by her insights I had to share here:

Pregnancy is not a ‘delicate condition’. It is not a mysterious, intangible miracle that shrouds a woman like some sort of diaphanous golden halo… Pregnancy is strong and violent and powerful and feral. It irks me beyond belief that many consider a pregnant woman to be anything less than a force of nature, like an earthquake, or a volcano. There are tremors involved; things move and shift and ooze with little or no warning. It’s a tiring, long and messy business that makes you marvel, even in moments of complete exhaustion.

I recall that power well: when pregnant I was made to sleep; I was forced to eat certain things or absolutely avoid them. My body didn’t suggest, it demanded. I remember ordering a sandwich and when it came, I realized: No way, it’s not going to happen. It had nothing to do with any study on listeria. I just couldn’t eat that particular sandwich. It wasn’t an intellectual choice.

And though at times that feeling of being driven to do this or that, can make a woman feel out of control, there were times I loved handing over the reins from brain to body.  Fulfilling a craving was spectacular. Collapsing into a deep sleep at 8pm? People become drug addicts seeking that kind of black-out! Also, there are so many damn choices in life: Which crib? What name? Do we circumcise? It was nice to let the pregnancy do the talking from time to time.

As Murad explains, “My hormones didn’t cloud my vision, whether it be physical or internal — they in fact honed it magnificently.” From an evolutionary perspective it makes sense that a mother be very much aware of what’s going on around her; our increased sense of smell is said to help protect us from ingesting anything even slightly suspicious. In active labor, a woman is extraordinarily in tune with her surroundings. She may not seem that way as her eyes roll back and she retreats to a corner moaning. But she is. After my first labor–the first lengthy segment of which I experienced without an epidural and in a huddle of seeming oblivion– I was able to recall every single word spoken to or around me. My husband was shocked. But you were so out of it! I had a hard time talking, that’s for sure. But I was far from out of it.

I know that hormones can play on people in completely different ways– my second pregnancy was much, much harder than my first, with an overall feeling of repulsion that extended far beyond the whiff of an old yogurt in the fridge. But every now and then it’s nice to be reminded that our bodies and hormones don’t just make us nutty and forgetful and sick. They focus us, too.  And though I think seats should be instantly cleared on subways for the pregnant among us, it’s no ‘delicate condition.’

photo: Sean McGrath/Flickr

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