Actress Emily Procter (CSI, West Wing, Jerry McGuire) is pregnant with her first baby at 41. Her pregnancy is coming to a close, and she’s a little sad about it. She recently told People magazine:
“I started crying the other day just thinking that the baby is going to leave me soon!”
We’re all so eager to have our babies safely in our arms at the end of a healthy pregnancy. And we’re all too ready to be rid of all those fun pregnancy discomforts. Nobody’s going to miss the vomiting…or the heartburn…or the sciatica…or the worry that everything you encounter or experience might be ruining your unborn child’s life.
But surely there are some things about being pregnant that you’ll miss when it’s over, right?
I did my share of complaining while I was pregnant (and I’m counting my share according to how much complaining I usually do, which is significantly more than average). I hated all the things I listed above and at least half a dozen more. I was nearly driven insane by the dietary restrictions and anxiety about the toxic environment. But as desperate as I was to be free of all those aggravations and anxieties, I couldn’t help feeling a little wistful as the end drew near.
I was asked to do a little performance piece about separation when I was almost 8 months pregnant with my son. The topic was separation in general, but at 8 months pregnant, there wasn’t much room for anything else in my brain. (For a visual, please imagine a large dark room lit by a circle of candles. In the center, a woman who looks so enormous no one can believe she has another 7 weeks to grow standing in the center the circle, wearing a half shirt and a rhinestone belt around her huge bare belly. I’ll explain later. Or not. ) Basically, my point was that as much as I wanted to be done with pregnancy in many ways, I realized that my son and I would never be closer than we were right now, when he was a literal, physical piece of my body. In just a few weeks, he’d be his own little guy instead of a part of me. I would miss being a container for him, literally, rather than just symbolically—hugging him without even using my arms. I would miss knowing he was safe inside me rather than out in the big bad world.
Childbirth is the ultimate goal of pregnancy, but there is a loss involved, too; a loss of a certain kind of intimacy with the baby, a loss of specialness and attention for you. There can also be some sadness when the baby you imagine during your pregnancy is replaced by a real baby who might not fit seamlessly into your fantasy.
There’s that morbid saying about how the minute we’re born we begin to die, or something like that, which is a big bummer. But I do think there’s something similar to be said about having a baby. Babies are born, and from that point on they start on their long, slow path of becoming independent human beings. There are lots of little losses as they grow, things to say goodbye to as the babies in our bellies become the newborns, babies, toddlers, kids in our arms.
I heard this Iron and Wine song over the weekend. It reminded me so much of that happy/sad feeling.
“Mother, remember the blink of an eye when I breathed through your body?”
photo: Natalie Lucier/flickr