This bout of insomnia, nearly three days in now, is triggered by a particular cause. Three years ago I was bursting into my second trimester of pregnancy. I’d spent the majority of September and October sick. Really sick. All the time. I’d just had a bad scare — bleeding so horrible I thought I was miscarrying — and was still on modified bed rest. On this day I would make the decision to drop most of my graduate school classes because I could barely get out of bed. My gall bladder symptoms would start just two weeks later and I’d be spending nearly every time I ate in pain so bad that the first time it happened I thought I was having a heart attack. The stress and hormones would soon elevate my blood pressure to a point that I’d have to start medication.
All told I’d lose 45 pounds by the time my child was born.
I love my child every second of every day and I would choose to do it all over again. I’d suffer through worse, even. I’d pony up double, triple, multiply by a million the amount I had to take out in student loans to pay for his daycare. The way that I love was changed in a completely immeasurable and unknowable way by this child’s takeover of my world. But it was not always like this.
Pregnancy was the hardest thing I’ve ever physically and mentally done. I put on a lot of smiling and sarcastic masks during that time, however, I was spending most days terrified and miserable. I cried the week after my period was late and with each of the 8 different pregnancy tests and then those tears erupted at least once a day from that point on. Pregnancy wasn’t really a planned, or truly intended venture at that point in my life. Thus I spent a lot of time feeling alone even though I had a supportive community gathered shoulder to shoulder around me. I am STILL suffering from medical issues triggered by that time and the swirling hormones that seemed to impregnate not just my uterus but my entire body… including my mind. I often likened it to being abducted, swallowed whole like Jonah in the belly of the fish.
Parenting has made me question everything I have ever believed about life and what it means. It’s still not entirely clear to me even now. My whole heart wishes that our world meant a place where abortion wasn’t needed and where choices were so easily made. But if social work has taught me anything it’s that sometimes legislating life like this is like trying to separate the static on the television.
Sometimes I see other pregnant women and feel a tug in the empty space I once carried a baby. There is some ever deepening cavern within me that is connected by a sacred thread, a physical connection to bodies that carry the stone of new life. I worry sometimes that in the conversations around what makes life that we desecrate the sacredness of that body and the person who bears it. She becomes a mass of floating fallopian tubes and a cervix.
When you become pregnant the truth is that you become public property. And my pregnancy was in part so difficult because I was trying so desperately to matter. My accomplishments, my work… the things that are central to my being on this earth felt as though they no longer were important. I felt as though I was only a space for someone else to form. Pregnancy was simultaneously growing something new and also ripping away at ME. I had not really connected with this person inside of me yet and I felt like the world already had. Even when he kicked me so often it felt like I had bruised ribs. I wanted nothing more than to just be myself.
I admit, I perpetuate these attitudes too. I have addressed a woman’s pregnancy before I have addressed her. I have given unsolicited advice (my least favorite part of my own pregnancy) and asked questions that were probably too forward. I am trying to be better, to be kinder, to be aware.
I am not going to perpetuate an opinion about abortion on one side or the other. I have an opinion but that is not for this post. I am going to perpetuate the notion that we have a duty to honor the sacred beings here on earth. A duty to honor those who have lived and breathed and are loved by others but now maybe also carry a stone forming in the bottoms of their bellies…and also those who mourn those stones of life before they began, who hold them only now in the spaces of memory. A duty to honor those people who desperately want to carry that weight and whose bodies have failed them.
I know that a lot of the work we do around this issue concerns some religious work, especially in Christianity. I am honest here that I am constantly in the midst of discernment around my beliefs. I have labored to be able to admit to myself and to others in my own voice that I don’t know and that is okay. But there is a verse that I always come back to when I think about this.
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7
We are a a mass of blood and bone and connecting sinew and synapses firing into gray matter.
We are a delicate system of threads not just connecting wombs, but tied between each of us when we came squalling into the world.
We are Beloved.
By all means fight for sanctity of life, but make sure you are looking into her eyes when you do.
If you are interested in reading any more about my pregnancy and thought process as I endured it, you can find some things I wrote in the entries below: