Never do I feel more like a vessel than when I interact with my mother-in-law. A baby-carrying, specifically a GRANDbaby carrying, vessel. Don’t get me wrong. She’s a very nice person, well-meaning, just to some extent stuck in a bubble from 1946 and just the tiniest bit exclusive about her gene pool (which I am not a part of. A marriage these days can be done simply and it can be undone in the same fashion. I will never be a part of the club). At least we’ve gotten past the days of my first pregnancy where she used to stick her face directly in front of my belly (yes, though containing a baby, still a part of MY body) and ask how the baby was doing.
Still, she may be slightly more, I hesitate to say “respectful”, more like cautious, about my personal space, I can’t say that things since that pregnancy have changed much in terms of the obvious light she sees me in and the way I feel while pregnant while I’m around her.
“You’re at 31 weeks, I bet you’re getting excited!” she said to me giddily as we sat on a bench together at Greenfield village the other day with Joel napping in the stroller nearby and Ruth and Greg gone into the roundhouse for some father/daughter train bonding time. I let out a big exhale, feeling the familiar overwhelming feelings that I feel whenever I am in late pregnancy and I think about labor. I’ve been feeling so much lately about it, almost every spare minute I have is focusing on childbirth and preparing myself mentally, physically, and spiritually for the daunting task ahead of me. “Well…” I began, getting ready to try to let her in on perhaps just a small part of these ideas that have been my focus for many weeks and that consume my mind, “I’m really just trying to prepare…” “Oh! I bet you’re so excited!” she interrupted me, “I just can’t wait to see him! I wonder if he’ll look more like Ruth or Joel! I remember when I saw BOTH of them the first times! It’s such fun to see them the first time!”
I quickly sucked in everything that was vulnerable in me that I had been about to let out. It’s always interesting when you have conversations where you really understand how the other person sees you. You see what happened there? I would have missed it completely if it had been my first time around. I’m only just getting the hang of it, really, understanding and allowing myself to feel my own feelings sometimes, as a 32 year old. She conveniently glossed over all of my role: my journey through childbirth, my transition into motherhood for the third time, all of my feelings and significance, in fact, and went straight to the baby.
I mean, she’s certainly not the only one who has made me feel like a vessel. Health care professionals often do, random people on the street who glare at my ostentatious belly as though it were something obscene, proof that I am not a virgin, not innocent, I made Adam take the apple, I am an evil temptress.
My kids often make me feel like a vessel. A vessel to contain their PERSONAL hearts’ desires. They have the kind of adoration for me that should be saved only for messiahs. They think I walk on water. They want me to save them from all of the turmoil of life, they think if they just believe in me, they will have eternal bliss.
But messiah or prophet am I not. I’m a person, a complete person with all that entails. I fart, I am scared of basements, I smell like b.o., I love writing and fall and looking at pictures and home movies and getting up early. I have intense rage, I am terrified of childbirth, and I am still learning how to respect myself and ask respect of others.
Neither am I a vessel. I take long, piping hot baths. Because I love them. I take large swigs of greg’s beer whenever he cracks open a can. I eat pepperonis and salami and pink meat from our Arabic food restaurant. I spend long hours reflecting on my PERSONAL journey through parenthood. I prepare myself for childbirth the best ways I know how, by delving completely into it. Giving myself to this remarkable transition that I go through, surrender everything that I know and trust to this life-altering process. And I come out on the other side a changed person, a more complete person, a person with a greater understanding of myself and others and with a fierce and protective love towards the new spirit that has entered my family and that I have such a huge responsibility towards.
So, no. I’m not “excited” to see him for the first time. I’m not even really thinking about the baby at all but focusing on the huge hurdle I have in front of me and how I am going to overcome it in a way that leaves me strengthened and with confirmation of my wholeness and connectedness with what it means to be human. To give birth. To become a parent.
(p.s. if anyone reading this knows my mother-in-law, I would say to keep this post on the DL, but it’s probably better that you tell her, because our relationship is kind of fucked and I can’t ever do myself justice in communicating these things to her. this blog post that she will never read is probably the closest I will ever come to being direct and assertive).