Saturday, June 9, 2007

I still think it's snide

One of my all-time least favorite habits of smug fertiles has always been comments like "when you're a mother, you'll understand", or "you can't imagine until you have children..." I always felt that this was self-congratulatory and dismissive. While relatively inoffensive when the context is things like breast infections, episiotomies, or cracked nipples, I find these comments outrageous when the topic is something like how much you love your children, or how awful it would be to lose a child. I always thought that being infertile didn't in any way negate my ability to imagine the love of a parent for a child. In fact, I thought that being infertile in a sense made me even more sensitive to this issue, as infertiles have to deal with ongoing grief for children never even conceived, which is surely a pretty strong manifestation of mother love. However, I also wondered, somewhere deep down in myself, if there was something to what they were saying.

A few days ago, I felt fetal movement for the first time. I have been dreaming of this moment for years, and now it's finally here. I can actually feel the presence of my child inside of me. It's absolutely amazing. Incredible. Words fail me.

For some reason, this experience made me think about whether pregnancy so far has proven the smug fertiles right. The answer, so far, is no. Pregnancy is amazing. As I always thought it would be. Feeling those movements gives me a feeling of happiness and fulfillment that I've never felt before. As I always knew it would. Yes, the feelings are intense. But I always knew that they would be. Imagining these things does feel different from experiencing them, in the same way that looking at a photo of the Great Wall of China, or the Pyramids of Giza, or sunrise over an African savannah, is not the same thing as actually being there. However, I still think it's insulting to someone who hasn't had the privelage of seeing these places to say "you can't imagine" to them. I think that many people can imagine the feeling quite clearly. That's why they want to experience it! In fact (stretching the travel metaphor so far that I'm cringing while waiting for it to snap), I think that someone who has never had the good fortune to go down certain roads might actually much better appreciate them than a world-weary seasoned traveller.

I do agree that many things (infertility, the loss of a loved one) are actually unimaginable to those who have never experienced them. In fact, human imagination often proves a particularly poor predictor of our actual reactions to stressful events. Indeed, in my pregnancy, there have been a lot of surprises along the way. I didn't expect, for example, the constipation, the problems produced by spectacularly enhanced cleavage, or the strangeness of having life go on as normal around me while my own attention is so completely focused a few inches below my navel. I also didn't expect the constant fear of loss. Still, the overall feeling is exactly as I'd always hoped and imagined. I guess that years of not only dreaming of this moment, but also watching my friends experience it, has created relatively realistic expectations of the whole thing.

Still, I do admit that nothing could have prepared me for my ultrasound the other day. I saw a perfectly shaped little head (measuring a week ahead!), a spine like a little string of jewels. A little human being.


Sarah said...

i TOTALLY agree. just because it's pretty much what i imagined doesn't in anyway take away from the WOW moments.

which kindda gets me thinking about your travel metaphor...i often think that travel is not as special these days because we've seen all the images already, but maybe i'm wrong? maybe i need to get better at absorbing the experience of being there (where ever) in the way that i'm so thoroughly absorbed by being pregnant? hmm...something to think about for the next trip...

Anonymous said...

Wonderful Sara! Pregnancy truly is amazing!

My husband's sister has three boys ranging from 13 to 19. Long before we ever met, she would berate him for trying to discipline her kids (more aptly described as hellions) or for speaking to them sharply when they were misbehaving. She always added "You don't know anything, you don't have kids!". My hubby just couldn't wait to have kids of his own to be able to retort with knowing everything because he does have kids now. Unfortunately in the last few years there has been a huge rift and he hardly sees his sister anymore. I know that he's still dying to use the line though!

Okay so that anecdote was tangential and only remotely related to what you were saying. I can't, however say I fully agree with being able to imagine what some things are like. Yes, I had a fair inkling of what baby movements would feel like, but having had two miscarriages, I can't say I could equate the love for a lost baby to that I feel for my son. Both are mother love, certainly, but in my experience quite different. I couldn't have fathomed the depth of my emotion for my toddler, as much as I thought I understood.

I volunteered during the Olympic Games here many many years ago and one of the organizers said "To those who have had the experience, no explanation is necessary. To those who have not, none is possible." I felt those words strongly back then, and I believe it holds true for so many things (in degrees, of course). This is probably why I live by the motto "You can't have a real opinion on something unless you've tried it (within reason -- truly stupid stuff excepted)." I think it helps keep a person's mind open.

But I'm babbling (and monopolizing your comments). Enjoy motherhood! It's an amazing experience!

Marie-Baguette said...

so glad the baby is growing like a champ! Post some pictures!!!

Anonymous said...

bookmarking you - I love this post!

Yes, it's snide to say it, but you're going to be absolutely blown away by how incredibly open and raw your soul will become.

And yes, it's every bit as wonderful as you imagined those times you cried so much you vomited in the shower.