From 3 Feb 2017. I delayed sharing this because I was not speaking online about my pregnancy at the time.
I’ve been moved to write many, many times over the past days, weeks, and months. I’ve been faced with a slew of silent, blinding challenges that stifle the words in my fingers. I have felt worse than mute. I’ve fallen into an agonizing trap – where the words I before found so effective in communicating my thoughts and feelings are now impotent. I pile them on – sentence after sentence of sentiment, hoping something will stick. They that seem, instead, agonizingly, to push people further from understanding and towards a rather terminal judgement – that this woman is confused.
I assure you, readers. Absolutely, I am confused! I am also searingly angry, wounded, and unimaginably frustrated. Of this I am abundantly clear. Let’s not stop at confused.
Let me explain.
I’ve been fending off a four-way attack on my sanity.
First. Donald Trump and what feels like the daily betrayal by my own people of the American values of inclusion, diversity, and acceptance that form the basis of my identity. It’s the grey area, where people who don’t agree or think that those who agree with me are crazy. The wide-spread gaslighting effect is infuriating, exhausting.
Second. I have been pregnant for five months, and the hormones have thrown me into depths of depression I’d never known. It’s also been incredibly uncomfortable, and I’m hating almost every minute of it.
Third. The fact that almost everyone in your life instantly changes their assumptions about your values, your identity, your best interests, and the appropriateness of your actions upon learning of your pregnancy. I have struggled my entire adult life with societal expectations about my sex life, my health choices, my role as a wife and marriage, my career choices, as well as other more nuanced topics like what I wear and the size of my waist. Very few expectations have been as intrusive and demeaning as those I’m experiencing through pregnancy. So many people think they know better than you, and that your feelings are “temporary” and therefore less worthy of taking seriously.
Four. In a tragic twist of coincidentally poor timing, my career progression and ability to contribute effectively in my job has flat lined – almost the exact same week as I saw the double blue lines appear on the pee stick. My big project was shelved and defunded, due reasons I won’t talk about in this post. I suddenly found myself to be a director with nothing to direct. While my employer has been reassuring and supportive in their commitment to “looking after me” at the moment, the pregnancy has caused my short term career options – my ability to move (both within and outside of my current organization) and take advantage of opportunities to better my circumstances – have been decimated. I don’t want charity – I want to contribute to the bottom line. The importance of my work to my personal sense of self worth means my own sense of self has been compromised. I know many would chide me for my Sheryl Sandberg “lean in” level of executive female privilege, but its effect on my self worth and life meaning have been debilitating all the same. Another form of invalidation of what I feel as being unimportant or self-pitting.
So, through all of this, in every arena of my life, I face people – some well meaning, some less so – that contrive to back me into a corner, to get me to admit that I don’t know my own mind or body. How does one fight this? How did the world, all of the sudden in September last year, contrive to decimate my sense of autonomy? To suddenly discredit the confidence and decisionmaking ability I’d painstakingly developed over the past 33 years of life?
I haven’t lost my fight or my resolve. I simply lost options. I’ve been robbed of my executive function through hormone-induced exhaustion and the limitations the world places on pregnant women – irritatingly packaged in a patronizing, cutesy, “how are you feeling, my dear?” delivery. I could do well without one’s pre-empted sympathies and incorrect anticipation of my needs. My primary need its to be treated like a human being with a brain, who likely wants nothing more than a cerebral distraction from my physical state. I do not need time off, to sit down, to talk about how I’m feeling, to have comments made about my body shape, to have the “hard work” taken off my desk. If I do, trust me – I will tell you.
Two of the most liberating conversations happened with my old boss and a new company partner. My old boss didn’t comment on my being pregnant the entire time we had a coffee and caught up (we’d even had a hug, with my 5 month belly, and he still didn’t mention anything). Not because he’s autistic or awkward or an asshole. He just knew me so well that he knew if I wanted to talk about it, I would. As it turns out, I didn’t until the end of the conversation. The other was with a woman my own age, who I had newly met at a trade show and was full of energy and enthusiasm for her work. We talked so much that I actually had to ask to sit down. It was amazing for someone to push me to my limits – someone with the same energy and passion as my own – and not have it diminished because of my bump.
This is all for now. For those that know me personally on social media, you will probably understand silence on the pregnancy, and respect my need to keep this to myself as I struggle though. I will persevere. I wonder, though, how this emotional energy will manifest after I give birth, reinhabiting my own body, and am no longer shackled.
(For those of you who think, reading that sentence, of my anger transforming entirely into a motherhood and maternal devotion, you clearly don’t know me very well. I will love my child as much as any mother can. But I am capable of so much more in life than this, as are all women. These cliches make my skin boil.)