Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Something lost, something gained

Let's start with the negatives; I've lost a lot since becoming a mom (or more accurately, a mom-to-be). Perhaps the most glaring among these is the loss of bodily autonomy. No one really warned me about this!

I used to think that being pregnant would just involve my normal body with a large ball-like tummy instead of my usual one. How wrong I was! Although my son supposedly just weighs a little over 3 pounds at the moment, he is somehow disrupting every single fiber of my being. I've stopped questioning all of the weird stuff that's been happening to me, because a quick Google search ALWAYS confirms that whatever strange bodily phenomenon I'm experiencing is yet another symptom of pregnancy. Did you know that hair loss can be due to pregnancy? But pregnancy can also cause your hair to become more thick and lustrous, so really whatever happens to your hair during this time is because of pregnancy.

As of right now, this little 3-4 pound child (along with all the fluid and what not that he's happily floating in) has caused my belly to swell to the point where I can no longer bend at the waist to pick something up off the floor. I have to squat, bending at the knees in order to lower myself. Sometimes getting up from this position is a problem because my center of balance has shifted. I have back pain, and my joints and hips keep spreading and stretching, despite their painful protests. Sleeping has become a nightly exercise in "creative pillow placement". Taiwan has crap maternity pillows, so currently I rely on five pillows, all placed at strategic points of my body. This gets me through the night, but I wake up in pain.

My couch is a quicksand of cushions and unnecessary fluff. Why did I used to think this Ikea contraption was the most comfortable thing in the world? Now when I sit on my couch, I put about four pillows behind my back to keep me from sinking back too far into the abyss. Otherwise, I need to gather all my strength and literally HEAVE my pregnant body off the couch.

I've had to give up really fun stuff. This isn't counting the whole first 22 weeks where I pretty much had to give up leaving the house, allowing scents to enter my nostrils, and eating food in general due to extreme "morning" sickness. No longer can I drink a nice cold beer in the evenings, or boil soak in a relaxing hot spring, and how I miss the pungent, delicious flavor of feta cheese!

This loss of bodily autonomy means that I can no longer flippantly enter into dangerous situations. Not that I was some sort of adrenaline junkie before, but I enjoyed zipping around Taipei on my little 100cc scooter. Open on all sides, the wind in my face -- it was glorious (when it wasn't raining)! I can't do that anymore. I would never forgive myself if I got into an accident and my son was hurt or killed. As he's grown beyond the confines of my pelvic bone, I sense his vulnerability. He's just hanging out there, and all I have to offer him as protection is my skin. I can't possibly jump onto a scooter with the same abandon that I once did.

But last week, I did. For the last time, I drove my beloved purple scooter. We realized that we no longer needed two scooters. I couldn't drive mine anymore, and once Jonathan gets here only one of us can drive at a time because there is absolutely no way that we're bringing him on a scooter (yes, it's quite common to see a Taiwanese family on a scooter, weaving in and out of traffic while the person on the back clutches their baby to their chest). That was it. I'm a mom, this is what needed to be done for my son. We sold my scooter instead of Ian's because we could get more money for it, and frankly, we need the money to pay for my doula and hippie dippy water birth at the birth center.

So I drove my scooter for the last time, straight to the guy who was buying it. It was a beautiful day! This of course reminded me of how much I would miss that wind in my face, that freedom. I realized that I was bound by some sort of biological destiny to sacrifice a ton of stuff for my son. I'm the one who can't ride a scooter in dangerous Taipei traffic anymore because he's living in my body. I'm the one who still has to watch what I eat and drink once he's born because he'll be eating from my body. As I rode my scooter on that beautiful day, I thought about how much this sucked.

I reached my destination, and reluctantly sold my freedom scooter. I began walking to the MRT (my new best friend), and I continued to reflect on how no matter how equality-minded you and your partner are, parenthood seems to require more of women in so many ways.

The sun was shining, and in spite of this realization, it was still a beautiful day. It was then that I felt Jonathan move, a lazy sort of movement that suggested he knew nothing of all this inner turmoil I was experiencing -- otherwise he would have been more apologetic about it, like, "Sorry to disturb you further, Mommy, but I just need to find a more comfortable position." I stepped over to the side of the sidewalk and placed my hand on my belly and felt it shift beneath my fingers. I watched people hurriedly passing me by, but I was no longer thinking about how much more was required of me, how much greater my alter was. What was a scooter, really, compared to enjoying this moment with my son? What a blessing, to be able to feel the first stirrings of life, and to feel them grow stronger day by day, finally culminating in a new little person on this earth. I'll feel the freeing feeling of the wind on my face again, but for now a certain patient slowness is called for. These last two month's before Jonathan's arrival are a time for preparation and reflection, and although I've lost some, I've gained much. So I'll take these moments, and surrender to the stretching of heart and skin, and trust that it's all worth it.


  1. This is such a beautiful, insightful post. It really made me understand what it feels like to be a mom-to-be. Thank you for writing it!

  2. Hi Cahleen - I found your blog from one of your posts on ParentPages & have really enjoyed reading it (I am also avoiding studying Chinese & cleaning up the house - haha!). Anyway, I just want to wish you good luck with your upcoming birth here in Taiwan. I too used Angie for my doula & had a great experience at the hippy water birth clinic for my daughter's birth 21 months ago (the details are posted on my blog in April 2008 if you want to read more). -KT

  3. And it is indeed worth it. Enjoy every minute.

  4. @Catherine: Thanks! I'm sort of learning as I go here. I have no idea what I'm supposed to do with the little guy once he gets here!

    @KT: Thanks for stopping by! It's always exciting when I meet someone else who's used the water birth center. Most Taiwanese people think I'm crazy when I tell them I'm having a water birth, but I know that center can't exist solely for foreigners so there must be SOME Taiwanese people that use it. I can't wait to go read your birth story now!

    @Kim: I do plan on enjoying every moment. I hope I can keep focusing on enjoying the moment when he's waking me up at 4:00 AM. =)

  5. Love this! Makes me wanna cry (out of happiness, of course... and maybe at the idea that some day I might have to be so selfless and make such enormous sacrifices, too).

  6. @KP Rosa: Thanks! I can't say it was much of a sacrifice though. I'm just complaining because I like riding my dangerous scooter. I really shouldn't complain because so many people have had to make way bigger sacrifices for their kids! Are you the one who posted the question about the confinement center on Parent Pages? Your screen name is similar so it got me wondering. =)

  7. My mom read your blog and was telling me about it this weekend. We've been thinking about you a lot and praying that Jonathan would be healthy. Our prayers have been answered. This was one of the most beautiful things I've ever read. You're quite the writer. I look forward to reading more of your blogs. All my love.

  8. You're right, parenthood demands so much more of mothers than fathers (at least in my opinion!). On the other hand, only I will ever get to experience the feeling of my child tummy-to-tummy in milk-fed bliss. :)

  9. @Lauren: Thank you so much for the prayers! I really miss you. I had no idea you blogged! I just added you to my reader.

    @Berta: You're exactly right. I think Ian's a little jealous sometimes that I can make the baby so happy with my boobs!

  10. All right, don't ask me why I'm floating around in your archives, but I just wanted to say that this was such a lovely post. I was just thinking today how very much I gave up during pregnancy and childbirth for my little guy (now 3!) — and yet, yes! It was all worth it, and nothing he has to repay. I love that moment of feeling them shift beneath the skin and that you had that clarity in advance.

  11. @Lauren: Thanks for topping by! I'm a huge admirer of your blog, so I feel like I've been visited by a celebrity. He he. It's like motherhood turns you into a whole new person entirely. I used to be a lot more selfish and lazy, but when it comes to Jonathan, I just want to do what's best for him. It's made me a better person, for sure.


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