During her (*perfect*) pregnancy, The Little Sister was the first one to give voice to this feeling. In response to some question that I asked about people noticing her growing bump, she put it like this: ‘It’s just kind of uncomfortable, really, when people mention it.’ I asked why and she said, ‘Well. It’s just kind of like they know too much about you.’ I promptly completely forgot about this 1.4 second interaction.
Flash forward about 7 months and here I am, finally showing. At 5.5 months I finally started gaining weight (almost a pound a week) and as I sit at roughly 26 weeks, my midsection has obviously expanded. And as a result, I am now experiencing comments from loved ones, acquaintances and strangers alike. People who know me understand how sick I was and are genuinely pleased that I’m feeling better and ‘actually looking pregnant.’ And so, I had one of these interactions with a man I’ve known for years. He’s a great guy, a semi-retired psychiatrist (btw, just fyi, he’s not MY psychiatrist, he just happens to be A psychiatrist). Our relationship has always been warm and familiar and so his comments weren’t out of the ordinary or presumptuous in any way. He said to me, ‘I’m glad to see that you’re finally—[pause to look for vocab]—blossoming.’
And here’s what I did. I put my hands to my bump and I blushed.
Now—permit me to just take a quick aside to give you some back story here. I. Don’t. Blush. Like, not ever. Not ever-ever. I could probably count on one hand the number of times that I’ve blushed in my lifetime…I remember them, actually, because the occurrence is so rare. Since I said a quick aside, (which is going to be more like quick-ish), I’ll spare you all of them, except the first, which was when that little fucker Scott Malina lifted my school uniform skirt on the way into school one day, with aaaall of the other kids behind us…before I knew to wear gym shorts underneath. (I was the new girl.) I have a love of things irreverent. Of dark humor. Of political incorrectness. Of self-mockery. In fact, the lengths and the depths to which I will go to make others laugh requires a personality type (i.e.
laugh whore natural comedian) that in itself precludes being sensitive to embarrassment and/or humiliation. Okay, now that you have that picture, let’s get back to the thing.
So—I’m blushing. Embarrassed. And The Little Sister’s words come rushing back to me. Since my friend and I share an interest in the ways of psychological curiosities, I mention this to him. His reply was about the more obvious things that people ‘know’ about you…like, for instance, you ‘Do It.’ (I didn’t say it was an intellectual conversation.) I made some jokes about the middle school boys and all grown men being in that group (as their brains function in much the same manner regarding sex) and we wrapped the conversation. Later on, though, I got to thinking.
What made me blush? Why was I uncomfortable? Was it related to sex? I am modest in that way, to be honest. Turtlenecks, jeans, comfortable shoes. I’ve never been one to show off the shape (no matter what shape it was in, if you get what I’m saying). I think that overt sexuality in clothing choice is not really for me. Why, I’m not totally sure. Feeling uncomfortable drawing certain kinds of attention? Could be. Insert your own psychological theory here.
After some thought, here’s what I came up with (if you’re still reading this heinously long post): I think that pregnancy makes me feel vulnerable. It makes me feel like others have X-ray vision (Freud says: maybe zaaat’s vhy zer’s no sexy cloves, eezer). It makes me the center of attention—attention that I can’t take away with the deflective powers of a quick wit or the diversion of another question. It outs me in a way that has nothing whatsoever to do with sex. People not only know a really important part of your day to day life ‘up front’ (heh) but they also always want to know more. And they’re not afraid to ask. I have done this to countless pregnant women myself. When are you due? Do you know what you’re having? Where are you delivering? Do you have any names picked out? All of these questions pull me deeper into the middle of the circle on the dance floor, with all the others looking on, clapping, smiling and swaying from side to side--expectant. Waiting for my solo performance.
The humor that I use when I am in the spotlight is my shield, like the turtle necks. Not that I don’t have mutual, deep, relationships. It’s just that I am generally the nurturer. I am the asker of the questions and the giver of advices (not usually unsolicited) and the helpful co-solver of problems. Being the one that everyone wants to nurture and know about is a strange and vulnerable feeling for me. The humor doesn’t necessarily work in this situation. They are earnest and really want to focus on this topic, with their X-ray specs.
Maybe it’s good practice, though. Allowing others to take an interest. Allowing them to nurture me as I get ready to embark on this crazy journey of motherhood. I’ll be back in my comfort zone of nurturer (to this little one) soon enough. A nurturing nurturer I’ll be.
And then there’s always the growth that comes from getting closer to things that would repel us. Getting used to being the center of attention without a shield—in a V-neck, even. Absorbing others’ love and care and concern, taking it inside, instead of deflecting it because the intensity causes me discomfort. Being vulnerable isn’t bad or scary all the time. Right? Right?! I have in mind that quote about having children and how when you have them, you’re basically forever allowing your heart to go walking around outside your body. I don't know who said it but I've heard it countless times, along with how very true it is. So, I guess I’d better practice up.
Because really—I imagine that there’s not too much in this life that makes you feel more vulnerable than that.