I avoid pregnant women.
It’s not a superstition. I’m not afraid the condition is “catchy”.
I do it because I don’t want to ruin it for them. I don’t trust myself not to go into visceral detail, listing off the maladies I suffered during those 10 months (9 months of pregnancy is the single greatest fallacy foisted on humankind.) I don’t always believe I can hold my face in a way that conveys happiness, when I’m around a pregnant woman, because for me, pregnancy was the opposite of happy. It’s not that I run screaming from pregnant women; I just don’t seek them out, and when I find myself near them, it feels vaguely wrong.
The first couple of months of my first baby’s life weren’t a whole lot sunnier. Nothing came naturally. The mythical “instincts” peddled to me in reference manuals failed to materialize. Sleep deprivation drove me to a brink I hadn’t known existed.
I was pretty sure I was failing. That was humiliating. And so it became increasingly easier to isolate, to convince myself I was the only one going through this. In my small (shrinking, at that time) world, I really was the only one going through it. I eschewed the “Mom’s Groups”, became suddenly engrossed in checking my child’s diaper when I spotted other parents at parks, closed the blinds a lot.
Of course, I wasn’t the only one. There were other moms in the city, in 2004, who were doing a lot of what I was doing. There were moms who lived across the country, sleepless at the exact same time as me.
I just didn’t know any of them.
And even now, on the other side, knowing what I know? I’m kind of glad I didn’t know them.
Because I would have wrecked it.
What would have come out of my mouth as my wild insecurities, would have entered their ears as judgement. My desperation would have driven off all but the most equally desperate, creating a vortex of neediness that would have dragged us all under together. The gravity of my situation would have led to needless comparison, one-upmanship, that would have eroded any kind of tenuous relationship I could have cobbled together.
Time, fate, life. They did their thing.
Made me put one foot in front of the other. Made me survive, strengthen, thrive.
Led me into a neighborhood, one whose school I never even considered in the move.
Put The Boy in a preschool class, where there were moms who smiled back, and didn’t click their tongues in disapproval at my obvious deficiencies in parenting.
Slowly gave me the confidence to talk , throw out comments just to see who would laugh, who “got it”. Who was on my team.
The team is surprisingly big.
And nobody on the team gives a crap who breastfed, who used disposable diapers, who potty-trained their progeny by 18 months, who was a co-sleeper, a baby-wearer, an immunizer.
I still have to shake my head, to believe that over a dozen of these women, women I genuinely Like, women who are shiny and wonderful, can sit at a table, and drink, and laugh to the point of tears, and confess parenting missteps.
And know it’s OK.
If I hadn’t talked to them, tentatively smiled at them. If I hadn’t set my heart on the stained glass in my front door, thereby (unwittingly) choosing the school The Boy would attend. If I hadn’t failed to refill a prescription in the week that I did.
Yes. I do know how lucky I got.