I’ve never been accused of being a homebody. Travel and adventure are probably my favorite hobbies. Jumping off of things, eating weird things, finding new modes of transportation. I love it.
And I still do, in theory. But as my belly grows, I’m finding this weird compulsion to stay in my house where everything is pasteurized and level. My fondness is growing for quiet evenings on the couch, familiar restaurants, and low-stress activities like raking leaves, watching documentaries on Netflix, and eating yogurt.
What’s going on?
They tell me it’s hormones, that I am turning into the Mama Bear, protecting my little cub from bacteria and collision and neurosis. I have excesses of dopamine pumping, so I’m more prone to sit around more and thing about how happy I am. Someone asked Lewis if he enjoyed my being pregnant, and he commented on how much more docile and cuddly I am.
It’s true. I just want to snuggle. All. the. time.
But there’s something else as well, and it’s the crazy fear mongering of our culture when it comes to children. Now that I have one growing in me, I have been coaxed into the deep end of the “Everything-is-bad-for-your-child” pool. I’m not sure what came first, nervous mommies or excesses of safety information/products/forums. It’s probably one of those chicken and the egg things.
If you search for ANYTHING followed by “while pregnant” you will find some forum devoted to people who worry about it. You can probably also find a product being sold to protect your little one against whatever it is.
There are a few things going on here. 1) Pregnancy is weird and full of symptoms that are oddly similar to terminal illnesses, 2) suddenly being a “good parent” is suddenly just as important as being “good in bed” used to be, as far as identity is concerned, and 3) the market is all over this, with a hormone-addled, socially beleaguered, physically uncomfortable consumer base.
So suddenly the fresh squeezed orange juice looks like a bottle of neurotoxins. Riding a bike is an extreme sport and requires a spotter. I am running out of yoga positions that are “safe.” (Meanwhile running out of sleeping positions that are comfortable.) And I feel terrible when other pregnant women see me eat deli meat…which I got permission from the midwife to consume, by the way.
And there are so many websites and apps to help you make sure that everything is on track with your pregnancy. They even found a way to turn my previously enjoyable evenings watching the baby move like a little alien under my skin into an anxious nightly test, making sure she gets in at least 10 kicks over a two hour tracking period. There’s an app to track it. That is two hours, every night of wondering which movements counted as “kicks” and worrying that she won’t get 5 more movements in before the buzzer in 20 minutes. (For the record, I don’t need to use the kick tracker, because from the hours of 7pm to 11pm every night, the kid never stops moving. Never. Her kick count is somewhere in the millions. However, if I took the reading between 11am-3pm, I’d be at the doctor’s office all the time. She refuses to be disturbed during that time.)
Of course everything comes with the caveat to “talk to your doctor” and that “every pregnancy is different.” And so so many people tell you just not to worry about it, to relax, to follow your instincts. As though that’s going to keep the Mama Bear at bay when she’s convinced that she just accidentally consumed 3 grams over the recommended weekly allowance of tuna. Mercury poisoning for sure.
Because for every person who tells you that “women in Japan eat sushi the whole time they are pregnant,” or that they drank raw milk during all 8 of their pregnancies or whatever…there’s someone else to tell you how nitrates are going to make your kid have low SAT scores, and you feel like an ass if you say, “Eh, I don’t really listen to that stuff.”
Again…none of this is “me.” That’s what’s so strange and new. I’m a homebody, bacteriaphobe, who will order any $30 bottle of snakeoil if it promises to keep my circulation healthy? When did that happen?
Further evidence that I am, in fact, becoming a hobbit. A safety-loving, creature of comfort who keeps an orderly and predictable day full of pleasantries and low risk activities.
But…like Frodo and Bilbo, I’m also going to have to go on an adventure, because kids are certainly germy, fragile, messy creatures. And if I’m going to go on this adventure with joy and bravery I’m going to have to do as the hobbits do. Trust my instincts and resist any temptation to Google my symptoms.