It’s Like Puberty… All Over Again

26

Lit­tle Doll, Ottawa, July 2012

Jean-Paul Sartre was right: “Hell is other people”.

Alright, I’m pretty sure the French philoso­pher wasn’t refer­ring to all the unwanted com­ments and warn­ings preg­nant women receive when he wrote his most famous line in No Exil—but all the same, the quote per­fectly sums up how I felt dur­ing my pregnancy.

See, I quickly real­ized that I wasn’t going to be one of these preg­nant women described as “pos­i­tively glowing”.

Sure, I had it easy: I hadn’t been sick long—only for ten days or so—and I was doing fine physically.

Men­tally, it was another story.

I felt fat, bloated, ugly and weird. There was some­one grow­ing inside me. It felt… alien. See, I kind of like the con­cept of “one per­son = one body”. Sud­denly, we were two for one body. How was that going to work?

Some women assert that they are more fem­i­nine and wom­anly when they are preg­nant. They claim they have found their pur­pose, a new mean­ing in life.

Well, I can tell you I wasn’t com­par­ing myself with a freak­ing fer­til­ity god­dess. I felt like I was going through puberty all over again, start­ing at age thir­teen and know­ing very well the awk­ward period would only van­ish around sixteen-years-old or so.

I was happy with the idea of hav­ing a baby but I found the process—the eight months left to the big finale—terrifying. I felt like I was embark­ing onto a long descent into “preg­nancy hell”, a spe­cial place with huge dan­gling bel­lies, clothes that didn’t fit, and an end­less list of risks, dan­gers, poten­tial issues and small discomforts.

Peo­ple wouldn’t let me for­get that anyway.

Basi­cally, I was try­ing to keep my head above water and think pos­i­tive. To take it one step at the time.

But well-meaning strangers (not my friends! I love my friends!) just couldn’t stop giv­ing me unwanted advice and mak­ing comments.

There was the time I offered an acquain­tance to meet at Starbucks—the cof­fee shop chain was a con­ve­nient and neu­tral place where we could have a quick chat. “STARBUCKS?” she almost shouted over the phone, appealed. “How can you drink COFFEE? You are PREGNANT!”

Moron. First of all—disclaimer!—I don’t drink cof­fee. It’s not one of my addictions—I’m a tea drinker if any­thing. Sec­ond, drink­ing some caf­feine (or theine) is fine as long as you don’t go over the rather high rec­om­mended thresh­old. Third, what the hell is wrong with you? Star­bucks does offer other drinks than cof­fee, and above all, what I drink is none of your fuck­ing business.

Unfor­tu­nately, as I quickly learned, when you are preg­nant you become everybody’s busi­ness. You are no longer a person—you become a baby incu­ba­tor whose only job is to care for the embryo, the fetus and then the baby.

I get it. It’s impor­tant. I cared and I care. I do take my role seri­ously. I try to make smart choices, to take care of us and all.

But I’m still a human being, with my strengths and weak­nesses. I’m not per­fect. And I cer­tainly didn’t need other peo­ple to con­stantly inter­fere with my life and chime in, espe­cially con­sid­er­ing most of the com­ments I got 1) weren’t informed 2) weren’t wise 3) didn’t take into account the con­text of the situation.

See, the Star­bucks com­ment wasn’t the only time I fought with a stranger. I once got “the dead stare” for order­ing sushi. They were a mix of veg­e­tar­ian and cooked fish sushi, in case you need to know—see, I shouldn’t have to jus­tify myself but I feel I have to. Gosh.

In the same vein, after hes­i­tat­ing for a few weeks, I even­tu­ally decided to go back to doing yoga. After all, I had been going for two years—and I was going before I real­ized I was preg­nant. It felt right and I was com­fort­able with the activ­ity. I received a few rude com­ments: “Are you SURE you are sup­posed to be here?” I ignored them, but all the same, it was tiring.

Han­dling unwanted advice is an art. I chose to put my fin­gers in my ears and sing “la la la, not lis­ten­ing, not lis­ten­ing”. Still, deep down, these com­ments made me inse­cure. Am I doing a good job of bak­ing our Canadian-Chinese-French? Should I be more care­ful, should I avoid this, do that?

Some days, I come to terms with the fact I am not per­fect. And chances are, we won’t be per­fect par­ents either. Some days, I feel anx­ious and wor­ried and I need rein­sur­ance I’m doing a good job.

Yep, I’m telling you, “Hell is other people”.

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

26 Comments

  1. I can totally relate to your story. I felt like a crim­i­nal the day I walked into a LCBO to buy some rhum and a can of beer (for bak­ing) with my 7-month preg­nant (very big) belly (alco­hol evap­o­rates when cook­ing, guys!)… They couldn’t pos­si­bly NOT serve me, but I didn’t get any “hello” from the staff that day!

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