I've been thinking a lot lately about how very different I am as a pregnant woman versus my non-pregnant self. Being pregnant is such a huge blessing, but it's probably one of those blessings that I overlook due to the fact that there are so many things I don't like about myself while I'm growing a baby in my womb.
I find that I feel guilty whenever I complain or even think about complaining about my pregnancy. For one thing, how blessed am I to be able to conceive at all? For another, each child is a gift from God, how dare I find one thing wrong with it?
There are so many things that I complain about when pregnant. I gain weight. Quickly. I lack energy for exercise. The last thing I want to put in my mouth is a vegetable or a fruit. Clothes never fit right. I'm short-tempered and easily frustrated with my children. I'm more withdrawn at work. Every time I am out with all of my children, I get this weird sensation that everyone is looking at my belly and wondering what is wrong with me having all these kids. I could go on...but you get the picture.
How much of this comes from within and how much is a product of the society with which I interact?
It seems like I remember while pregnant with Sarah that no one thought it "weird" that I was having a baby. I got lots of fun, nice comments about naming and whether I knew if baby was a boy or a girl. Everyone was excited for the new arrival. When I was pregnant with Dani - again, not a big deal. Everyone seemed to think it was just grand that Sarah would have a sister. What a blessing! I had two girls born in the same time of year - lots of hand-me-downs!
When I was pregnant with Helen, it seemed...again...to be okay (but not AS okay as with Dani) with everyone that I was having another baby. Get it out of the way! Have the babies while you're young (though I was 32 at this point)! With a third girl on the way, I heard, "Poor Craig" an awful lot and "Craig will never see the bathroom again." While not overtly negative...we did not get nearly the amount of support that we had gotten in the past.
With Dominic this seemed to be worse. I got a lot more of the comments like, "Don't you know when to quit?" and "Don't you know what causes that?" I actually felt keen disapproval from some family members about our decision to grow our family and there's a section of my family that seems to look down on us for having more than two or three kids.
With both Dominic and Helen, I felt the cloud of depression during the last trimester. With Dominic, it turned into a pretty long stay of Post-Partum Depression...I kind of came out of it when he turned one. I wonder how much of that was caused by the lack of support I perceived from those within my family as well as complete strangers.
What's really interesting is that this time around, none of that has surfaced. For some reason, I have not experienced one negative reaction to the fact that we are having another baby. Everyone is excited. It's almost as though I am having my first baby again. I feared informing people of the pregnancy - but those fears have turned out to be completely unnecessary.
And - I'm having a pregnancy where I feel really good about where I am with everything regarding our family. I'm content that I'm 24 weeks along and not wishing I were 40 weeks so I could get this over with. I find myself expecting to go a week overdue and I am okay with that. I am finding the energy to make it to the gym and get in the pool for a swim workout again. While my frustration rears its head every once in awhile with the kids, I have noticed so far that it's not as bad as it was the last time around. I'm still a little bit more sensitive to criticism, but don't let things bother me as much. At least I don't think I do.
Obviously, I haven't done an extensive, scientific study about whether my experience with family and society at large and their opinions on my childbearing decisions directly correlates to how I feel. It does seem like this time around, I've struck a good balance of feeling content about where we are with our family and my experiences with those on the outside of our immediate family unit.
Maybe people are treating me differently.
Maybe I've just grown up.