Pregnancy as Crappy Air Travel (Extended Metaphor)

To me, being pregnant feels like being stuck on a commercial airline, on an 40-week one-way flight, in coach, in the middle seat, sitting between my partner and a very large person. Damn, this ride is uncomfortable.

For one, there’s that fog of fatigue that set in as soon as the hum of the jet engine started, back in December. No matter how much caffeine I ingest (and I’m only allowed up to 200 mg per day!), every time I lift my head off the headrest, it feels like it weighs 30 pounds. I’ve brought my computer, hopeful to get some work done, but I can barely hold my eyes open. I stow my computer under the seat and berate myself about the to-do list I’ve abandoned.

All I want to do is sleep. The problem is, I can’t for longer than an hour. There’s no leg room. And this fat man to my right is crowding me. I fall asleep in one contorted position until my neck aches and I wake up and have to readjust. I try again and wake up because my butt’s asleep. I lean forward and put my head on the tray table, but after an hour of that, my back is killing me. I’m trapped and growing increasingly cranky.

Also, it doesn’t help that I need to pee every 45 minutes. I have to squeeze past my zaftig neighbor and do the whole bladder-emptying routine so many times that I’m considering just peeing my pants. And when I arrive at the toilet, it turns out to be only about two tablespoons of urine that was making me so uncomfortable.

It’s getting difficult to remember what it was like to enjoy life as I knew it, to run around free in the sunshine, in total control. I hate the feeling of being a passenger, having to play by rules that aren’t mine. On this flight, I am allowed no wine or champagne, no fine cheese or sushi or even deli meat (though I see others around me enjoying all of the above). The flight attendants tell me I can eat as much as I want barring those items, but I don’t want anything. It’s a constant state of yuck in my tummy, like a bad hangover. I’ve opened my barf bag so many times, but I never manage to vomit. I’m starving, but all the options sound disgusting. I only munch on the carbohydrate-laden snacks to settle my poor stomach.

Since I’ve lost all my joy in food and drink and work and activities, since I can’t sleep and I can’t stay awake even long enough to enjoy the in-flight TV, I am losing touch with reality. The recycled air is pumping a certain amount of negativity into my brain, and because of where I sit, I can’t even look out the window to remind myself the sky exists. Luckily, my partner is sitting by the window and is willing to describe to me what he sees from there: a clear sky, a sunset, stars, a moon, pink and purple clouds. But sometimes even his descriptions aren’t enough for me. I want to see it too.

Because of my fragile mental state, I worry about every single bump or patch of turbulence. I sit and fret and ask the people around me if it’s going to be okay, if I’m still going to get there, and some tell me it’s fine. Others try to scare me.

All I have to keep me going is the promise of the destination. My groom-to-be and I are going to live here forever. Where are we headed anyway? Well, I don’t even know its name. All I know is that people who have been there tell me it’s the most rewarding place to live. Which is weird, because the brochures I’ve seen show mostly bleak areas. I realize this is an insane decision to have made, to commit to someplace sight-unseen, and I’m scared, but also excited…because why else would so many people never want to come back?

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Please God, Make It the 2nd Trimester

I am writing from inside a dark hole. The hole is my mind. I have been here for 11 Weeks, with a few escapes into the sunshine, thank God.

I’m 11 Weeks pregnant. And I want this baby. I’ve wanted to a baby for a while. My innermost desire had whispered the wish to the universe so many times that I know it heard me and sent me this gift. And I’m grateful, though it still doesn’t feel real to me. But the hormones that are pumping through my blood are not happy hormones.

I have worried. I have shaken with terror. I have cried bottomless toddler-style screams. I have lain in bed all day and all night on end. And what’s wrong with me? That’s what I want to know. I got what I asked for. I get into specifics–I didn’t say, “Universe, please send us a baby when we are financially doing great and feeling personally successful and at peace and everything is perfect.” I just quietly asked for a baby once in a while, indirectly, while writing in my journal or something. I’d just write how I wanted to have children, just sometime down the line, with this wonderful man who has changed my life for the better in so many ways.

So why do I find myself yelling “I hate you!” to this man?
Then directly after, why do I find myself yelling “I hate myself!!” Crying, begging, screaming, over and over, “I hate myself! Help me! Help me! Please just connect with me!” to a man who is standing here, not even looking at me. All I can think is He doesn’t love you. You’re not good enough. He regrets this pregnancy. He wishes he could find a way out. And none of this is true. I know none of it it true. But it comes and runs over me like a truck, and I am at its mercy, and I can’t save myself because my “self” is gone. Where has she gone?

First of all, who was she? I would describe that self as such:

I was a very active, energetic, ebullient gal. I smiled at everyone. I ran, surfed, hiked, skateboarded, biked, and loved the sunshine. I would try anything once. I meditated daily, did yoga often. I was loving. I was a writer and an actress. I wrote almost every day. Acted as much as I could in little films and sketches.  I was fearless. I left my small town and everything I knew to follow my dreams in California. I committed to things I loved and saw them through. I spent three years working on a novel and published it! I had tons of friends of all ages. Smoked weed once in a while or had some wine. Was kind and fun with kids, who loved me to be their babysitter. I was blunt and said what I was thinking, often with no filter.

And of course, like everyone, I had a darker side. It only surfaced about once a month when I was hormonal. This is what it looked like:

I had a temper that flared up, when I was being ignored or felt small. I needed to feel loved because I didn’t love myself enough, and when my needs weren’t met, I said things I didn’t mean–hurtful, cruel things to the man I love. And when I made these mistakes, I beat up on myself, punished myself for days, hated myself because I couldn’t control these outbursts. I felt like a child, and began to blame the overprotected way I was raised, or the fact I was adopted, or anything I could blame for my self-doubt, for my neediness and tantrums. I found it difficult to forgive myself, even though forgiving others came easily. I never felt like I was as good as others. I wasn’t as “worthy.” Something was “wrong” with me. None of my accomplishments were “real.” I felt like an awful, evil person, masquerading as someone kind, accomplished, and carefree.

But I was working on that. I was going to therapy weekly, getting acupuncture, doing yoga and meditation, journaling, talking, going deep to find why I somehow didn’t find myself as worthy as other people. And I was making progress, since the symptoms of my affliction only showed up around PMS time. The rest of the time I was the positive, active, happy version of me.

The problem is, when I became pregnant, my entire life became PMS time. On bath salts. I read somewhere, and I don’t know how accurate it is, that the first trimester of pregnancy is the hormonal equivalent of taking 40 birth control pills per day. Personally, I went off birth control years ago, because ONE pill per day was making me crazy. So where does that leave me now? Just multiply all my bad qualities by 15, and imagine being trapped inside that person’s mind 24 hours a day.

Self-hatred is my new M.O. Now, I’m hating for two! Because what’s worse than feeling like an unworthy piece of shit? The guilt I feel for feeling that way in the first place, for not being joyful and “glowing.” I’m now, as my brain sees it, an unfit mother in the making, heaping worry on top of worry. Not to mention, my body is stuck in an eternal hangover. In addition to sleeping an average of 12 hours per night, plus naps during the day, I wake up every morning not knowing if I’m going to feel able to eat anything, and what I can eat without feeling sick is mostly carbs which leave me feeling bloated and disgusting. My brain is a pile of mush. I have no drive anymore because I feel like I have the flu or something. So I can’t write, which is the one thing that brought me satisfaction. I can do about one thing per day. I take a walk and watch a movie and stuff my face with carbs, hoping to feel better.

My poor partner bends over backwards to try to make me feel better, to try to understand what he can never understand. I thank him and do what I can to show him my appreciation, but at least once a week, I go off the rails and begin freaking out, sobbing, and inevitably blaming him for something he didn’t do. Which adds to the guilt-shame cycle, which adds to my self-hatred and feelings of being less-than, which makes me feel temporarily suicidal since I see no way out, which makes me flare up even worse, since I feel guilty and shameful and sick and nasty all the time.

It’s the stuff of nightmares. Many new parents fear losing themselves. I fear I’ve already lost myself.