September Words, Belatedly

It can be hard to write during the first trimester of pregnancy—in part, because how you’re going through the world now is a subject taboo (with which I take issue, but was complicit, so), and to write about anything else seems evasive and small; but in greater part, because whatever intellectual capacities you may once have possessed have been quelled by a new-beating heart.

Now, I know, for every woman these early months are different. For some, they pass gently—steady dips and rises, a carousel. You live as you mostly always have, and do things like get out of bed and eat. For many others, though—for me, they are a nadir, and you can’t even remember what it feels like to feel well, and you wonder aloud, in tears, if you’ll ever know it again.

There are pregnancy forums innumerable, I’ve learned, with threads aplenty on “morning sickness.” But the things you read generally are brief, and half-emoji (green face / green face / green face), and just totally un-encompassing. There is such a dearth of real, coherent, longform writing about this maybe unbelievably hard time; and so often, when you do spot a promising line, it’s appended with a “but.” But I’m so grateful for this journey; but it’s all worth it; but this will only make me a better mother.

These are lovely and not at all untrue silver linings; because of course, you are utterly grateful for this babe-to-be; and all that matters is that, deo volente, she’ll soon be here in your arms; and yes, this trial may help prepare you for the countless you’ll face as a parent.

But I very firmly believe that it’s okay—necessary, actually—for women writing about their pregnancies to sink into the visceral, without attenuation; to say afterward, if it was, Wow, that part was awful, and I really suffered. Because I read—a lot—and I was totally unprepared.

With large thanks to Instagram, I think, pregnancy has become this weirdly performative act. Golden-haired, lithe-limbed “mamas,” in flowing Dôen dresses. (No shade to Dôen; I really like your dresses.) And yes! It is such a special and to-be-celebrated thing. But let’s be real: your mom did it, and so did her mom before her; and this total glorification of the experience, and compulsion to perform to it—as a writer, as anyone with a social platform—not only fetishizes pregnancy in ways truly bizarre, but warps the conversation and obscures what’s really real.

So, what I didn’t expect: I wouldn’t write very much, or do very much, this summer. In quick succession, I learned I was pregnant, floated in a fog of bliss, and got sick. It was a day or two of, hmm, something’s off; and then I was fully there. I was nauseous every moment I was awake. I vomited without warning or reason. I was given a prescription that helped not at all and also scared me to take. For weeks I could barely eat, and I lost weight. Cooking smells—all smells—were noxious. Helpfully, it was a thousand degrees; and if you don’t believe in climate change then I could wring your neck, because there were days in August when I would step outside and literally start to cry. And because the first months carry a particular terror, I walked (lay supine) on eggshells. On the positive, I read the New Yorker from cover to cover each week, and gained as clear an understanding as I’d ever had of what matters and what does not. (Not: the dishes.)

Sometime in week 14, things started to improve. I still felt nauseous, especially so at night; and by mid-afternoon, sleep was a siren song. But most days, at least in part, I could think and write and generally feel like a human, which—what an incredible feeling.

So in the beginning, there is such loveliness and un-loveliness both; and if you know what I mean, then I know what you mean, too. Shoot me a note; let’s commune.

And P.S.—baby girl, if it wasn’t entirely clear: I love you so much, it hurts.