status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage
I honestly never believed I would be a mother.
In fact, having made peace with the unlikelihood of ever meeting a suitable life partner; a future filled with foreign languages, travel, writing and the occasional empowering but short-lived sexual fling with a modest succession of mysterious strangers came to seem like a pretty reasonable alternative to family life.
So it is with repeated and overwhelming surprise that I greet the swollen, irrefutable evidence of how very much things have changed each time I happen to cast my eyes feet-wards.
I am full of baby. How wonderfully barmy and improbable that feels.
And the side effects no less so; one of the most unexpected being that I have at long last made peace with this lumpy, bumpy body of mine.
Such a visually unimpressive mishmash of flesh, bone, fat and sinew which has caused me nothing but shame and regret for so many years finally seems to have come into its own as it goes about, without any apparent help or guidance, building a brand new human being.
A little person, who despite having been gifted half of my DNA and lent the use of my innards for almost nine months, is already an individual in its own right; hardwired with its own personal strengths, weaknesses, preferences and potential for opinion.
In fact as I feel the determined kicks, wiggles and stretches – perhaps the most bizarre, occasionally unsettling but often wondrous, aspect of late pregnancy – I find it hard to imagine that this creature, so apparently purposeful and in control of its destiny, will pop out of me as vulnerable and helpless as any other newborn.
(Although in retrospect, if it instead popped out and strolled from the room in search of coffee and a newspaper, that might be more disconcerting…)
Having largely managed to avoid the whole preparing-for-motherhood behemoth so popular in the UK (I’m utterly intimidated by those gangs of pregnant women and/or new mums often to be found lurking in Starbucks et al) my midwife recently ordered me, on pain of anesthetic-free episiotomy stitches, to attend at least one antenatal meeting.
A meeting in which a group of fat, knackered-looking “ladies” with bumps of all dimensions, sat around in increasing horror as it was explained how best we could assist our poor bodies in expelling their oversized burdens, and what drugs (not as many as I had hoped) would be on offer to us in the event of the whole unlovely process smarting a tad.
Naturally there are always those who loudly declare their intention to eshew any type of pain-relief – does wanting to really feel the burn mean you will be a better class of mother? These declarations certainly release a sort of smugness into the air which is indicative of such an opinion.
Which would therefore mean that I am destined to be a pretty crap parent, given that I would be more than happy to take a needle to the back if it all gets too much.
The conversation then moved on to breastfeeding, another touchy topic offering mammas-to-be a hint of the ruthlessness of future motherhood-related peer pressure…
Personally, I do want to breastfeed: even as I recoil from stories of cracked nipples, mastitis, and dodgy latches, I still find myself hugely looking forward to those intimate moments with my child.
Going the boob route also seems (to the lazy layperson, me) to be a far more convenient arrangement than faffing around with tubs of powder, bottles, teats, sterilisers and microwaves at 2 o’clock in the morning.
And as for the miserly layperson (me, again), she is very much swayed by the lack of any financial implication involved in swinging her breasts around.
But all in all I feel that it is a matter of personal choice, and not a potential guilt-stick with which to belabour women already made vulnerable by the physically and emotionally arduous impact of pregnancy and childbirth.
In fact I know plenty of people – the Mothership, my lovely husband, and all of his siblings to name but a few – who were not breastfed. And who all enjoy health far more robust than my own boob-nourished, asthma-riddled, allergy-beleaguered, sinusitis-whipped, IBS-slapped, migraine-mangled-immune-system-of-a-newborn-kitten.
Drug-free birth, only breast milk will do – could this be just the tip of the iceberg in the game of guilt-ridden parenthood chess??
This is Status Viatoris, thirty-five weeks and counting (and hoping and praying and loudly pleading with sproglet not to leave her trapped in this penguin-waddling, back-aching hell for too much longer)…