Pregnant people are always asked how are you feeling, which is deep politeness on behalf of the one asking, because in obvious ways we are bearing a load. But truth is you probably don't really want to know. When you are pregnant, your emotional range is symphonic. There is a vast internal tempest of feeling, not that we admit it.
When someone asks how I am doing, I say, "Good!" Because, let’s admit, it could be worse (though sometimes I feel tautological and salty and reply, “Pregnant”). Also, maybe I just went swimming in the middle of a workday, when you asked, or maybe I just ate avocado toast, or jaywalked without getting struck by a vehicle, so yeah, I am good.
Also the miracle of life happening right inside me and whatnot.
But if you ask me how I am feeling, and you mean really feeling, here are the words that would spill from my mouth:
... Like the emotional Titanic, going down, sensing how great the distance is still between me and the inevitable ocean floor, and, in my panic, trying to save some random deck chairs. Don't ask why the deck chairs. And frantically saving twisty-ties, too, those eyesores of countertops. Gotta be holding a few of those red frayed snack-bag-closing ones while we drown. Just in case someone has a baggie in need in the beyond. Pregnancy is full of random urgencies to preserve, protect, prevail.
... Like I am dragging myself up a hill, even when I am actually pushing a stroller down a hill while my almost 3-year-old son (How did that happen already? How is he already 3? The early years pass like traveler's diarrhea when you have no Imodium) says beatifically, "Mama, what a beautiful day, did you see those beautiful pink flowers?"
And inside I am like, fuck beauty, fuck all this beauty. I cannot stand even one single eyeball more of beauty, not a single raindrop-catching petal in the crosshairs of my rods and cones; this beauty is destroying me, intestinal villa by intestinal villa.
But I say only, “Yes, baby bear, I do.”
When two pregnant people run into each other on the street, they know better than to ask this fruitless, bottomless question.
... Indescribably furious when my husband leaves vegetable scraps in the sink — or his long, curly, many-women-would-kill-for-it hair in the shower drain. I mean, America has occupied hundreds of countries, but my husband left behind just as many vegetable scraps, and dark hairs (from his head, OK?). Pregnancy fills me with accusations of deeply false similarities. Really what I need is not to berate, but to melt in said husband’s arms, and really the veggie scraps are there because, well, he cooked us dinner. He cooked us edible, fragrant, filling dinner, but look at all those onions skins he left behind.
... Like someone pureed my intelligence and garnished it with haggard parsley. You can dip your spritely crisp-carrot of a question into this morass, but not much is going to come out. And what does might smear too easily, and be queasy-green and full of thought-holes.
But, I dare you, dip away.
... And mostly: like someone whose bladder is perpetually full to bursting, but whose heart feels perpetually starving. My heart can never, ever (pregnancy bestows a false sense of eternity) be filled sufficiently. It is beset with the emotional version of the munchies. The hunger of post-marathon day. My needs are continental. Aside from its precipitous need for the tiny hummingbird heart beating subordinate clauses beneath it, my heart requires absolute and utter love. From whom? Well, you, whomever. Tall order, I know.
But you asked, your bad.
I guarantee, I am not the only pregnant person who might [want to] answer you this way, when you ask how I’m feeling. Perhaps non-pregnant people have the same buried instincts. And when two pregnant people run into each other on the street, they know better than to ask this fruitless, bottomless question. At childbirth class, there are grunts and snacks passed around instead. Quiet, fueling solidarity.
Even when not pregnant, we need far more — affection, solidarity, visibility, invitation to express whatever we feel, in short, everything — than we’ll admit (to each other or to ourselves), and at the same time, we wish you’d keep your mouth shut. We’re allowed to want things in contradictory, impossible ways. Or you could just refrain from asking.
I appreciate much more the simplicity, the rhetorical nature, the response non-required, of someone blessing me, and that happens all the time too. The blessings are a form of apology for the rest of the vacuous questions people ask, and it makes me feel, briefly, like my shoulder blades really are vestigial angel wings. Bless you! They say in passing, by which they mean you plural: they are the weirdos in your subway car, clutching their greasy bibles; the old ladies on the buses, the old ladies waiting for busses, plastic bags tied to their walkers; some dude chomping gum in the gas station where you’ve stopped to pee, who will also tell you if you are having a boy, a girl, or a hybrid.
They are blessing you just for being. I don’t care what god they believe in, then, or if they think Satan also rides the Q train with his iPhone X. I take in their blessing like a kid on Halloween takes a Snickers bar from a kind shopkeeper — you know that kid with an empty candy bucket, whose costume fell apart at the first house, string popped on the batwoman mask, black tutu unraveled completely at the end of the block? That kid. If you could just say to me, “Bless you, and all your ferocious, wearying moods!” then, thank you.
So anyway, when you ask me how are you feeling — I’m torn. Everything true about me is suddenly bubbling up to the surface, hoping to ride out on a sentence and be known.
But then I realize the invitation, the inquiry, was perfunctory and cautious. And then, as is expected, the truth, my real answer, sinks back down to the depths of a self, somewhere hopefully out of reach of where the baby lies hunched (can you baby-proof a womb?). Its fetal amygdala is pulsing like a light-house beam signaling between storms, and its little heart speeds along.
This first-time mom wants to have a home birth, but is she ready? Watch how a doula supports a military mom who's determined to have a home birth in Episode One of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below. Visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for the next three episodes, launching every Monday starting November 26.