A few nights ago, I had a dream that I was pregnant.
I don’t have these dreams often enough to label them as recurring and add them to my list of PTSD symptoms, although I do occasionally have dreams wherein other people are pregnant (and those, I label nightmares).
In this dream, I was about seven months pregnant, but no one knew it. Because I am so tiny, when I eat a big meal or get bloated, my stomach sticks off my body in a perfectly suspicious little bump, and that’s about what my seven-months-pregnant-dream-self’s belly looked like. Certainly nothing to look twice at, so none of my dream-family or dream-friends had a clue. And I sure wasn’t telling anyone, because last time, I told everyone right away, and then had to, as one acquaintance put it at the time, “un-tell” them.
Then I started wondering whether I really was pregnant after all. I had taken only one HPT (also not an accurate reflection of real life) early on in the pregnancy, and had since been keeping everything to myself, refusing to even go to the doctor for check-ups. I wondered whether I had lost this baby, too, or had made the whole thing up (dreamed it?), and I started to worry that maybe I wasn’t pregnant at all, just bloated. I kept rubbing that little belly to try to determine whether it was real. Then I woke up.
This is another reason why I say I’m not ready to “just have a baby now.” I’m terrified of becoming this secretive person who refuses to let herself get excited. I’ve even made loose threats to Doug: “Next time, I won’t even tell you until I’m sure there’s something in there.” I’m worried that I’ll purposefully ignore all pregnancy symptoms as long as I can, that I’ll somehow will myself into being one of those I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant women, just so I can avoid having to experience real fears or anxiety about something going wrong.
Of course, what would be worse, for me, would be not being able to ignore those symptoms. Because I’m even more worried that I’ll become crazy and paranoid, restricting my abilities at work right away, practically putting myself on bed rest from day one, and panicking at any inkling that something isn’t right with my body. (And I’m guessing that, for someone who’s never lived through an entire pregnancy before, there are a lot of weird body things and not-quite-right inklings popping up over the course of those nine months.)
Either way, I do not want to become crazy. Some of the pregnant women I find the most annoying are the ones who act like no one has ever been pregnant before them, and never will since. They’re either overly excited or overly cautious, as though this wasn’t a totally natural and everyday occurrence in human life.
At my work, we currently have two women off on maternity leave. The first, Deborah, is sickeningly sweet and maternal by nature, a few years older than I am, just got married, and was actually trying to have a baby. The second, Ashley, is cheerful and kind of ditzy, just turned 21, is in an on-again-off-again relationship with her high school boyfriend, and didn’t even realize she was pregnant for a good five months.
Deborah asked to have her duties restricted right away, then went on leave earlier than she’d originally intended – so I think there was a risk factor to her pregnancy that I’m unaware of. I managed to be nice to her the entire time she worked with me while she was pregnant. I even tried to be excited for her; she had no idea she was capable of making me uncomfortable. And I did just fine until she left, and I was proud of myself. But then she kept coming back to shop, and all the hard work I’d put in to maintaining my brave face simply crumbled. She would amble around the store, rubbing her belly, seeking out various coworkers to talk to, and I swear to God she was saying things like, “Look how pregnant I am!” (I don’t know what she was actually saying to people, because every time she came in, I would high-tail it to the back and avoid her.)
Ashley, on the other hand, didn’t bother me at all – much to my surprise, because hers was a situational pregnancy I couldn’t justify as any more deserved than my own. But there was the fact that she had no clue she was pregnant, and then even once she’d figured it out, she sort of chose to ignore it. She complained about how boring her restricted duties were, and I even caught her up on an eight-foot ladder in the back room during, like, her seventh month of pregnancy. And I loved her for it, because she didn’t see herself as an invalid or a celebrity; she was still wholly herself, and just happened to be pregnant. And sure, by the end, it was hard to ignore, and on her second-to-last day at work, she was driving me crazy talking about it. But on her last day at work, I gave her a hug and wished her good luck. I even considered touching her belly, but then thought better of it.
The point is that, when I am pregnant, I don’t want to be secretive or paranoid. And although I definitely don’t want to be as over-the-top as Deborah was, I worry that I’ll mute my excitement – or disallow it altogether – because I’ll be so sensitive to other women’s feelings, and wonder if I’m unintentionally terrorizing some poor little post-miscarriage trauma victim.
No, I’d like to be more like Ashley, and be as much myself as I can be during pregnancy. And in order to do that, I need to rediscover who that person is, and get back to being her in her non-pregnant state first. Because although it seems like “just having a baby” would fix all my problems, at this point, I think it would only add to them.