Week 20: Pregnant While Female

We are linked. We are not ranked. And this is a day that will change us forever because we are together. Each of us individually and collectively will never be the same again.
— Gloria Steinem

On January 21, 2017, I was one of the approximate three million people in the country, estimated five million worldwide, who participated in the Women’s March. Surrounded by women, and some men, my circumstances brought me to Los Angeles merely by chance, where I was surrounded by the energy and remarkable calm of an assembled group, communed together for so many various causes. The driving force was clear, to make a statement to the President elect on his first day in office. Those statements varied it seemed from person to person.

All around me, as protesters marched, a new energy generated. Within me, I felt an immense pride which was only heightened by the secret I was carrying. I was nine weeks pregnant with my first child. Never before had the freedom to make decisions about my body felt more important. The rights afforded to me and slighted from me due to my gender, my healthcare, my child’s future all felt pressing, urgent, and worthy of protest to protect on this day.

Was this why I was there? This urgency came from an immediate feeling of threat shortly after the results of the November election were announced. In the weeks that followed, I questioned my own fears, sometimes dismissing them as invalid or hypersensitive. Even the days and moments leading up to my attendance at the March was mixed with doubt and uncertainty about the significance of my attendance, and what it really would do for me. Why bother?

The Washington Post had an interesting article about why the March was potentially the start of a larger social moment that could potentially have effects on actual change such as Supreme Court decisions, citing prior movements that have had effects on more than just a day’s news cycle. So, in part, being present made me feel like I was contributing to something larger than that single moment.

The other part goes back to the urgency, something that political scientist Ted Gurr calls relative deprivation. My need to revolt or make my disapproval known came from the threats to my own rights and safety. Was my motherhood already showing?

As I marched during the hours that we were there, standing, waiting, chanting, and moving ever so slowly, with so much going on around me, I knew so much more was happening within me. Since then, the largest single-day protest in U.S. history, I have not quite felt an awareness of what was happening to me until my twentieth week of pregnancy. That is noteworthy isn’t it? Sure, so much happened in between. Hearing the heartbeat, finding out the sex early due to the wonders of blood work, learning that our child passed screenings for congenital defects and such, watching my body change, sharing news with family and friends, finding our midwife, and so forth. Again, everything was going on around me and physical changes were manifesting within me, but I didn’t feel too different.

We hear all the time about how beautiful the experience of pregnancy is and I would not argue that at all. In fact, the experience up to this point has been so wonderful, truly, that I understand why some women love it so.

For starters, for myself, and I’m sure many women out there, it’s one of the first times I can recall ever being so focused on my own wellness. For the past year and a half, I’ve done my best to make work/life balance and self care more than just a goal, but a way of living. A practice that isn’t treated as a luxury or ideal but a need.

In the past, I ate well when I wasn’t too busy or went to yoga if I was invited by a friend on a special “day off” kind of day. Exercise was something I knew I should do, but didn’t imagine how I could possibly fit it into my already overloaded life.

I started to make the change in September 2015 and there have been some growing pains in between, but I still made progress in the right direction. By June 2016, I was planning meals and cooking at home as much as possible, working out with a personal trainer twice a week, and going to yoga weekly. Again, it took a while for this to become a reality in my schedule, but I got there. Surprisingly enough, I was able to get there with little compromise – compromising being a pretty lax term to use considering nothing I have “given up” feels that important anymore.

By the time I found out I was pregnant, these practices were a part of my life, for the most part. However, being pregnant gave me some own-ness on the matter. I felt MUCH more confident saying no to things I normally would cave on to make time for workouts. When money got tight, and I considered cutting back on personal training in lieu of saving for baby, I talked myself out of that way of thinking. I needed to prioritize and I still have to remind myself what the priority is right now, ME. Ultimately, prioritizing ME has meant that I am prioritizing BABY, but how great is it that at this moment, prioritizing ME can also benefit someone just as equally?

This realization has only affirmed what I have always believed and what I’ve heard from people far smarter and better with words than I, that we cannot care for others until we care for ourselves.

It seems so simple but it gets lost so easily in the name of selflessness or our need to ensure everyone else, but ourselves or at the detriment of ourselves, is taken care of.

How lucky am I then, as a person who needs consistency and time to really develop a habit to its fullest, that I have nine – ten months blocked out that require me to focus on baby myself?

So here we are now, twenty weeks in and just yesterday, we had the big 20 week ultrasound. Currently, I’m still pretty small. No strangers have commented yet on my pregnancy and the ones who do know tell me I don’t look pregnant even though I can’t help but feel engorged. It’s still the limbo period where I feel like there is a secret I’m hiding that only a few are privy to knowing. Maybe it’s a protectiveness, maybe it’s just me not caring to share more than needs to be said, but this has been a nice quiet period of just enjoying the silence.

But in the darkened room of the ultrasound facility, there is no mistaking what is happening inside me. Seeing a fully formed face, lips that look already like my husband’s and what I believe to be my nose on another face. In this moment, I am reminded of the energy that charged through me at the Women’s March. Instead of feeling this with hundreds of thousands of bodies surrounding me, it took one tiny body inside me to get me there.

Week twenty, the tipping point, is taking me to a new place. A place where I now feel that I am a mother, protecting myself and my child from what we don’t need to be exposed to and embracing what we should surround ourselves with. And in practicing this, there is room to learn about how to practice this no matter our circumstances. With child, without, all while female. This is a new phase. Sure, some consider this the second trimester, but for me, for the rest of my pregnancy, we will exist here, in the last twenty weeks and this is where we should truly start.