August 30th, 2013
Alicia Van Riggs
My question, which is really a reflection of my own experience right now. I'm finding these first weeks of nausea to be similar to earlier pregnancy experience - generalized nausea , all the time. Reprieve can come from various actions - eat, but also poop, pee, fart... It's like the signals from my abdomen are suddenly passed through a mixer before reaching my brain. Is this at all echoed in your experience? How do you trust these fuzzy signals? What translation tools do you rely on for internal communications?
Emily Joye McGaughy-Reynolds
There is some stuff in life that feels generally unfair. As in me and you now on our second round of pregnancies so very very far away from one another geographically. I can't believe our pregnancies paralleled each other, time wise, again. Makes the whole absence harder. Like Sunny and Aurora haven't even met face to face and yet we are discussing how to get the snuggle sleeper back to you through the mail. It's kinda cosmic jack-assery that we haven't been able to touch each other's bellies or attend our daughters' baptisms. And NOW we can't even converse about fuzzy body signals with the very subject matter at hand at hand! I miss you Alicia. I miss you tons.
I didn't have generalized nausea and don't relate personally to the symptoms you're describing. They say each person's experience of pregnancy is different and that each pregnancy of an individual is different. Must be true. Sorta. I don't often relate to other womyn's pregnancy symptoms or experience. But there has been a similarity between my two pregnancies with only a slight variation. The second time most everything is the same, in terms of progression, sensation and symptoms, with two exception. This time everything is slightly less intense. Like on a Richter Scale, the experience of pregnancy with Aurora was a 6 and with Isaiah it's a 4. Does that makes sense? The food aversion was there, just not as pronounced. The exhaustion of first trimester had its impact, but not as disruptively this time. Again, the kicking and hiccuping came about in the second and third trimesters but not as forcefully. The (second and) only thing that's significantly different is the weight gain. I weigh right now (at 32 weeks) with Isaiah what I weighed when Aurora was born (40 weeks) and the baby is supposed to gain a 1/2 a pound a week from here on. My body is "heavy laden" so to speak. Imagining carrying this body around, a body that will hold more and more weight, for another 8 weeks, is rather scary, honestly. Some days I come home and strip immediately and just lay naked, sideways on my bed, because even the presence of clothes or having to stand up make me feel oppressed. There's too much. Body. Matter. Weight. I long to be in water. I want some kind of unforeseen gravitational equation to set me free.
The last two questions of your prompt are intriguing to me. In fact, I love them. Thank you.
"How do you trust these fuzzy signals?"
a) I wonder how fuzzy they are. What's the source of the fuzz? Is it the fact that we aren't conditioned to nor supported in developing our carnal ear? What if from the earliest moments of our lives, we'd been told that listening to our bodies (as opposed to silencing them) was the most important listening we could ever do? Something tells me there'd be less fuzz. Of course the body is mysterious. Fuzz would be present in utopia, i'm sure. But there'd be less. My former coach and mentor Wayne Muller used to say "the body never lies." He's right. But Lord have mercy do humans struggle to hear its truth.
b) How do I trust them (the fuzzy signals)? I guess by practice. Pay attention. Discern. Obey. Discern again. Repeat. Like, with food, for instance. Somewhere deep deep down I believe that whatever my body craves is what it needs. So I pay attention to the craving, discern what it'll take for me to satisfy that craving, obey it, and then discern whether the entire process led to corporeal delight or something else. First trimester it's all about noodles, tomato-based sauces like marinara and ketchup and TONS of gatorade. Balsamic vinegar and diet coke started calling my name in second trimester. And now I can't get enough raw vegetables in third. Like avocados, bell peppers, radishes--totally rocking my world every day. Can't get enough. The more I eat the stuff I actually want, which does include ice cream and/or Hershey's mini-chocolate squares every once in a while, the more pronounced, in a specific way, my hunger becomes. The signals of pregnancy hunger have become more and more trust-worthy over time. It's pretty wonderful. But all the signifiers of pregnancy aren't wonderful. Of course I'm not telling you anything you don't know. With both pregnancies I got plagued with acute anxiety between weeks 6 and 12. Unfortunately I didn't remember going through it the first time when I was going through it the second time, and so I kept wondering: why is this happening? something must be wrong! My colleague, dear sweet Tom Ryberg, reminded me in the 9th week with Isaiah that I'd gone through this, almost exactly the same, with Aurora. What a gift he gave me with that reminder. I keep wondering about the source of that anxiety. Was it too a trustworthy signal from my body? I have to believe on some level, yes. But it was hell going through it. I'd have day terrors about miscarriage, nightmares about dead babies. Torture torture torture. I don't know what purpose that anxiety served but I do trust something necessitated it. Perhaps I'll discover more in the future. One can only hope.
"What translation tools do you rely on for internal communications?"
Wow. I have to really really think on this. Translation presupposes a difference in language. Or some kind of need for interpretive assistance. This of course takes me back to Marion Grau's class on hermeneutics "Interpreting Bodies." Best class I've ever taken in my life. One thing tattooed forever in my brain from that class is that bodies create interpretations and interpretations create bodies. Both/and. Not either/or. Which is, of course, entirely fascinating and kinda scary to think about when it comes to pregnancy. Do we have a common language? What is it? Is my body the shared language right now? Doesn't that erase some kind of existing separation/distinction between us? Obviously Isaiah is a concrete entity within my body but not synonymous with it. What needs to be translated between baby and mom? And do I have the interpretative frameworks I need to even discern our differences of language. Does the baby? If so, it can't be because he posses some kind of awesome cognition. That's not even biologically possible at this phase in his development. If in fact the baby is able to communicate/translate, signify and discern, there must be some kind of natural (as in bio-mechanical) force at work in that. Like, ugh, God.
This is actually about humility, I think. Stay with me.
It's so easy, as the grown-up, as the adult carrying, as the maternal vessel, to assume I know what's being communicated by the baby through my body. But isn't there danger in that? Maybe I'm all wrong when I make assumptions about what's motivating this exhaustion or that craving or this kick or that hiccup. One of the things I'm always always always trying to teach through my ministry is Anais Nin's famous quote: "we don't see things as they are; we see things as we are." Knowing we cannot NOT see things as we are doesn't let us off the hook. I think this fact of our conditioned (not determined) interpreting necessitates that we work even harder to pay attention, to listen, to discern beyond our initial impulses, our initial reactions, our initial connections. This is about allowing the other to remain w/holy other. Maybe I think the baby is thirsty at first, but can I leave room for the possibility that my body temperature is too high and what baby really needs is both a cold drink and a cold shower? Holding out the possibilities for a different word/meaning/understanding is hard when there are no actual words to pass back and forth. This is all through the prehension of feeling. But, oh, what a practice. What a novel novel practice! To hold space through feeling for more feeling. One might consider this the ultimate self-centered navel gaze. But I suppose it's also possible, as it goes with most radically incarnate spiritual practices, that one could slip into a consciousness of one's own multiplicity too. As in listening/feeling for Isaiah's translative Word, I become aware that even here, here inside my own corporeal systems, there are mysteries not my own. That my life, which belongs to me and yet transcends me, and his life which springs from me and will one day be entirely independent of me, deserves a kind of humility all/ways. A kind of humility that leans in to lovingly listen and at the same time laughs at the absurd idea that I'll ever even remotely understand what I'm leaning in to hear.
It's funny. I feel like I've ended up saying two wildly different things here that might appear contradictory. But, good Congregationalist that I am, perhaps there's a way of holding them both or squeezing them into a third space. Radical trust in the body. Sheer humility in the mysterious presence of the body. To know and to know you don't know. That's what I'm aiming for, I suppose, in pregnancy, in parenting, in life, with God.
Love you, my beautiful and far-away friend.