Letter to The Young Pregnant Woman, Age 21, Possibly Me
How are you feeling? Quite possibly you feel wonderful, so young and on the brink of so much. Probably you are receiving an epic download of intuitive information, as well as a thorough map of how your intuition works and how it feels. This map will change your life, and you will use it every day from here on out. It is summer, and your skin is glowing, pulled tight with the glory of your youth and the abundance of your baby growing inside of you. People marvel at you now, and your belly that grows like the flowers. People stop for you, offer to carry your bags, cars halt in the street so that you can cross anytime, and anywhere. You smile all the time.
I know that you just graduated college, bravely, as pregnancy is unwelcome there. The academics view pregnancy as a dead end to your “potential”, a tragic incident that ruins your trajectory—a surrender to mediocre gender roles of yore. You brought snacks to all your classes toward the end, because you were always hungry. In the poetry class you could be yourself. You spoke of pregnancy and ate apples. The poets laughed with you and named you their honorary fertility totem for the class. They hoped your life-bringing force would infiltrate their words and papers and bless their poems. In your anthropology class you told no one and cried quietly in the back row during the documentary about Chimpanzees as the tribe leader stole a mother’s infant and killed it in front of her by smashing it repeatedly on a tree.
Oh! I meant to say, don’t worry. Your life isn’t over. Academia has its benefits but there is life beyond the University Square. You will see. Not right away, but you will see. You are spending days at the river, floating in the water and laying in the sun. You eat only the best food now, because everything you eat is helping to grow your baby. You stopped watching movies because instinctively you feel that injecting synthetic emotions into your psyche (and therefore your baby’s budding brain) is the wrong thing to do. This frees you up and you spend even more time at the river. You read books, you write letters. You sleep a lot. You document your body with a disposable film camera. Your breasts are amazing.
Here are the things that no one will tell you:
It will be awful. Having a baby will be so hard and terrifying and lonely, you won’t know what hit you. This won’t last forever, but it will happen.
Your husband, whom you married when you were three months pregnant, is not right for you. You already know this deep inside, but you’ve been silencing the inner voice because you don’t know what else to do about it. You will make wrong decisions because of what he wants. You will go against your intuition and against the advice of friends. You will do this because you are young, and because this is how you learn. After a decade, you will be much better at listening to The Voice. It is never wrong. It often tells you things that require you to call upon your deepest courage.
Learning will be hard. Everything you learn now will be punctuated by the quest for survival, for you and your baby. You will be tired a lot. You will learn to value rest and sleep above all things, even above money and sex.
You will become who you are. Motherhood will strip everything away except the bare essentials, and you will build from there. It is a glorious, rich, naked starting point. Anything is possible. You know so much now. Your choices belong to you and your baby.
Breastfeeding will change the way you live. It will teach you unnamable and unspeakable things about love and communication. It will teach you about your heart.
The way you view your body will entirely change. You will realize what your body is really for, (including the parts beneath that bikini you wore to the river all summer). Before, it was so much about sex. About being attractive and about attracting. About sensuality, being naked with a man. Pleasure for him, for you. Now you will see that all of that is simply a bridge to your body’s deeper purpose: to give birth and to feed. The enormity of this will impress you. You will be astonished at the brilliant design of your self.
You will not care about sex anymore. This lasts for varying degrees of time. Because of your new understanding about what your body is actually designed for, and because you will be keeping your baby alive, you simply will not care. You will not feel like flirting. You will even sometimes feel somewhat repelled by your man, who absolutely will still feel like doing these things. It will be difficult to navigate this new way of being. It will change as your child grows, so don’t worry too much. Your sexuality will never be the same again.
One of the best gifts you will receive is the ability to say No. When your baby is born, the world will be different, and the thought of doing something you don’t want to do will be preposterous. You will not be able to imagine spending time with people who only moderately interest you. You will certainly not be able to imagine spending time with people who make you uncomfortable. You will build a kingdom around and within yourself, and the only ones who can enter will be the ones who truly feed your soul. You will understand the true meaning of “priorities.”
Probably there are more things. But those are the main ones. The ones that will shock you, shift you, make you feel forever changed, so different than before. It is trite to say that you will never be the same again. Sacrifice is your daily bread. You will mourn, with tears, the loss of your 20s as your friends swirl through that decade childless, drunk, and free. In your 30s you will finally realize you lost nothing and gained everything. You will begin to realize that freedom is not in social availability, but rather that it is found in a system of awareness as to what you want in life, who you want to be, and how you will get there without sacrificing yourself.
You will be grateful that you birthed your baby so young, because deep down you wanted that, and you did it in the face of adversity and youthful ignorance. You will feel accomplished and strong. You will know that there is still such a long way to go.