Mattafact, I don’t even really *like* the term “expecting,” whether used to describe pregnancy or even anything else. Metaphysically, we know that with expectations come attachment—and that attachment to outcomes breeds anxiety and disappointment.
Nobody can tell you 100% what to expect when you’re expecting, but they will try! And if it’s not prediction, it’s unwarranted advice. And if it’s not advice, it’s something. It’s always SOMETHING.
And all of it is simply the phenomenon of projection, which is almost all any of us know how to do.
When I first learned I was pregnant, my mind raced. I wanted to read every article, lurk every forum, read every book and watch every video. My sistren Elle loaned me her copies of What to Expect When You’re Expecting and The Joy of Pregnancy.
I thumbed through the majority of What to Expect. I watched Ricki Lake’s documentary The Business of Being Born. I read the blogs and listened to the birth stories of my sistafriends.
I reflected on my own truth and that of millions of mamas before me, and I realized that a lot more fearmongering is projected into pregnancy than is necessary. The medicalization of childbirth and its accompanying hospital protocol are truly infantile practices, relative to the history of civilization.
Infantile and barbaric.
Being that creating and bringing forth new life is one of the most life- and body-changing experiences a woman can have, I overstand the necessity to have books map out all the possibilities for reference’s sake. It’s wonderful to have a month-by-month breakdown of what’s changing and developing, and a guide as to what side-effects are normal and what may be cause for concern.
Of course, not every woman who conceives is as healthy as I am, but more people are born than die from pregnancy complications. Every single person walking this planet is the result of a successful gestation, and presently there are a lot more (7 billion and counting) success stories than not. Pretty good odds, yes?
It’s one (useful) thing to have an encyclopedia of all the potential occurrences in pregnancy, but it’s another to list everything that could ever go wrong EVER and title it “What to Expect.” A more apt name could be, The All-Inclusive Reference Guide to Pregnancy and its Potential Side Effects.
The never-ending advice from all angles and the “oh just wait until…” and “such and such is gonna happen…” was not only annoying to me, but also useless.
In truth, in retrospect, trusting myself, my body, my baby and my natural instincts served me so much more than any book blog website or video.
It’s challenging because it’s such a new experience happening to you and there are myriad changes, but all you can ever do is take EVERYTHING ANYONE tells you with a grain of salt because the entire experience is 100% unique and subjective. No two pregnancies are the same, even for the same woman. No two babies are the same, regardless of what they warn you about with developmental milestones, teething and the Terrible Twos.
Even when it came to antenatal care, the doctors and midwives NEVER told me anything I didn’t already know. After my second trip to the clinic, I realized that it was all just monitoring that could be done myself if I really wanted to—weight, blood pressure, fundal height (measurement of the uterus), checking for protein and sugar in the urine. Being at an optimal age, weight and overall health at the time of conception, I knew they were never going to find me with abnormal blood pressure or signs of the onset of gestational diabetes.
It was a blessing to hear the baby’s heartbeat for the first time, however, even though I didn't like the fact that it was with a handheld Doppler device. I heard the strong heart tones during my second clinic visit at 16 weeks (or about 4 months), which was the last antenatal appointment I attended until the last month of my third trimester at 36 weeks.
The funny thing is, knowing my intentions in conception and the work Dread & I are here to do, I honestly had no worries about my child during the first few months. It was OTHER people who projected their ignorance toward my pregnancy.
“Oh, you don’t feel the baby moving yet?” a Trinidadian woman asked me one time.
“Nah, but my books say you mightn’t feel kicks until 20, 22 weeks and I’m only 16.”
“Are you sure? You should feel the baby moving at least a little,” she insisted.
“Nah, it’s too early, I think,” I pressed back.
“Are you sure? You look big, though, you look maybe five or six months. Are you sure it’s not twins? You really don’t feel anything?” All this from a woman who last gave birth over two decades ago.
“I look big because of the cut of this dress. Plus, I’m constipated and haven’t shit in three days, and besides, I’m really only about four months along.”
“Are you sure?—” and you get the drift.
People just can’t help it.
“Are you eating? Are you taking your vitamins? You look kind of small for being five months.” Say what, childless woman?
“It’s a boy. For sure. I have two kids of my own and I always guess right when looking at the pregnant bellies in my extended family. Definitely a boy.” Say what, mister I’ma-work-with-this-50-50-chance-of-being-right?
"Boys are shaped like basketballs and girl bellies are watermelons." Or was it vice versa?
“Don’t drink the water straight from the coconut or else your baby’s head will be real huge.” Say what?! Well, actually, Eleven’s head DID end up being a-HUGE, but I blame it more of her genetic inheritance from her father than a young water jelly nut. But don’t tell the Trini woman who gave me that advice!
Hearing the heartbeat was nice, but even that I could do myself if I really wanted to purchase a device for our home. Besides, after 20 weeks or so, I could clearly feel my baby jumping and kicking and stretching, so I knew she was alive and well. And in the third trimester, my husband was literally able to hear the baby’s heartbeat with his ear to my belly!
Meanwhile, Eleven would strategically hide her back from the midwives when they tried to use the Doppler. Hello! (Brilliant.) Being that in my birth plan, I had initially written up that I did NOT want any Doppler treatments and preferred a Pinard horn fetoscope, I believe Eleven's avoiding the scanner was her attempt at not only avoiding the vibes, but helping me to not cross my word. For real!
At first, I was eager to go for a 20-week ultrasound, but this was primarily because I was sick and tired of other people either asking the baby’s sex and/or telling me they “knew for sure, 100% sure” what was between their legs. I should have made all the bidders put money on it, since half of them were wrong!
But beyond the desire to sate the psychic predictions of the general public, after doing my research, I decided against paying someone to direct incredibly loud soundwaves at my unborn, growing child. Sure, “everyone does it,” and there are “no side effects,” but some researchers compare the sound of the waves underwater to that of a subway train pulling into a station. Not necessary. Beyond sound, there's the heat factor, and other potentials. There's plenty of published research on the matter, which I'd encourage anyone to investigate for themselves.
Here's a good article for starters. I appreciate this line:
Giving all women ultrasounds may end up introducing unnecessary stress and anxiety, which in turn can produce real complications that would not have otherwise occurred. The screening for potential abnormalities can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Getting an ultrasound is also referred to as having an “anomaly scan.” Now, I trusted that my body would more likely than not produce a perfectly intact human being. If I’d gone for the anomaly scan, the technician is conducting it with the purpose of looking for something wrong. They say, “seek and ye shall find”—when you go looking FOR something, you’re more likely to find it. “It” being anything, up to and including a false positive or something that cannot be confirmed to be true or even detrimental. I knew I would not choose to terminate my pregnancy regardless, so why bother looking for trouble when I preferred to rejoice in the wonders of creation?
Some women have undergone upwards of five scans per pregnancy primarily to “determine” the baby’s genitalia. “Every time the baby comes on screen, s/he starts acting up and moving around a lot and we can’t get a clear shot!” I’ve heard mothers say. Ever wonder *why* the child is moving so? I’ll place my bets on that being a reaction to the sound waves rather than wanting to give a show to the audience.
I am grateful for the healthcare in Trinidad & Tobago, regardless of my disregard for it. I appreciated the medical professionals and the work they do, but also found my visits to the Point Fortin clinic in our town to be a bore.
In the last month of the third trimester when I enlisted the services of a birthing center with midwives and doulas, they, too, never told me anything I didn’t know, nor did they actually add anything to my antenatal experience other than a 2-hour commute to the center. By then I was already measuring my fundus and watching my weight escalate right on point to the recommended 35 pounds—I wasn’t worried in the slightest about blood pressure or protein or sugar in my urine.
Antenatal visits are, to me, a racket of simply monitoring and guesswork, which isn’t necessary for healthy mothers, but certainly puts a pretty penny in the prenatal practitioner’s pocket if you go private.