(first published on NPR's Baby Project)
I live in a tiny community of about 1,150 people, accessible by a ferry that takes 1.25 hours one way. When I was born, there were five generations of my family living on the island. This is my first pregnancy. Needless to say, when I walk downtown (technically called downstreet because that's the extent of things), I see people I know, and we chat.
This is no new phenomenon; I started planning socialization time into my downstreet meanders long ago, particularly during the summer when the population of the island can nearly double and there's a year's worth of catching up to do.
The phenomenon that I'm experiencing that is sort of throwing me for a loop is twofold: It starts out with someone stopping me on the street, looking meaningfully into my eyes and asking, "How are you feeling?"
These people are not deterred by answers such as "Great! How are you?" They want the nitty gritty. They do not want to have a pleasant exchange and move along. They seriously want to know.
This is mildly disconcerting for me since I'm almost 6 feet tall, and have been described in the past as "durable." I don't think I look like I'm uncomfortable in my body, and am really enjoying being pregnant. I'm just trying to go to the post office and pick up some eggs. Really. I'm fine.
But then the second part of the phenomenon takes hold. No, it's not the touching. I don't know if I've just been lucky, but there has been a distinct lack of strangers coming up to me and putting their hands on my belly. I'm not complaining; I actually think it's partially because there's a dearth of strangers on an island of 1,150. The second part is when people start telling me how I feel. Now, I'm a smart girl. I have my master's degree and have trained as a massage therapist. I think I have a pretty secure hold on how I'm feeling at any given moment; however, a substantial portion of the population, including utter strangers, feel compelled to approach me and inform me that I am ready to have this baby out of me, that I'm "dragging," "exhausted," "hormonal" and worse.
So, for posterity's sake, let me tell you how I'm feeling: I'm excited, exhilarated and awestruck on a pretty much continual basis. I'm humbled that my body can, quite literally, create and sustain life. I'm occasionally terrified about the choice we've made — not to have a home birth, but to become parents. I rarely feel qualified to put on matching socks in the morning, much less be one of the sole caretakers for an entirely dependent life form.
I know that the world loves a pregnant woman, and I'm happy to play that role, but I'm more than just a pregnant woman. There are other things going on in my life, and I look forward to a time when I am not defined by my belly.
Yes, I could almost always take a nap. Yes, I am anxious to meet this little bugger and find out who's been poking me for the last several months. Yes, I have cankles, and no, it's not terribly comfortable, but you know what? I totally trust in this process, and I know that when I'm meant to meet my little one, I will. And I know that nothing will ever be the same.
Till then, I'm fine. And you?