I am so eager to start responding to your questions, and I think I may have a few moments while the Baby Genius takes a morning nap. I would like to start with these questions from Carrie Storm:
Wife and I are due Christmas Day. I’m carrying (I’m younger at 37) and having a hard time feeling real butch lately…joked in a Birth Circle recently that I just want my ‘manhood’ back. I want to lift weights, fix plumbing, chop firewood, sweep my love up off her tiny little feet.
Instead I’m on modified bed rest, I waddle, I leak, I smell weird, my boobs are out-of-control, and I may not even make it to an Ani DiFranco concert on 11/15 that we’ve has tickets for forever because I can’t stay awake later than 8:00 in the the freakin’ evening. Yeah, I’m real tough…
Our baby will be so loved, but thus far I’ve found pregnancy to be overly-public and weird (though piercings, combat boots, and scowling seem to keep people from (shudder) touching my belly).
Is there still room for the things you loved, and for who you were, before BG was born? Do you even care about the things you loved, and who you were, before BG was born? Am I ever going to be me again? Would your hospital have let you wear your own clothes if you wanted to? Even if you decided to deliver in a Super Man T-shirt and Docs?
For me, as many of you have read here, pregnancy was an identity I embraced very easily. My wife has always thought of me as a sort of mother goddess figure, and when I was pregnant, I really did embody that to a large degree. In fact, it was one of the first times I really felt comfortable in my physical skin. It was amazing.
Still, I missed certain aspects of my pre-pregnancy self. Despite the fact that I’m decidedly more femme, I have always been the one to fix things, lift heavy objects, and generally do the more stereotypically “butch” things around the house. I’m the one with the power tools, the one who carries things for J, the one who performs car maintenance. Suddenly, my wife was pumping the gas, carrying the groceries, and offering to help me up. When I was in my third trimester, even a simple thing like using a screwdriver could send me into some serious exhaustion or contractions, so I had to give the tools over to my wife, and we had to get my step-dad to help us put things like the crib together. I’m not used to feeling as helpless as that, and it was hard. When I would try to engage in any of these activities, my wife would scold me and make me promise not to do it again. Imagine her horror when I had to be the one to climb up on a chair and change the heater vent on the ceiling the day before I went into labor because she couldn’t reach it. I loved this, but I think she held her breath the whole time I was up there with the screwdriver.
On a side note, when I was in early labor, I found it so amusing to come back from walking the halls to find this tool cart just outside of my hospital room. My wife kindly grabbed the camera and photographed it for me.
Since having the baby, I have been able to reclaim much of this side of myself, and it delights my wife and I to no end. Sadly, much of my physical strength has waned, and I’m really having to build that back up again. Having a giant baby boy to carry around does help.
So far, I think J and I both are trying to navigate the waters of mother identity as we work to reconcile these new identities with those we embraced before. At times that is really hard, and at times it’s fun. We’re both striving for hip mama identities and find ourselves clinging to things like our old motorcycle boots and decidedly nonsoccer-mom hairstyles to do so. But there is also the side of me now who finds M.oby wraps to be decidedly hip in their own way. I guess what I’m saying is it’s a sort of balancing act combining the old selves with the new, but it’s really great to be reinventing ourselves with our son’s help.
And we certainly do still care about many of the things we loved before our Baby Genius arrived; we just have to work around BG a lot more. For example, we are big wine enthusiasts, so we’ve taken him wine tasting. I can’t drink as much wine as I used to, but I can sample the latest releases at our favorite wineries with him attached to me in a wrap. There are certainly plenty of things that are harder to do now, but we still love the things we have always loved and can’t wait to involve him in some of these activities like camping, hiking, gardening, and travelling.
So yes, I do think you’ll find a way to be you again; you’ll just be a new and improved model. It takes some time to get used to having your body back; hell, I’m still getting used to it, but it feels good. I’ve even got new tattoo designs running through my head. You’ll have the added benefit of having this extra person to dress as you like, providing further outlets for expression.
Finally, on the issue of hospital attire, I was allowed to wear what I wanted after my initial intake exam, and I did wear my own clothes through part of labor, but I found rather quickly that I needed semi-frequent clothing changes due to leaking fluid, so I was back to hospital gowns. But delivering in Docs–I wish I would have thought of that. I think they would have struck just the right combination of practicality and rebellion that I was feeling during that experience. I say ask your healthcare provider if you can wear what you want; it’s certainly worth a shot!