Friday, April 13, 2007

The Path We Walk

The other morning I was swimming laps and noticed a pregnant woman get into the lane next to me.

She seemed far enough along for me to guess the baby would arrive soon.

Something about her convinced me this was her first pregnancy.

Mabye it was the extra careful way she walked or the way she kept stopping at the end of the lane to gaze down at her belly and hold it in both of her hands.

She was unsure of herself and yet hopeful.

I felt overwhelmingly tender towards her.

I wanted to stop swimming, duck under the rope, wrap my arms around her and give her a big gentle squeeze. I wanted to rock her, pet her hair and treat her with the softest kindness.

Of course I didn't do those things, but as I swam along I wondered about why I felt that way.

I remembered when I was pregnant for the first time with The Mayor and mothers of all ages would treat me with such sweetness.

Women I didn't really know would well up with tears of joy at the sight of me.

I remember doubting their authenticity. How could they possibly be feeling such extreme emotion about me when they didn't actually know me?

Three years later, with two children and time to integrate the part of my identity now called "Mother", I think I understand their feelings about my pregnancy a bit better.

I could see the future of the mother-to-be in the pool.

I understood what she would soon face.

Though the specific details of our birth stories and first experiences with parenting are different, so much of becoming a mother is universal.

I looked at her and saw labor and delivery, sleepless nights, hair covered in spit up.

I saw her tears of frustration and of joy.

I saw all that she is about to suffer and the new kind of love she is about to experience.

Seeing the path ahead of her... knowing it... was what made me feel so tender towards this stranger.

I wished I could reassure her that it would be the hardest thing she'd ever do and yet the most worthwhile.

But I know there is nothing, not one thing, I could have said to her to make her understand.

Not really.

She'll have to walk the path herself.

Just like you and me.



We'll wait for you on the other side, Sweet Mama...
OTJ

129 comments:

Eddie said...

when my wife was pregnant I felt the same way, I just felt giddy, even though she was the one carrying our child.

Tabba said...

Aaaaah, this all is so true.
So sweet and true.

mox said...

It's so true. I couldn't understand what anyone was telling me when I was first pregnant. I thought they just liked to talk about their own experiences...to random people who could care less, like me. I remember seeing a new mom carrying the same breast pump in a back pack on the subway and my heart broke for her, she was so tired and barely awake. She leaned her head against the pole and sighed with exhaustion. I felt like I was looking back at myself even though we looked nothing alike. Although temporarily one-sided, it's an amazing connection to have with other mothers.

amyerj said...

I remember being so much softer for all mankind for the first year or so that I became a mother. I was just so super-sensitive to the fact that we all start off so innocent and with such great promise.

Ya, that's worn off now.

But I see new Mom's-To-Be, and I'm so happy for the Joy they're about to experience.

polliwog said...

At the risk of sounding cheesy, I think it's fitting that the word "Joy" is in your blog title. You write like no one else I have ever read. You have that rare gift that makes us really feel the words. You truly are a joy to read.

I misted up while reading this. I get how you felt and how she felt.

This phenomenon of everyone (men and women) being so extra wonderful and sweet and kind to me while I was pregnant made those years (and I did this six times - you think i got addicted to that feeling?) the happiest of my life.

I miss it. I miss the smiles, the doors being opened, the knowing looks, the soft faces, the everything.

I have teenagers now and oh good lord, I need my head petted! :-)

Jennifer said...

Oh my goodness, you captured this so well.

crazymumma said...

this was so nice. I to feel a great tendreness to pregnant women, it seems I/we can usually tell the first timers...it is like they are tippy toeing around their own perfection.

Kyla said...

Very sweet. I've felt that way, too.

Brillig said...

I definitely remember being treated that way in my first pregnancy. Somehow women seem to know when it's the first time around for a woman, don't they? This is an incredibly sweet post.

urban-urchin said...

I've felt that towards expectant mothers and mothers with teeny tiny newborns as well. I feel protective of them even if I've never met them. Thanks for putting it so eloquently.

bubandpie said...

It's so true. I've been on the receiving end of that free-ranging benevolence, and I've felt it too.

Jenny said...

This is so beautifully written and heart-felt; it gave me goose-bumps to read!

aimee / greeblemonkey said...

I could totally picture the mom in the pool...

Rachel said...

I love this post. I've had that feeling, when seeing a pregnant woman. I remember when I was pregnant, strangers would walk up to me and strike up a conversation or say "Congratulations" and it was so strange at the time, but now I understand.

flutter said...

Gotta take this one to email

allrileyedup said...

You're like Morpheus in The Matrix - "There's a difference between knowing the path... and walking it."

slouching mom said...

J, you are a good-hearted soul. Your goodness shines through.

Nancy said...

Beautiful thoughts all of us have felt, you just put them into beautiful words. If you see her again at the pool ... hug her =)

Mel said...

...and then hug her again, this time from me.
What a gorgeous post; what beautiful sentiments. You made me get misty, because yes, indeed, I have been there and felt that.

Mrs. Chicken said...

Beautiful, Jessica. So evocative and sweet. And powerfully true.

King Isepik said...

Props to you! :)

Marmite Breath or Nat (Don't call me Natalie). said...

I typed a big long comment, but it turned into mush. So I'll just say that it is beautiful when women can support eachother and feel protective and tender. Before the claws come out, which they inevitably do. I feel like hugging pregnant women too. It's universal.

Mrs. T said...

I remember those looks, too, and more of them after the babes were born. Being a mom is like nothing else. And what a wonderful thing it is.

Lisa Milton said...

Very sweet. Funny how we all come through it.

DV said...

Oh you just made me cry. Damn you!

mcewen said...

Yes, that's why it's called BC. Once the children arrive your mind keeps asking 'why didn't anyone ever tell me....'
We were all 'told' but not one of us really listened because although we had ears, they weren't properly attuned.
Now as mothers, more often than not we just have to shut our ears and rely on radar!
Cheers

Tessa said...

Brilliant expression of it all Joy. My one and only full term pregnancy I felt so very alone and scared. I think everyone does their first time out. We've all been there and its like an invisible string bringing us all together. :)

Shannon said...

So well put!

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karrie said...

So true, and yet there is nothing you really could say to prepare her for what is to come.

heather said...

This is such a wonderful post, it made me tear up a little. I cannot wait to be pregnant!

Jennifer said...

How very true! I, too, wondered why other Mothers were so interested in me when I was pregnant the first time. They always seemed to know that it was my first pregnancy.

I understand now.

Blog Antagonist said...

Oh....YES! I think this is why I became a doula...this kinship, this sisterhood. This knowledge that something wonderful is about to happen and the desire to share in it.

What a lovely post.

Janet a.k.a. "Wonder Mom" said...

God that was great.
I loved being pregnant...it's the three.five years after that I'm having a hard time with.

Pgoodness said...

That was a wonderful post. Such lovely feelings and thoughts. I remember that when I was pregnant and I feel that same way when I see a woman ready to embark on this crazy ride of motherhood. Nothing we say means anything until she lives it herself. I guess that's part of the magic of being the mama.

Stepping Over the Junk said...

I love seeing pregnant ladies like that. Reminds me of the naivety of myself when I was preggers with my first...not realizing what I was in for....Heh. I wouldnt trade it for the world.

QT said...

What a sweet post! No kidlets here, but your post is so well done I know exactly what you are talking about.

Kelly said...

So true, and beautifully written. Thank you.

sober briquette said...

My husband's niece had a baby last month, and due to storms and sickness in my household, I couldn't get to her for a couple of weeks. It was driving me crazy, and I was driving my husband crazy. I couldn't keep the tears at bay as I tried to explain to him, "I know how she's feeling, and I need to be there.

Jodi the Librarian said...

To the amazement of many, I loooooved being pregnant. Watching my belly grow, having breasts that finally filled my A-cup bras, feeling the baby move, people guessing the baby's sex and suggesting names, hearing the ladies in the express check-out line at Wal-Mart whisper loudly, "LORD! Look at that woman! She must be having twins. I weren't never that huge." To my credit, I was so filled with Madonna-like joy from the estrogen pounding through my system that I did not grab a king-sized Kit-Kat and beat them about their frosted and teased heads, which would be a normal reaction in my non-pregnant state.

(10 pounds, 9 ounces for the first; 9 pounds, 8 ounces for the second, in case you were wondering. So, yeah, I was huge. And proud of it.)

Lawyer Mama said...

Oh yes! I feel the same way when I see a new mom-to-be or a new mom. Instant kinship. You can see their future of sleepless nights, joy and tears stretched out before them and it's so moving.

Love this post. You put it beautifully.

Oh & thank you for your thoughtful comment on my depressing post. I didn't realize I had accidentally closed the comments, so thank you for being persistent!

The Sour Kraut said...

I still think my first pregnancy and our son's first 6 months was the happiest time of my life.

Super B's Mom said...

You have such a gift. The gift of putting words to the feelings that so many of us have, but can't explain.

Awesome post.

Queen of the Mayhem said...

This is the second post I have read this morning that has me in tears! You have, as usual, captured the truth so beautifully in this post! Motherhood is the most exhausting, challenging, heart-breaking, wonderful, heartwarming, fufilling thing I have ever done.

And you are right, you can not truly understand it until you have experienced it!

Great post!

Jackie said...

You've captured this feeling so well. One of my best friends is talking about starting a family very soon. I want so badly to be able to explain to her what it's going to be like but there are just no words.
I guess the most important thing is to let her know I'll be there for her during the good and the bad.

Damselfly said...

Aw. I have felt that way too. You're right; there's nothing you can say to an expectant mom to prepare her or give her a real glimpse.

Very touching.

Paige said...

Ah...what a great post.

Walking the path with you,
P

Augs Casa said...

what about the path after birth. You know the path where my 3 year old anouces to everyone, I farted??

Aliki2006 said...

Oh, what a great post! I loved the sentiments involved.

The Medium Swede said...

what a shame. I thought (from the very beginning of the blog) we were in for some hot lesbo pregnant stuff. ;-)

Bon said...

the tenderness always surprised me, even though i found the over-inquisitiveness that sometimes accompanied it quite difficult to deal with, particularly when i was pregnant with O.

but now i get it. i teared up just reading your post.

Pendullum said...

And with that... I wanna reach out and give you the biggest hug, sista!

Kristin said...

Lovely... just lovely...

PunditMom said...

This was a lovely post that made me well up a bit, but in a selfish way, I must admit. Since PunditGirl is adopted, and I have never had a bio child, I missed the whole experience of pregnancy and of the early bonding with other mothers. I am not sorry that PunditGirl did not come to me by way of biology, but I remember watching those bountifully pregnant women, strolling a little more slowly by A Pea in the Pod at the mall, and waiting for it to be my turn.

venessa said...

What a lovely post, Jess. Motherhood definitly needs to be experienced to be understood.

Jenny said...

Why does this post make me cry? So sweet and perfect. I know exactly what you mean.

Mrs. Chicky said...

There is truth in what you speak.

Fo' sho'.

Little Monkies said...

My sister is due any day now...I drive down the road and get all misty thinking about it. What a bonding experience motherhood is, and even the process of becoming a mother.

I loved this post, OTJ. Loved it.

BamaGirl said...

You definitely touched on a universal that is not always talked about.
When I was pregnant, it annoyed me to no end that every single woman in a 20 mile radius had to stop and talk to me.
Now, I am one of those women. I often bite my tongue b/c I know that the pregnant girl will never understand why I want to talk to her. It's like some kind of magnetic force--we are drawn to that obvious sign of our commonality as mothers.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

A fine post.

mamatulip said...

*sniff, sniff*

Man, you bring it every time. I am seriously teary over here.

moodswingingmommy said...

Oh man! How am I supposed to follow the great Jean-Luc?

Wonderfully written! Sniff sniff. Next time you see that woman, give her a big hug for all of us!

tulipmom said...

This was a beautiful post, OTJ. You are such a gifted writer.

I experienced a similar reaction this morning in Target as I watched a pregnant woman (definitely a first-timer) admiring infant-sized sunhats looking like she was about to burst any minute. I made a conscious decision not to initiate a conversation with her, but now I wish I had.

I have never felt as calm and peaceful as I did when I was pregnant. And yes, it all came to a screeching halt after the birth. But I wouldn't trade the past six years for anything.

We're so fortunate to have this blogging community to reinforce the connection we all share as mothers.

thordora said...

Someone I know is pregant for the first time, wtih twins, and is so radiant she makes my heart hurt. She's so hopeful and excited and clearly joyful. (AND she has that cute belly skinny chicks get)

She's like a goddess, brightly waiting. I can't tell her what any of it is like, since no one could tell me (and frankly, no one tried to tell me the good stuff) but I keep telling her to enjoy every.single.second. It passes far too soon.

I want to squish them too.

Dirty Birdie said...

I just found out my neighbor is pregnant and I got all weepy eyed and was jumping for joy. My husband thought I was crazy. He couldn't understand why I wanted to run right over there to wrap my arms around her and celebrate.

I'm gettin all misty eyed again just thinking about it. Damn...

Kami said...

Sortof tough to read for me as I've been trying to concieve for a few years. But made me hopeful for what's to come if I ever do get to carry a child.

Kami said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DraMa said...

I love you sweets. This was such a fantastic post!

How do you always hit that nerve of emotion that we all feel but can't put into words?

liv said...

It's an amazing feeling. I'm so glad that you captured the sentiment in your post. Often, when I teach prenatal yoga, I find myself a little bored by pregnancy and the first timers. Maybe because I'm jaded and on the other side of it all. I want to love these women, going into all of this, so sure of themselves that they'll home birth, knit diaper covers, breastfeed for 8 years and attach. But, sometimes it gets a bit heavy. Thanks for bringing back the wonder!

Karen Forest said...

Understanding is the glue that holds us all together.

Great post!

d. chedwick bryant said...

70 comments--whew I feel too woozy ...nice post though, really sweet.

Jenifer said...

Wahh. I want to feel it again. Alas the magic I think resides with pregnancy number one. There is just something to special it cannot be duplicated.

Sigh.

Aaron & Alaine said...

I recently learned that a family member was pregnant, and immediately had the sense of protection you so eloquently spoke of. Often I can get caught up in the details...and I'm experiencing more of the sheer "joy" with the anticipation of new life.

Meanwhile, with my three little people at home - someone recently mentioned a first time mother who had just turned 30. I was thinking in my mind, I have officially become the old mother. With my babies I experience those joys, and with maturity I extend those joys to women on the otherside.

Awesome post.

The Expatriate Chef said...

Yes, exactly. And thank goodness for those other loving moms reaching out to help, support, share a laugh as we each go through the journey. It was a wonderful and unexpected gift, this love from other mothers.

Miscellaneous-Mum said...

Well done. I loved this

Abbynormal said...

Will you be in the delivery room with me please?

I swear I had a dream that I met you. I swear it.

Terri said...

Wow.. that is truly beautiful...
being pregnant is such a magnificant experience!!! Nothing in the world quite like it!

you know... what you're explaining...
that is how I feel when I meet new mothers of little cardiac babies... I want to wrap my arms around them and make it all better for them.

Starrlight said...

That was a lovely post =)

scribbit said...

I think that's why people feel compelled to pat your stomach when you're pregnant. It's the tenderness you spoke of.

jen said...

oh, jess. i do this all the time. i see a brand new mommy pushing a stroller and looking weary and i want to hug her. an almost birthing one and i want to give her a cuddle.

this captured it perfectly. very well done, friend.

wordgirl said...

Interesting that our intuition is to treat a new mom so tenderly...despite the fact that we know (deep down) just how strong we are. Maybe it's because this woman hasn't yet realized that strength. Soon enough, kiddo. Soon enough.

Mom on Coffee said...

Wow. I am SO bawling right now. Yeah, I really got nothing. WOW!

Megan said...

Have you read The Birth House? Get it! It's SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO good! I just finished it and your post was oddly evocative of the midwife in the story.
(and it's by a Canadian author, so I like to promote home-grown talent.. albeit on the other side of this vast land!)

Annie said...

You have me in tears also - that was beautiful and captures exactly what I feel when I see other pregnant ladies. Almost makes me want to be pregnant all over again.. almost ;)

Kara said...

this is beautiful and oh so true.

deb said...

You're so right. It's what links us all together, our common bond of motherhood. It doesn't matter what race, religion, culture we are, all of us go through the same thing.

Mom101 said...

This is lovely. I too am so aware of the differences between first time pregs and second (or more) - and all you can do is smile sympathetically and send her on her way.

notfearingchange said...

ahhh...that was so nice!

canape said...

Sigh.

Kevin Charnas said...

So beautiful in so many ways...

*big sigh*

I'll continue to live vicariously and in envy...and in awe.

Denguy said...

You said a mouth full!

PIlgrim Mom said...

Beautiful post and you speak for me.

ChaCha said...

What a beautiful post, I just came across your blog and was drawn to the way you write. Very well done.

I remember when I was pregnant how people would treat me like I was so precious and frail. It was wonderful to have that much attention. I hated being pregnant though, sick and uncomfortable the entire times. Now my kids are older teen and pre-teen and I look at a pregnant woman and think "Better you than me kiddo"

Our Family said...

that is a great post! It brought tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

Rapunzel said...

beautiful post..I have a pregnant co-worker and this is just how I feel about her right now. It's such a precious time in a woman's life.

Chrissy said...

It's just so true! You said it so very eloquently!

Momish said...

I can barely comment, too busy crying! Your words resound so deep and I am loving them and you right now!

EE said...

What is wrong with me? Whenever I see these women, I think "sucker"!!!
Just kidding!

carrie said...

Well said.

Very, very well said.

And jeez, that first comment by "Eddie" - I don't know if I'm completely hormonal or what, but . . . WOW. How very sweet.

Carrie

FENICLE said...

I'm like comment #100 - HOLY HELL! You must have struck a cord in some bloggers!

It's good you didn't go over and rub all over her. I HATED that when I was pregnant. But your explanation of why you felt those emotions about a stranger are so true!!

I'm sure one day this soon-to-be-mother will see another pregnant lady and have the same thoughts.

Ryan said...

"Women I didn't really know would well up with tears of joy at the sight of me."

They normally have never done that to me... but then again I've never been pregnant (to the best of my knowledge)

I had to comment..... I keep coming over here and never say anything. I guess sometimes that's a good thing.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

Yes, so true. I've given her a virtual hug right here.

Twisted Cinderella said...

This is so absolutely true. I remember people treating me that way when I was pregnant. I remember a little old lady sitting beside me in the mall and giving me advice. I remember the gentle smiles and the looks. I do the same thing now because I remember.

Mimi said...

I can't imagine that as comment 104 I have anything new to say. But what I feel is: oh this is so true. The tenderness! the unbreachable gulf between where she is and where you are. Kinda like parenting.

metalia said...

This is perfect.

Rhea said...

to, A beautiful and compassionate post.

tkkerouac said...

love this blog, you are funny!

Anonymous said...

Pregnancy is so incredible, I felt so potent and sure of myself, that creating a new life, was the most important thing I could do. and people always tell you that you're glowing, which is great.

Ched

NotSoSage said...

Beautiful. So beautiful. As is this truth.

Mary-LUE said...

Well, I guess I will add my admiration for this post to the chorus of the other commenters. It does feel like that and you wrote about it perfectly.

Lisa said...

That was so beautiful lady.

Oh I voted for you a bunch of times on that blogger's choice thing!

carmachu said...

Awwww, how sweet and true.

TSM-terrifically superiorily mediocre said...

Lovely post. And so very poignant.

dawn224 said...

I'm 3 days "overdue" with my first .... this post makes me feel soft inside .... instead of mean and angry .... because I'm 282 days pregnant .... So thank you....

Mrs. D said...

beautifuly said... God bless you.

sweatpantsmom said...

Just beautiful. Makes me (almost) want to be pregnant again.

Leeanthro said...

I will be having our second child in exactly one month.

A week or two after the birth of our first, I ran to Target *alone* one morning. I remember seeing a pregnant woman in the parking lot. In my exhaustion I thought to myself how lucky she was to be pregnant and not a new mom! I longed for the pregnancy if you can believe that! I was totally unprepared for the sheer exhaustion.

Now I look in awe at moms with more than one child and wonder how they get through those first few months. (No, I'm not a totally incompetant mother, just realistic.)

I don't know if its better or worse knowing what to expect with the arrival of a newborn.

Penny. said...

After my Mom first explained the menstrual cycle to me and reminded me of this impending doom, right around my thirteenth birthday, I remember feeling angrily indignant that she and my aunties knew something that I didn't and were looking at me, waiting for the signs, gauging my moods. It seriously p*ssed me off. My Mom bought me a cake when it happened.

When I was pregnant, I got the same type of reaction. And, I was equally offended. I don't know why. I've never understood it. But, I suppose I felt that my autonomy and sovereignty was compromised.

I am sure that, in the true sense of the word, it was an immature reaction.

But, even now, having grown and matured and enlightened, when I see pregnant ladies, if I feel sweeping joy for them, I keep it to myself.

Not that I am suggesting that anyone else do it.

I just look into their eyes and think, "It was nice to meet you, before you were gone."

And, Motherhood is fantastic. Don't misinterpret me.

But, our freespirited whimsy and self-absorbed and calculated control disappears without permission. Which is neccessary...

It just makes me feel like I'm thirteen again.

Happy that you've held onto your sweet and tender spots. I have them, too. I should probably let them shine through a little more often.

Mandy said...

That was such a sweet post, I really loved it. It's funny how having children changes you. I could never have imagined. In fact, I didn't even want children when I was in my 20s. Now, I can't imagine life without them.

the end of motherhood said...

I used to swim laps when I was pregnant with my first child. I think I would have loved it if a woman from the lane over stopped and told me how amazing it was all going to be and how one of the best parts is that you're never alone on the path we walk.

Lotta said...

I love this post! You are such a sweet soul.

Chaos Control said...

So very, very true. And, as always, very well written. I'm going to share this with a friend of mine who is expecting her first born!

Rebecca said...

I sometimes feel like that too when I see first-time pregnant women. (I'm sure it IS possible to tell when its a first time too - something about the way a first timer will carry herself so carefully, and look so secretly pleased with herself - as well she should! pregnant women who already have kids look a bit more matter-of -fact) There is a desire to connect with these women - tell them how glorious and yet frightening, overwhelming, wonderful, shattering, identity-changing becoming a mother for the first time is.

Fantastic post - shall be bookmarking your blog for sure!

Rebecca

Grim Reality Girl said...

Oh you did it again! I wipe the tears as I realise you have truly expressed it -- the way it feels to look at a pregnant woman on the cusp of such wonder, on the cusp of what it is to be a mother. Thank you!

CGiordano said...

I almost cried when I read this. I was that women in the pool not long ago and remember they way people would look at me and treat me. You are so right that it is the hardest but most worthwhile adventure I have ever under taken.

Mamma said...

Having a baby felt like be let in on the best secret ever. Your description is so right.

Bill said...

I found this by way of Alisa's blog ... and i just want to say that this is very beautifully written. It seems that you have many talents.

shaz said...

well said, and so completely true.

Reluctant Housewife said...

Beautiful. I know exactly what you mean.