At the date of writing this post I am currently 28 weeks pregnant....and counting. Aside from the general delight at being able to tick off one more week until I reach the gory final act of this odd little life-play I have found myself a starring role in, I am also experiencing a surge in joyousness as my newly acquired Ovia app informs me that the baby now resembles that most adorable of creatures: a slow loris! Is it wrong that this endears me more to the baby than imagining it as an actual baby?
I should start this feature by making it very clear that I am not the kind of pregnant woman who delights in all the wonderful changes and experiences that being pregnant has brought to her existence. If you are looking for a celebration of the magic of pregnancy, stop reading now.
It is common, in my experience, to read about women suffering from parental guilt once they have delivered (or 'birthed', as some people insist on saying) their baby, which takes the form of believing you (a) are not a good enough parent (b) should never have become a parent (c) are emulating your own (dysfunctional) parents or (d) all of the above.
What there seems to be less of is people confessing to pre-birth parenting guilt.
Now, as an erstwhile Catholic with a healthy predisposition towards guilt, coupled with a lifetime of parent-related issues under my belt, allow me to elaborate...
Pregnancy has been good to me, as far as these things go. I didn't experience nausea during my first trimester, barely began to show before 20 weeks, my skin has never been better and I haven't suffered night sweats caused by desperate, unsatisfied cravings for cabbage and jam. So why, you might be asking, am I not crowing and cooing about the wonderful life force within me?
Firstly, pregnancy is a bitch for your nerves. Particularly if you have had a rough road getting to the stage where you have a 'viable' foetus embedded in your womb. Our road was far from smooth (see The birth of a preggosaurus), which meant the first 12 weeks of this pregnancy were tense, to say the least. Early scans, self-doubt, questioning every activity that might be considered even borderline physically demanding in case the little bundle of cells found it all a bit too much.
When the second trimester comes you look forward to the relief of knowing that your foetus is now, statistically, in the 'safe zone'. Except you don't feel relief. You start to wonder what the signs would be if you were carrying a child with chromosomal abnormalities. You start to plan for how your life would have to change to adapt to the needs of this child. This continues right up until you have your 20-week scan, where you finally have a bit more reassurance about the health and well-being of your unborn child.
Secondly, and importantly, pregnancy can cause those of us with overactive and analytical minds to wander a little too close to the existential crisis fence that usually remains at least a good arm's length away - separating our sense of self from thieves or interlopers in the adjoining field that might set about making us question it.
Consider me this: suddenly, after a lifetime of being master of your own body, mind, desires and appetites, something sets up shop in the innermost depths of your being and gradually starts pulling the strings. Like a Grimm's fairy tale creation, your very own puppet master - increasing in size by the day - begins to call the shots.
The guilt that comes with not experiencing all the fluffy, pastel-shaded feelings that are so widely talked of in relation to pregnancy is immense. Not only do you start to question your suitability to become a mother but you start to question your inherent lack of love, of softness, of compassion.
It is rare to find a commentator who is willing to acknowledge that they might not altogether like this newfound body-share that is taking place.
If you, like me, have mixed feelings during your pregnancy, fear not - you are not alone and I would wager the larger proportion of pregnant ladies feel something similar. It doesn't mean you don't want your baby, or that you won't love your baby, or that you are a monstrous human being...it means you are honest and human and, importantly, completely normal.