Friday, May 28, 2010

When You Grow Up, Girl

Come back when you grow up, girl
You're still livin' in a paper-doll world
Livin' ain't easy, lovin's twice as tough
So come back, baby, when you grow up

You look real good like a woman now
Your mind hasn't gotten the message somehow
So if you can't take it 'n' the goin' gets rough
Come back, baby, when you grow up
~from "Come Back When You Grow Up Girl"
by Bobby Vee

I turned 29 years old last month, but apparently I still look like a teenager. I've always looked younger than my age would suggest. Two recent examples: When I was admitted to the hospital at 13 weeks pregnant (at age 28) to be treated for severe HG, the intake nurse asked me about the highest level of education I'd completed. When I told her I had a bachelor's degree her head snapped in my direction and she mused, "Huh. I thought you were just 15 or 16!" This last week when we were at the rehearsal for my brother-in-law's wedding I was walking with Anna in the Ergo, Caleb holding my hand and Sarah walking two or three steps in front of us. A lady sitting on a bench stopped my and asked, "Are they all yours?" When I answered "yes, ma'am!" she clicked her tongue a bit, shook her head in shame and said, "No. no. You're just too young to have all them children!"

I've never wanted to be, or look, older than I am. My dream has always been to be treated as an adult. My husband likes to say, "Becky, you're a 29 year old married mother of three children. You need to start seeing yourself as an adult!" How can I view myself as something opposite what nearly everyone else sees?

When I was pregnant with my first child, Sarah, I thought that having a baby would make me feel more "grown up". I felt certain that becoming a mother would elevate me society's eyes and I'd be respected, finally, as a woman, a mother. Sure, we snicker and roll our eyes when a teenage girl says that about why she had a baby with her boyfriend, but there is truth in feeling that a baby will mature a girl/woman.

As a first-time, pregnant mother I never felt more childish. I felt stripped--robbed--of any adulthood and autonomy I'd gained. At my very first prenatal appointment, someone who was not the doctor came in, told me she was going to do an ultrasound and without waiting for a reply or permission, stuck a thin ultrasound "probe" into my vagina. She had a difficult time finding my uterus and said so in a way that implied it was my fault. So I did what any polite southern child would do and apologized. During a subsequent visit I was told that I wasn't a good mother because I was so squeamish that is was impossible for the lab technician to draw my blood. Once, when trying to explain the extent of my (pre-diagnosed hyperemesis) nausea, the doctor spoke down to me condescendingly and said that I was being a baby, that women (implying I was a baby, not a woman) the world over dealt with morning sickness all the time without complaining, and that I should just suck lemons.

Despite all this, I harboured hope that the act of giving birth would make me a "real woman". I'd give birth on my own, without anyone holding my legs, without anyone telling me when or how to breathe, without numbing or mind-altering drugs. I'd push my baby out with my own strength, hold her in my arms, and feed her with my breasts. Yet, if you've read here long enough you know that none of those dreams were realized. I was taken in for an unexpected cesarean at 37 weeks. I wasn't told exactly why I needed the section, just that my uterus was a "hostile environment" for my baby and she'd be "better off" outside of my body. I was numbed from the chest down, strapped to a table and cut open. My baby was brought forth from my body by the gloved hands of a stranger who didn't even know her name, instead proclaiming that she was "her peanut". Finally, with a slashed uterus and numbed breasts, there was no nursing.

The very things I had associated with womanhood-uterus, vagina, breasts--were all either damaged, ignored or numbed. For me, this first birth had occurred in a little girl's paper doll world.


Sigrid said...

New to your blog, but I had to comment! WOW! I had a section with my first (awful, awful awful experience), and a glorious VBAC with my second. This post so resonates with me and how I felt during my son's traumatic birth. It's good to know that there are other women out there who have experienced what I've gone through and I'm not crazy! I'm excited to read more of your blog, you're an excellent writer!