Back when I was dancing, my body betrayed me on a regular basis.

By the time I was 20, I had already begun my long list of injuries; some were passing issues, some would prove to last many years. In my twenties, I was diligent about going to physical therapy and hoarded all my spare tea-shop tips for massages and chiropractic visits. I regularly stuck various body parts in ice baths, moaning and screeching through the painful part, about 5 minutes in, when it's not just uncomfortable or itchy but every instinct screams at you to GET OUT OF THE ICE OR YOU WILL DIE. I wrapped joints in tape, rubbed sinus-clearing balms on muscles and, when all else failed, I reluctantly rested.

All the while, I talked to my body. And not very nicely.

The injured parts heard from me in imaginative expletives. I hated my hips for their restrictions, their unforgivable "early arthritis", and I let them know it. My feet were never good enough: my arches too low; my toes, the wrong alignment. I thought it was my body's fault; it was purposefully holding me back, making me miserable. I knew it wasn't helpful to be so mad at my poor body, of which I asked so much, but I didn't know where else to aim my anger and frustration over not being the dancer I wanted to be. I knew I would never be superstar great and that, deep down, is what I wanted to be. In my disappointment, it was helpful to have something tangible to blame, even if it was my very flesh and blood.

When I stopped dancing, at age 30, it was a bittersweet relief. I had made it to a point where I was dancing with choreographers that I had dreamed about 10 years prior, but the price I'd paid was steep. I woke up most days and silently took inventory: how was my fractured foot, my achilles tendonitis, my plantar fascitis, my worn knee cartilage, my arthritic hip, my bulging spinal discs, my torn rotator cuff, my whiplash? My injuries were beginning to catch up with me, with longer and longer periods of physical misery.

Some where along the line, it finally occurred to me that perhaps it was not my body that was betraying me but the other way around.

When I immediately got pregnant with Zoe, my body entered a whole new realm. I was starving and exhausted all the time and wound up gaining over 50 pounds. I tried to let go and let my body do what it needed to do, to be forgiving of its new contours and understanding of its new needs and dimensions. After years of abusing my body (in more ways than one), this was a challenge. But the pregnancy was relatively easy and pleasant and she turned out to a relatively easy and pleasant baby. I became subconsciously convinced that these two things were related.

Now I am continually astounded by how different the same body can be in two different pregnancies. If I was starving and tired and pleasantly slow and introspective last time, this time I'm a crazy person; hungry and upbeat one minute, green under the gills and morose the next. I have calf cramps and heartburn and digestive issues a mile long. Lima Bean's been swirling and kicking me fiercely for weeks now and sometimes does an all over spazz that I fear is her having a seizure in there. (Whatever you do DON'T GOOGLE "IN UTERO SEIZURE". Dear God. My doctor was only slightly more helpful: "In general, all movement is good..." PHEW "...Of course, there's no way to tell if your baby's having seizures in there so if she comes out and has them, then we'll know." GEE THANKS. "I mean, it could just mean she'll be a crazy, rambunctious kid." YOU CAN SHUT UP NOW.)

After being fairly forgiving of myself when I was pregnant with Zoe, I'm now finding myself back in my dangerous old routine. I am sporadically angry at this body; my body but also, sadly, HER body, since hers is inextricable from mine at the moment. In weak, petty moments, I find myself wondering if she's "doing this on purpose", making me sick (yes, my nausea, dizziness and general feeling of suckitude has returned in this last week, now that I'm in my third trimester). I catch myself labelling my poor defenseless unborn child as difficult; I secretly wonder if the unpleasantness of this pregnancy is an early announcement of what she'll be like once she's out here with us (my OB/GYN certainly didn't help with that now did he?). I don't want to treat her like she is an injury I can berate or to blame her for the days of misery from this pregnancy but I sometimes feel like I'm fighting a losing internal battle.

Lima Bean doesn't deserve that blame. Just like my poor old body didn't deserve any blame for its aches and pains and limitations after years of hard work and impossible expectations. She is my family, she is blameless, she is deserving of love and forgiveness. We both are.

I know that motherhood has changed me in so many ways. I hope that I can change in this way too: no more blame for this poor body who has served me so very well. And no blame for this little babe tucked somewhere behind my navel and above my bladder, who certainly doesn't mean to make me miserable.


Swistle said...

This is really sweet.

Astarte said...

I can only imagine your frustration, with a dancer's mind and fixation on all things bodily control. If it makes you feel any better, though, Josie was a DOLPHIN in utero. Seriously, she made me seasick. You could see my stomach moving from across the room. It was chitty-chitty-bang-bang in there, all the time.

How funny - my word verify is 'brate'!

Kathi McCracken Dente said...

As usual I am impressed how well you can articulate pregnancy and parenting issues. Hang in there. I just wanted to let you know that I think I know that "whole body spazz" feeling. "Baby 2" does it every once in awhile and I wonder what in the world she is doing. I am thinking there is safety in numbers and it is nothing to worry about. Good luck with everything. Sorry to hear you are feeling sucky again.

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