September 2017

Choose your
own adventure

by Penni Drysdale

 

It’s a multiple choice question to go into the draw to win something amazing, rewarding and life changing:

“If you could choose your own adventure, what would it be?”

  1. a gentle, guided hike through stunning landscape with a poor sod to carry your load and a five-star room to collapse in each night after a Michelin Star dining experience
  2. nine or so months of slavery, featuring nausea, fainting, pelvic instability, wet coughing fits and a demanding, fully dependent child at the end of it
  3. neither of the above – life in itself is an adventure

I recently chose option b), for the second time. Soon after entering the competition I was carted away by men in white coats to a safe place for assessment and monitoring. Well, at least I ought to have been. What sane woman would not only choose this ‘adventure’  but go back for second helpings, knowing damn well what it entailed? Me, apparently and thousands, millions of other women. There must be some reward, some reason and logic behind such a choice, or the mental health system would be seriously weighed down.

Maybe it’s the attention that we get when a shapely bump appears beneath our clothing. Maybe it’s the concessions we get from regular duties like making a family meal, vacuuming or dealing with a crazed toddler tantrum. Maybe it’s the feeling of being the most special person in the world when your little foetus kicks you for the first time. But option b), seriously?

My pregnancy adventure started with the breasts. “Hey Pen, what sort of bra are you wearing? You look bigger than usual.” I hadn't seen Liz for eighteen months or so, and being a fellow small-breasted woman, she had noticed the change. “No special bra. Don't know really.” Now, secretly I knew that I could be pregnant – I was in the painfully long waiting period and knew that such transformations could take place early on in the process. But I didn’t let on.

Waiting, waiting...BINGO! Life was about to change and we were ecstatic, even our three year old son who really had no idea what this meant for his status in the family unit. The ecstasy lasted, oh, a wee while until the guilt that only expectant mothers and parents know set in. You know what I’m talking about. The “Oh my God, I think that egg was a not quite cooked; I think that trifle had alcohol in it, I let my heart rate get beyond snail’s pace, I forgot my multi-everything tablet this morning”.

And of course, the guilt that ensues when others thrust it upon you, either with overt comments or knowing looks. “Is that drink caffeinated? Are you really allowed to have fetta cheese? Were you just inhaling second-hand cigarette smoke from the man ten metres down the road? TERRIBLE PERSON!”

As the first week or so tumbled by, the more physically debilitating signs of pregnancy emerged (I thought I had a terrible case of the flu, minus the nose and throat stuff – turns out it was the beast within). Having only been back in the country for a few weeks (after an actual overseas adventure), I boldly took on a locum position at a hospital too far away and my body punished me no end. Day long nausea, but no actual vomiting, for which I’m supposedly lucky (I think I’d rather have one massive puke in the morning and be done with it for the day), Spinning World Syndrome that nearly caused me to faint like an actress over a patient’s hospital bed, and chronic fatigue, necessitating a collapse on the couch upon returning home early (thanks to the aforementioned symptoms), and little other movement for the rest of the evening. Joy, oh joy. I swear it wasn’t this bad last time.

Thankfully that period is beginning to pass (though I still like to collapse on the couch and linger in bed, blaming the baby). The more recent part of this endurance test has been pelvic instability. An unstable pelvis, as the name suggests, that feels like it could cave in at any point. It means that I have skipped through the glowing second trimester and landed straight in the seriously too awkward stage – pillows between my legs at night, no lying on my back in case my uterus crushes the lower vertebrae (that’s how it feels, anyway), no slumping on the couch, no sitting or standing for too long, no walking around for more than five minutes and definitely no belly dancing (lucky I have never been interested). I have exercises to do to strengthen the relevant muscles and it just may be helping. Unfortunately, my pelvic floor muscles are now complaining every time I cough or sneeze or laugh or breathe, because their exercises have been shafted to make way for the Core Muscles (they just sound more important, don’t they?).

And so I ponder why I chose option b). I’m not a glutton for punishment, believe me, and I’m not that desperate for attention from strangers. I do like my larger breasts and I do feel like the most special person in the world when the tap-tap-tapping from within begins, but if you pressed me for a real explanation for my insanity I couldn’t articulate it. All I know is that the Tena pads and immobility will be well worth it for the reward at the end.

 

© Penni Drysdale

“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*

I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.

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* Gloria Steinem