Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Look hard.

I have several friends on Facebook who have been actively lobbying to see pictures of me in my pregnant state.  Until recently, I had yet to give into their requests, not out of pique but simply because I’m a little lazy and because I did not understand the motivation behind their requests so did not place the task high on my list of priorities.

However, Facebook being what it is, another friend heard their pleas and offered to bring her fancy camera and her composition expertise over to my house on Saturday and document my growing bump.  How could I refuse? 
24 weeks
As you can see, she positioned me so that you can see my belly in the mirror while the camera looks over my shoulder.  She told me that this was so that people could see that I have only gained weight in my belly and that my ass remains its regular size.

I appreciate her attention to detail.

One of the Eastern European cafeteria ladies at work has recently declared that we are having a boy since my lips and backside “they do not get big, yes?”  She claims she has never been wrong when guessing the gender of a baby and who am I to doubt the folk wisdom of middle-aged ladies from Albania?  So, I've been thinking hard about boy names.

I have been feeling pretty good during this second trimester.  The nausea and utter exhaustion are behind me and I’m not so large that I’m uncomfortable yet.  I’m able to swim 2-3 times a week and I have gone back to my regular yoga class, which is equipped to modify my regular, fairly rigorous practice for safety during pregnancy.

I’m pretty lucky.  I am definitely not willing to congratulate myself on this turn of events.  Other women make the exact same nutritional and activity choices that I make and are having a terrible time at this point.  Every baby plants him or herself differently in the torso and every woman’s body responds differently to the influx of hormones and structural changes necessary to manufacture a tiny person.

In other words, there are way too many variables for me to narrow down the cause of my relatively successful experience as my own efforts.  That would be like when super-models tell their interviewers that the reason they ended up on the cover of a Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition was that they drank a lot of water.  It probably helps but it’s no guarantee.

Where does this impulse to take credit for good things come from?  I’ve noticed it in parents with “good” babies, too.  The reason their kids sleep so well is because they co-sleep.  Or they don't.  The reason their children are so content being held by new people is that they socialized them early.  Or they didn't.  I rarely hear someone give credit to luck or chance when they had "easy" babies.

My experience so far tells me that this is a defense against the fierce judgmentalism that comes down on new parents from the moment they announce their pregnancy.  And this judgment doesn't only come from mean-spirited people.  Lots of people lots of the time imply that a new parent's choice is the wrong one simply because they don't know what else to say but want to say something. Or, I know that I have twice already said something truly ugly to each of my sisters-in-law because I was feeling insecure myself.  I mean, come on, at Christmas one of my aunts was upset because I didn't have to wear jeans with big elastic belly panels like she had to wear when she was pregnant.  The chain reaction was that she made me feel bad and I turned on my sisters-in-law.  Beware anyone who wasn't expecting to have to defend themselves against my raging incredulity that anyone would not prioritize a well-informed and self-advocated natural birth experience, complete with a detailed understanding of the history of modern medicine and how it has marginalized women's knowledge of their own bodies.

Yeah.  I know.

Luckily, my sisters-in-law are beautiful creatures who allowed me to make amends so I probably didn't cause too much harm to the relationships.  Luckily, it's no longer the holidays so I only have run-of-the-mill judgment to deal with and not additional extended family judgment.

So, if we as new parents have a proactive defense against these attacks, like claiming that the good things are a result of our own choices, we hope to diffuse potential advice givers/failure imply-ers.  You see, we're already doing it right.  We don't need you to tell us what you think we should be doing.

I have been thinking a lot lately about my own capacity to judge others unfairly. 

Awhile ago, I commented on a guy named Andrew Marin and basically stated that until he came out a declared his beliefs regarding sin and homosexuality, I couldn't trust him or his ministry.

However, after listening to his interview on Moody radio, I began to realize (yet again) that my condemnation was coming from someplace inside of me rather than being prompted by him.  I realized that he answers questions like my pastor.  By that, I mean that he reframed the questions people were asking him and pointed out the larger issues at stake.  When someone asked him point-blank whether homosexuality was a sin, he talked about how Jesus often got asked yes or no questions but only answered them on two occasions that we know of.  All of the other times, he told a story or asked another question in response or answered what wasn't being asked.  I was impressed by how well he knew scripture and impressed at the way he used it to redirect the question to what was more important: the role model Jesus was for how to deal with beliefs that could potentially divide people rather than helping them to see one another as sisters and brothers. 

And of course, when I heard my own question come out of an angry conservative's mouth, I had to re-examine myself.  I realized that if someone had labeled Andrew "emergent," I never would have been so hard on him.  I would have defended his right not to be defined by his beliefs but rather to be judged by his practice.  That is what my church is all about: finding a new Christianity that is practice-based rather than belief-based.

And yet, I find that I still must not be quite confident all of the time in my spiritual identity.  I needed to define this guy as "other," probably in defense of my own choices.

Glennon, over at Momastery, has posted a follow-up to her original post about bullying, homosexuality and Christianity.  I was so moved by the original post that I plan to print it out, frame it and hang it in the baby's nursery.  In her follow-up, Glennon details her own spiritual realization that she was doing what I was doing: dividing groups into good and bad that God has declared to be unified as loved.

Luckily, I got a chance to have lunch with Andrew and I found out that he is a fantastic guy.  He's doing good work and trying hard to do it with integrity.  He tells his story and works hard not to exploit the stories of others.  He is funny and good-hearted and went with me to Hamburger Mary's to satisfy my baby's trayf craving for red meat with cheese.  As Glennon says in her post, "Do not be afraid of people who seem different than you, baby. Different always turns out to be an illusion. Look hard."

I am lucky to be getting to learn that lesson over and over and over again.  I think I'll need it as a parent.


Megan said...

You look gorgeous. I always love all your greens.
one of your judgemental extended family members :)

PrincessMax said...

Only because it's you do I think that's funny. :-) Only because you KNOW the feeling.

bifrost arts said...

Oh my gosh, I just noticed your mirror! Where do I get one?!

bifrost arts said...

Um, apperently I'm signed in under Isaac.