Monday, October 18, 2010

Foils, Intertwined Existence, and Exorcism

I'm interested in the idea of identifying and defining one thing in relation to it's relationships, by what it is not. Basically, I like the idea of everything having a foil.

I think it parallels the concept of an object and the negative space around it... or the idea that we know red is red because it is not green, and these comparisons make it easier to more completely understand identity of the original thing. It's also fleshed out when we establish distinct individuality in contrast to a sibling or friend or spouse. She's the organized one. She's the wild one. She's the athletic one. I also like to use this as a reason why God created gross, base humans. God created humans to more clearly identify himself, that he is not gross or base, and this is more apparent, more highlighted, in comparison to something that is different than the original.

But I bring this up in order to apply it to Bradly and me... because we're in such a state of overlap right now... because there are fuzzy boundaries between us, and we can't exactly define ourselves in opposition to each other yet. And those overlaps are pretty interesting, too.

I've been thinking about the brief period of pregnancy as a bridge or a time of sea change or a sort of limbo. Let's keep the transition metaphors coming. It is a watershed sort of nine months. I mean, roll your eyes, but it is. This is HUGE. Like the hugest.

Before, I was one autonomous thing. Just me. Hanging out. Doing what non-pregs do.

Then, I became a host with a passenger--I'm conjoined, combined, dual, and running starts to feel like running with a little backpack flopping out of synch in front of me. I'm searching for another word for parasite, one with milder connotations, but let's just call it like it is. I have the perfect little parasite. For me, she was much kinder than a tapeworm, but for others, fetuses are nausea-inducing leeches indeed. I read somewhere that very early on in pregnancy that the body can treat the baby as an invading infection. And sometimes I do feel invaded or possessed by something that is not me. I find her independent movements endlessly fascinating. I know billions of people have experienced exactly what I'm feeling, but I can't get over it. I'm like, "What are you doing in there?" She says,"Having a fiesta with your internal organs. Enjoying your french toast. Now privacy please, old lady."

Amanda Schaffer talked a little about this intertwined existence in her article "Lessons from the Womb."

You write that you have come to see the notion of fetal origins—the idea that very early influences and exposures affect our health later on—as "beautiful, even wondrous." And this reminds me: During my stint in medical school, when I dissected the cadaver of a man who'd died in old age, I remember marveling at a small mark, like a thumbprint, in his heart. Before this man was born, before he'd ever taken a breath, he had a small opening (as normal fetuses do) between the top two chambers of his heart. This opening reroutes blood away from the fragile lungs as they develop—at a point when the fetus gets its oxygen from the mother.

This tiny passage within the heart closes after birth. But I saw the mark as a visible trace of an earlier fetal life. When I was pregnant, this image came back to me as a touchstone for the profound entwining of mother and child. Along similar lines, I've written about how maternal cells cross the placenta and take up residence in the fetus's body, where they may help to make its budding immune system more tolerant, partly of the mother's own cells. I still find this possibility alluring, both as medical research and as metaphor.

But in about four months, we will be two. And I've wondered if I can cut our umbilical cord. It's a little gross. I know that dads can cut it, and I guess that's nice, to involve him in the birthing process... but I kind of want ownership of that moment. Doesn't it seem like the host should be the one to consciously sever the tie or exorcise the little demon. Shouldn't it be me disembarking after nine months, acknowledging that very physical, literal connection and actively cutting the tie, moving forward to independent daughter and motherhood? This is easy to talk about now, typing and sitting upright and not exhausted from labor.

Additionally, it seems exactly like something that would make me pass out. And I don't want to give that first impression. So we'll just see how that one plays out at game time.


kawooten said...

I'm hesitant to leave a post because there's no way I can match the insight and literary prowess of what you've written, but I wanted you to know I think Bradly is blessed to have such a thought-full mother whose imprint on her daughter will be a thing of beauty, no doubt. I am looking forward to being a witness of that relationship and capturing your joined and negative spaces as you go through live together...and separately...

Beth Wooten said...

Thanks, Kitty. I really appreciate your sweet words (and example).