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I Do Not Wish to Become a Better Me
Feeling unprepared is not a problem to be solved.
You’re reading The Menstruant, a weekly series of essays loosely around the subject, “What does it mean to be a gay man who loves having a uterus?” Right now, we’re in “Pregnancy edition,” which seems to mean that I’ve been spending a lot of time with nonlinear narrative structures and unpacking the ways we tell stories about who we are.
But we’re rapidly approaching the end of “Pregnancy edition”—I’m expecting to give birth in mid-February—and I’m excited to see what’s next for this space. Thanks for being here.
I Do Not Wish to Become a Better Me
I pretended not to be pregnant yesterday when I went for a haircut. I didn’t try too hard at it, but I did pretend. I wore a busy plaid shirt, though I didn’t bother with a scarf to drape down in front and partially obscure my belly. I tried to avoid awkwardly clambering onto the barber’s chair, tried to remember and imitate the way I used to just easily take a step up and then sit down, before I was pregnant, back when my body’s balance came intuitively to me. I was relieved when the barber put on the shapeless black cape and got started.
He asked what I was looking forward to in 2023. I told him I was starting a new job. Inside me, my baby kicked, unseen.
I made small talk about my job, my hobbies. I relished the invisibility, the freedom from the need to perform any particular narrative around my pregnancy for a complete stranger, simply in order to receive a basic service while in possession of a very pregnant body.
Sometimes, I resent this invisibility—I want a seat on the subway, I want to share my excitement, I want a nod of recognition from another pregnant person on the street.
But mostly, I think my invisibility protects me. It protects me from having to repeatedly perform a narrative around my pregnancy for strangers and near-strangers, and because of this, it helps me tune in more closely to the narrative I really want for myself.
It feels like ages ago that I wrote There Are No Rules for a Pregnant Trans Body, about the ways in which being a pregnant man means I never look to others like what I really am—the way this invisibility offers both freedom and erasure.
In There Are No Rules for a Pregnant Trans Body, I wrote that there do seem to be rules for a pregnant cis body:
My targeted ads on social media have slowly filled with thin white women cradling smooth, stretch mark-free bumps, generally wearing loungewear or high-end maternity clothes that accentuate the swell of their bellies and breasts, the thinness of the rest of their bodies.
These ads have only intensified in the past few months. My feed is full of cisgender pregnant bodies that want me to believe that without their product, I will be a failure as a parent. Or a failure at giving birth.
But the one I find most perplexing of all is the one that reads, “Are you pregnant? Buy this item to treat yourself to something special.”
Am I so lacking in agency as a pregnant person that I don’t even know what my own body, mind, and heart would consider to be a treat?
There are many ways in which pregnant people are gaslighted, and I’ve been able to opt out of a number of them. I have a birth team whom I trust, I understand the limitations of research on pregnant bodies and can discern between well-founded and poorly founded recommendations, and strangers do not comment on or touch my pregnant body, simply because they do not see it.
But I can’t opt out of everything. I can’t opt out of a mixture of trepidation and joy as I approach the last few weeks of my pregnancy, as the prospect of giving birth and becoming a parent begins to feel real and soon, not distant and theoretical.
The ads tell me, “you can rock your birth.” The ads tell me, “it’s not a crib, it’s the crib.” The ads tell me the crib is selling fast. The ads ask if I am wondering what to do with my baby all day. The ads tell me, “Every mother should read this.” The ads ask, “Are you ready to become a better you?”
The answer is no.
I am not ready to become a better me.
I do not wish to become a better me.
It is something I used to want. Something I used to work at every day—with meditation, self-reflection, journaling, habit trackers, a parade of productivity systems.
It is something I thought I was supposed to want.
It is something I wanted so deeply and thoroughly that I never imagined a day would come where I did not want it.
But I do not wish to become a better me.
I’ve written a lot about nonlinear narratives recently. In Against the Linear Narrative of Pregnancy (revised and republished in Mutha Magazine as I’m Not Going to Pop! In Search of Better Pregnancy Metaphors), I wrote about the way that a conventional narrative of a physical pregnancy resembles a cis male orgasm—you get bigger and bigger until you explode—and I looked at other, nonlinear narrative shapes to give to a pregnancy.
What I would add to this piece now, much later in my pregnancy, is that there is a psychologically linear dimension to pregnancy and birth narratives as well. You get more and more “prepared”—through education, perhaps, or through purchasing products—and then, at your climax of preparedness, you have the baby.
In What if My Life Isn’t a Journey? I wrote about the ways in which the journey narrative breaks down for me. But the journey narrative is so prevalent in pregnancy and birth — one might, perhaps, choose a certain birth experience, then “journey” toward it, perhaps undertaking education, exercise, or specific nutritional choices in order to “prepare” for such a birth. (Obviously, I think making informed choices about birth and then getting ready for the birth you want is quite important—what I object to is where it begins to feel like one’s desired birth experience lives on a mountaintop somewhere that one must harrowingly climb towards through a combination of, typically, self-education and exercise, and that if one doesn’t end up having that desired experience, it’s made to feel as though one carelessly headed off on an Arctic expedition without packing enough supplies.)
I need to ask: What is so comforting about the sensation of being prepared?
What was so compelling to me about having a system, a plan, a project of becoming a better me, that I have, over the course of my life, invested so much time, money, and energy into this?
Can I learn to replace the comfort I once found in this sensation with faith in my ability to be with the unknown?
I do not wish to become a better me.
I do not feel prepared to give birth and become a parent—though objectively I may be prepared, or prepared enough—and I am entirely uninterested in investing time and money into attempting to change my sense of feeling unprepared.
I honor my feelings of unpreparedness. I trust that I can feel grounded without needing to correct these feelings.
Next week is the one-year anniversary of these weekly essays. Longtime readers will recall that this space used to be known as Wild’s Falls, that its formal tagline said it was about “finding home in body, place, and time,” and that the essays from the first half of the year were collected into Even the Cemeteries Have Space Here, with the tagline, “A trans man, devastated by infertility, moves to a small town to start over and immediately gets his period back.”
When I tried to get pregnant for the first time, more than five years ago, I felt prepared.
But feeling prepared didn’t get me pregnant. Feeling prepared didn’t shield me from the grief and confusion and mistrust of my body and existential questions that arose as I struggled to rewrite the story of my life, again and again, into one in which I could be both childless and happy. I redrafted this new story many times, over the course of years. With the release of Even the Cemeteries Have Space Here, I finally felt that had a story that worked for me again.
That’s when I found out I was pregnant.
I did not feel prepared to be pregnant just then.
And now, months later, I do not feel prepared to give birth.
It used to be that feeling unprepared would lead me to prepare. If I already prepared and still felt unprepared, then I would prepare some more.
I believe that have prepared enough and I still feel unprepared.
My feeling of unpreparedness is a feeling, not a problem.
Because my pregnancy is largely invisible to all but those who are close to me, I am realizing that I do not need to perform my feelings about my pregnancy, about my upcoming birth. I do not need to rattle off for strangers the most intimate plans and desires I have for my birth, or what I have done to try to get ready.
Instead, I take this energy and turn inward.
What feels true for me? How can I find ground within unpreparedness and uncertainty?
Today, I do not wish to become a better me.
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I’m excited to share . . .
I recently appeared on Amy Kuretsky’s Breathe Into Business podcast, where we discussed my writing practice, breathwork, following your intuition, and I shared my own nonlinear professional journey over the past year. Amy Kuretsky is an incredible business coach, acupuncturist, and breathwork facilitator, and I was so happy to have participated in her Incubator program this past year.
I was thrilled to have my Mutha Magazine piece I’m Not Going to Pop! In Search of New Pregnancy Narratives featured among 15 wonderful personal essays in last week’s Memoir Monday roundup. I look forward toevery week, and it was so exciting to be included!
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