It was only a few days ago that I talked about how much I adore being pregnant in South Africa. People here LOVE pregnant ladies in a way I haven’t seen in other parts of the world. Everyone has been so warm towards me and the random acts of kindness can bring a tear to my eye (even when I’m not hormonal). But there is another side to things, one that will be much more apparent once Harley is born, and recent current events are making me even more cognizant of the issues.
I was incredibly lucky growing up. I mean that in many ways, but for the sake of this post I’m looking at two specific things. First of all, I grew up with privilege – I lived in New York City, attended private school, went to summer camp and generally lived that “privileged” middle class life that people love to moan about. On the other hand, I was also raised by a mom who wanted to ensure that I grew up in a multicultural environment. I didn’t even understand the concept of race until I was already beyond the point of being a child, and the idea of racism truly never made sense to me. I went to schools where my friends came from a variety of racial, religious and even alternative backgrounds (even back in those days, I had a classmate with two mommies) and it was only once I moved overseas that I started to see and experience discrimination in a new way. I’d like for Harley to have a similar upbringing, but I’m not sure how possible that is in South Africa.
I wasn’t exactly at my most physically active when I fell pregnant. Even before I left for the States, unknowingly already a couple weeks pregnant, I hadn’t been as regular at the gym as I like to be. I was blaming it on work but the reality was that I just wasn’t feeling it as much. I love weight lifting, it’s my gym activity of choice (other than boxing and Zumba), but I just wasn’t being as committed to it as I should have been, probably because I didn’t have a set routine to follow. Then I disappeared off the States for 7 weeks and by the time I came home my first trimester was almost over and my doctor said no weight lifting.
Okay, so my exercise of choice was ruled out. What was I allowed to do? Apparently walking, yoga and swimming. Ugh. It’s not that I mind any of those – I love to walk, but more in a “I live in an urban area and can walk everywhere” kind of way rather than going for a purposeful 5km walk. Yoga is cool and I’ve dabbled in it for years, but it just doesn’t grab me and I’ve never found myself able to stick with it for long periods of time. Swimming? Well, I never REALLY did much swimming for fitness’ sake, although that seems to be my best chance at the moment.
I know plenty of people who take their engagement rings and/or wedding rings off whenever they do dishes, put on moisturizer or whatever. I’ve even been told that it’s better to do so because it keeps your jewelry in better shape and helps avoid scratches, dulling and other issues. I’ve never been one of those people, though. From the time that Dean got down on one knee and asked me to marry him until now, I’ve only taken the ring off a handful of times. Since we exchanged vows and said “I do”, I can remember a single time I took my rings off (for cleaning). The rings and what they mean feel like part of me, so why would I ever want to take them off? Well, now I might not have much of a choice.
I am currently experiencing the joys of pregnancy edema. Like everything else awful that can happen during pregnancy, it’s totally normal. Basically, it just means that my feet swell up by the end of the day and I have to keep them elevated and drink plenty of water to try to keep the water retention at a minimum. However, the stiffness I was experiencing in my hands seems to be getting slowly worse, with my hands are starting to swell. Again, all totally normal and harmless, but it’s gotten to a bit of a sorry state. My fingers are now so swollen that I actually can’t get my rings off, which means that I had probably better do so, soon.
When I first fell pregnant, a bunch of people asked me where I was planning to have the baby. Um, here? I guess people thought I’d feel more comfortable returning to America to deliver Harley. It’s weird, but I guess the stereotype that deep dark Africa is still a scary place or something and I’d prefer to have the kid in the safety of my home soil. If only people realized just how nice the local hospitals are, and just how comfy I am at home. Plus, haven’t people realized yet that healthcare in SA is sorta awesome and healthcare in the US is sorta unaffordable? At least here I have medical aid, plus the knowledge that I’ll be surrounded by awesome nurses and healthcare professionals who will make sure I’m okay?
Anyway, it got me thinking about other differences. I remember growing up in New York, my mom taught me to always give up my seat on a crowded bus or subway if a pregnant woman got on, and I always did. But there were plenty of times I saw pregnant women forced to stand because no one gave up their seat and I didn’t have one to give. Or carrying heavy groceries. Or suffering in the ridiculously heat. And it makes me incredibly grateful to be living in South Africa while pregnant, and even excited to be having the kid here.
We all make rules to live by, and most of us eventually break them. I was SURE that I would only date a certain kind of guy, that I would only want a certain kind of marriage, that I would only be happy going to work in specific places. Basically, all those decisions I made as a teenager or in my early twenties have now totally disappeared, and I’m sure in many ways, the same will be true for motherhood. I’m trying to be pretty relaxed about the whole thing, and I’m not making anything set in stone but mostly built around whatever turns out to be best for Harley when she’s born. If she wants to suck her fingers, cool. If she prefers a dummy, that’s fine, too. I’m not too stressed about those things.
There are some things that I think I know for sure, though, and I reserve the right to unabashedly change my opinion many more times on the subject matter. I have strong ideas about stimulating her as a baby, about how to raise her to be a good person, about how to raise her to know about the world around her. I want to teach her how to read at an absurdly young age the way I was, so that she can find her love of reading early on. I want to be a good role model for her as a woman, and make it clear to her that she can do anything she wants, that her gender doesn’t play into it. I have all sorts of cool plans for things I want to do, but I also have plans for things that I never, ever want to do.