Saturday, July 19, 2008

Identity Shift

Lately I have been reflecting on how I have formed my identity as a bodily person. Included in that is how I feel about my body and it's ability to perform (both basic tasks and more complicated proceedings). It's kind of weird to reflect on your relationship with your own body. I think I have had a kind of love-hate relationship for much of my life. As a child I went through several periods of poor health, of varying degrees. Fortunately, these periods were separated by times of pretty good health, so I did have some experience of having a body that worked the way it was "supposed" to (at least in certain aspects).

I have been chubby for much of my life, which I hate, and have consequently not felt very attractive during certain periods. However, I have also been on the weight loss/gain yo-yo so there have been periods where I felt confident in my own skin and reasonably attractive. It was also during those "lighter" periods where I felt more confident in my body's abilities. For example, about 6 years ago I was practicing yoga on a regular basis. I lost a lot of weight and was in great shape. I was also pretty strong and flexible. This was a time during which I felt capable... of anything...

Unfortunately, that feeling didn't last. I moved jobs and states and experienced the most stressful year of my life. I gained more weight than ever and quit taking care of myself. That year was pretty rough on my self esteem too. The capable strength I had developed the previous year was erroded away. I had some health issues and was very lonely. It was a difficult time. Even though I lost (and gained) weight a few more times in the years to follow I don't think I ever fully recovered.

Fast forward to 2005 when I realized how badly my reproductive system was messed up. Even before I got married I suspected I would have fertility troubles. I have always had bad cramps. In grad school (2002-2005) I had some problems with anovulatory cycles and unusual amounts of bleeding. Add to that the stories my mom told me about the troubles conceiving and maintaining a pregnancy she and my aunt had and you can see why I started to identify with IF women, even before I started officially trying and had trouble. I tried to be proactive and get my difficulties diagnosed early so I could "combat" them before I had to experience years of trouble... After I passed the year mark ttc, I think the pipe dream I had of being the "exception" who could circumvent the "troubles" died. After my first m/c the last sliver of my pipe dream of beating the odds died. It was the final "evidence" that, even on progesterone and carefully monitored care, my body was a failure when it came to procreation... My identity as a failure as a woman was secured.

My identity as a failure stayed with me despite a BFP, despite reaching the 2nd trimester, despite seeing a healthy baby at my 18w u/s. I am tired of feeling like a failure!

The book on healing I read on retreat a couple months ago really helped me pray for healing and find some peace. There were some experiences in my past that really needed Jesus' healing. I had been walking around with the weight of that pain for many years. I now feel a good deal of peace having given over the pain and invited Jesus into those experiences. This new-found peace has lead me to slowly start to change the way I experience life in the here and now. It has also affected how I view myself and how I approach some situations.

Add to my new-found healed self the research I have been doing on labor and birthing options and you get a shift in identity. After watching the movie "The Bu.siness of Being B.orn" I figured out that there were a lot more decisions than I had realized that needed to be made about my labor. I am a nerd so, obviously, I went into major research mode. I started reading up on doulas and various natural birth methods. I especially like the books from the Sears Parenting Library. I have learned a lot about my options... MUCH more than I was told today at my all day "birthing" class at the hospital. I am still researching, but I'm feeling much more confident about knowing my options when my labor comes.

What does all my research have to do with my self-reflection? Reading all these books and talking to doulas has had an unexpected side-effect. The natural birthing culture (if you can call it a culture) is VERY supportive of a woman's ability to do what her body is made to do... to give birth. I have been inundated with a lot of positive, uplifting messages. It's starting to sink in.

Lately I have been feeling empowered and strong. I'm tired of feeling like an IF victim. I like feeling like a normal healthy pregnant woman. I like feeling empowered. I really think that my positive outlook can only be good for my baby. I know that, at the very least, too much anxiety can negatively affect my baby. So, I've decided that I'm going to continue to choose to be positive with my thoughts and behave like a "normal" and healthy pregnant woman.

There is more to blog about on this topic, but I'm tired and this post is already too long. Look for part 2 to come soon.


Nessa said...

I love your post. It really resonnated with me. I know that I have let my past/my body's issues affect the way I view myself and the strength I feel that I do and do not posses.

That probably didn't make much sense! Anyway, thank you for sharing that.

Kathy V said...

I am glad that you are starting to feel more confident with your body and your choices for birth. It is nice to be able to have choices and options when for so long you felt limited by those choices. I hope you can make a decision that you can feel good about long after your child is here. Afterall it will be the story that you share with your child over and over again.