A dear friend of mine requested to hear about all the down and dirty shit of pregnancy that folks don’t normally talk about, so I’ll give you my gripes and realest reals I can here. My first time around, I spent a lot of time trying to make a show of not being pregnant. Writing this, I’m realizing that means going back to my first pregnancy and all the thoughts and feelings I kept to myself because I thought I needed to appear strong, confident, and accomplished. In many senses, I was doing just fine at actually being those things, but I had a lot of self doubt that was created by being new, in a new place, and with a totally different body (and, seemingly, mindset) while growing a new human.
I just wanted to be good at and respected at my new job. It all began with finding out I was pregnant, then two days later being offered my first tenure track teaching position in another state–a position for which my partner and I had both been on-campus interview finalists. We discussed all kinds of possibilities and felt a little crazy that we’d started “not trying not to” have a a kid. We had all of these difficult conversations 1,000 miles apart on our first ever smart phones while both working like crazy at the jobs we had at the time. Blake was a full-time instructor of printmaking at Bowling Green State University, and I was a full-time instructor of all things 2-D and Art Appreciation at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
One of the selfish reasons I wanted to have another kid is that I wanted to respect the process more this time around and not just bulldoze through all the pregnancy feels and pretend it’s just another day, like for anyone else I was working with. We ended up with me taking the position, and we moved all of our stuff (most was still in Ohio with Blake, since I lived like a bachelorette in a small, sandy apartment in MS with a single chair, a folding table, and a pallet on the floor–by choice) to Cape Girardeau, MO. As is often the case when you’re moving quickly for new teaching positions, I researched the heck out of Craigslist and found 7-8 apartment rental options for us to check out, and we drove to Cape with a moving van full of our life and parked it at the place we were temporarily lodging on campus.
The clock was ticking on when the moving van was due back, so every day we checked out as many apartments as possible. As soon as we saw the place on Park, we immediately wrote the landlord a deposit even though he said it wasn’t ready for move-in. We convinced him to let us put all of our belongings in the corners of just 2 rooms and said we’d take off however long he needed us to if we could just leave our stuff there and have him hold the place for us. Thankfully, he agreed. I was in no shape to have to move everything to a storage unit and then a month or two later have to move it into an apartment. Blake’s dad and brother had thankfully helped us move all of the Ohio apartment down 3 flights of stairs into the moving van, but we had no one to help us unload. Blake took the brunt of it, but I did way more than I should have in packing and lifting, and I have residual lower back issues to this day. All of your ligaments and joints loosen during pregnancy due to high levels of progesterone. This allows everything to rearrange for the baby, but it can also make one more vulnerable to injuries.
While waiting for our apartment to be finished, we road tripped to Colorado and visited with our dear friend Melanie Yazzie and her class, including new friend Sam C., and saw some family and did some hiking and enjoyed ourselves. And when we actually moved to Cape a few weeks later, I began prepping the studio and my documents and myself for starting a new job at 5 months pregnant. I was eager to prove myself to everyone. I was afraid they would think they’d made some kind of mistake. I thought I was doing folks’ impressions of women a favor by acting tougher than I felt about the whole thing. Thankfully, second trimester brought a respite from the nausea, but similar to this time around I continued to suffer from extreme heartburn, often causing barfing and preventing rest or sleep. I felt very stressed, and spent long hours awake every night worrying over the tiniest things at work. Levee had been growing well in the womb up until we moved to Cape, but his growth rate had dropped off sharply. The doctor was a bit worried about his small size. I think now that my stress possibly had something to do with this. Of course, I always want to blame myself for things is part of it, but I do genuinely feel that anxiety and lack of sleep certainly didn’t do anything to help.
Also, our studios aren’t well ventilated. Every day I had to smell “odorless” mineral spirits drifting down the hallway from the painting studio. It made me feel ill. I wore gloves and a mask doing everything in the print shop. Thankfully, most processes were already green before my arrival, but lithography wasn’t. To teach one of my students plate litho, I had to wear my “darth vadar” mask, as I called it, and do some sign language. Same with teaching screenprinting when instructing on the use of photosensitive emulsion. It’s not like one can defer accepting a job appointment due to pregnancy. And these classes were already set, so I felt like I just had to get on with it all and do my best to stay safe.
I was trying to gain respect from my colleagues, but also students can be extra rough on a new professor, and I wanted them to have a good learning experience irregardless of my health conditions and pregnancy. I had some really great students. There were also some folks that made life difficult for me in my first semester here, when I was already feeling vulnerable by being new and pregnant for the first time. I don’t take it personally now, but at the time I worried about it all a lot. I would seriously be awake at 3am obsessing over something I had no power to change.
And that’s where I’ll end this for now. This all feels indulgent and whiney. Just know there were lots of beautiful moments, too, and I am still so excited to have the position I have, now with tenure, a printshop all my own, great students and colleagues, and lastly and definitely not least-ly, my wonderful partner in art and life, Blake. I just wanted to share some more about this other side of things, too, on which I was as silent as possible for 9 months. More coming later…