Saturday, March 24, 2012

Pregnancy, Or Why Stretch is Freaking Out

At the time of this writing, I am 22 years old, going to be married in 84 days, and following many of my friends on Facebook and otherwise as we graduate college and our future lives really start to take shape.  Of course, this means life-changing stuff.  My first shocker came freshman year when my roommate happened to be engaged.  That threw me for a bit of a loop, but this whole engagement thing became the norm and I eventually fell into the "trap" as well, becoming the first of my close friends to wind up looking at flowers while they were still enjoying the single life.  I managed to nail two stereotypes in one go; becoming engaged fresh out of college (something I did NOT think would happen just a few years ago until my wonderful fiancée decided to mess up my plans) and becoming engaged to someone at Doane.  Seriously, that college (and I imagine many others) has a ridiculously high rate of "inbreeding".

The second shocker was pregnancy.  Now, before you start freaking out (positive or negative) about how my fiancee and I are gonna have a baby, NO.  Still waiting until the wedding night, thank you very much, and kids are a long way down the road.  That doesn't mean I wasn't exposed to it, though.  The idea of someone my age having to care for kids was completely foreign to me, and as the last couple years have gone on and it has happened more and more, I haven't gotten used to it like I have with weddings for some reason.  The first shocker came early in college when a group of my classmates who had hung out together since elementary school all got pregnant at the same time (at least 4 of them. Seriously, pregnancy happens in waves, I swear).  To be brutally honest, I wasn't too surprised, but it was a bit of a shocker nonetheless that people my age are making babies.

Fast forward to sophomore year.  Practicum teaching at Crete High.  I'm walking back to my dorm room when I hear a "Hi, Mr. Leuenberger!" and I jump about five miles.  Turns out one of the seniors at Crete was dating a freshman at Doane.  No biggie...except that one of my good friends happened to be said guy's roommate and as a result I got to know FAR TOO MUCH about what was going on in that room (thankfully, I never had to witness it myself), and it was revealed to me that her parents would flip if they knew.  Next year, she comes to Doane (incorporating herself into my group of friends, which was definitely on the awkward side given I was her teacher)...and given the topic of this essay you can probably what happened.  To his credit, they did get married and things seem to be working out for them (which is more than I can say for many such situations). However, it was a little jarring to see someone who is quite brilliant get her college career totally derailed, and I can only imagine the conversation with her parents...

I highlight these incidents not to spread gossip or pass judgment (although I admit it may seem like it at times), but to give a look into what was and is going through my mind as I try to make sense of the lifetime changes that are involved in adulthood.

Fast forward to present day.  A few more friends have babies, including my freshman year roommate, who has been married and produced two wonderful children.  Most of these are coinciding with marriages, which my brain seems to be handling better.  Also, most of them since the incident related above have been guys.  I'm engaged to my wonderful fiancée, so naturally the baby talk has come up.  She's much more hesitant about the idea than I am, originally saying no kids at all.  She has warmed up to the idea a little more, but the whole "parasite in the body" thing freaks her out, and she has fears about motherhood.  All understandable, and we agree to wait a few years before deciding anything so that I can get my feet under me in regards to my job and we can spend some time together without the invasion of another being in need of attention (Angela, my hamster and the only character in this narrative that gets named besides myself, begs for attention enough as it is).  I begin my new job...and the next wave of adulthood hits.

At first, it's not any of my friends from back home involved in this, but I get exposed to the world of pregnancy in other ways.  One of my coworkers whom I eat lunch with just had a baby over the summer, so our lunchtime conversations often revolve around this.  Another one of my coworkers is pregnant (and expecting on my wedding day; joy all around!), so again the topic comes up.  As the staff also is well aware I am engaged (small town = gossip central), I am also often asked when my fiancée and I are going to have kids, or worse, they just assume we will have kids right after marriage.  The topic is something I can't seem to avoid, no matter how hard I try.  Then the whammy hits: two pregnancy-announcing Facebook posts of my unmarried friends (not overly close, but whom I know fairly well and better than anyone else who has been pregnant to this point) within a few days of each other (I'm telling you, it's contagious or something!).  This seems to be what set my brain off and I really started freaking out about this.  No, this doesn't make sense, but my brain seems to be defying logic.  One of said friends is a fellow science teacher and former quad mate who had moved to western NE to teach and to my knowledge had no record of fooling around and who doesn't touch alcohol (at the time, I didn't even know she has a boyfriend; it isn't "Facebook official", apparently), and apparently this is causing her to move back to Lincoln (which also makes me feel bad for the school; science teachers in western NE are hard to come by!).  The other is an absolutely brilliant student at UNMC who, to my knowledge, was on track to go for her PhD eventually.  This one seemed to be even more of a blow to me, as she is exceptionally smart and, being both gifted with an abundance of brains and being at a medical school, should know how to make sure that doesn't happen!  Given that she is also still in school, I also had the whammy of earlier of thinking about how this would affect her education, particularly as I knew her skill level much more and knowing her potential.

What drove the last nail into the coffin (maybe not the best analogy to use when discussing babies...) was the fact that I have a couple in my class who already have a kid.  Again, it seems to be working out for them, and I have been aware of it for a while and while I can't say I was thrilled about it, it didn't bother me too much...except that they happen to be in Anatomy, and the you-know-what subject is coming up next week.  You-know-what subject also has you-know-what talked about, and with high schoolers, that usually involves the "this is how you make sure that doesn't happen" talk.  I realized I need to get my thoughts in line NOW so that I don't say something to call them out, which I realized means I need to evaluate what I think about the subject.

Again, let me restate a point: My goal is NOT to spread rumors here.  My goal of relating these stories is just to show how my mind is attempting to process all of these thoughts, which brings us to trying to explain it.

First of all, those of you that know me know that I can be a little conservative on family values, sex, and the like (hence the "we're waiting" comment earlier).  So yeah, having several friends wind up pregnant without the safety net of a husband (and occasionally without a significant other at all, either before or after) bothers me.  In my perfect world, no sex would be happening before marriage.  Obviously that ain't happening, and I certainly am not saying that such a rule should be imposed.  While I might not like it, I accept that it is the person's choice.  What I'm really having a hard time understanding is why, should said activities be going on, people are not smart about making sure babies DON'T happen.  This is the 21st century; we have the technology, and it's certainly not limited to one option!  Even if you were paying the slightest attention in health class, this should not be a shocker!  Again, I think this is why my UNMC friend was such a shocker to me; she of all people should know better.  Now, I admit I do not know the full details about their situations, and I suppose it's possible that they were planned, but I have a hard time understanding why kid-making would be planned without marriage or with it being highly disruptive.

I also have the opinion that married couples should wait a couple years before having kids, if for no other reasons as the need to spend time together without kids interrupting and the impossible-to-justify-yet-omnipresent "that's what my parents did".   This, along with the "holy macaroni I'm an adult" feeling explains why my married friends have caused me mild unease, although said unease is much less.  Also of note, almost every single one of my friends who is married and has kids is male.  The good news is they all seem to be supportive dads, so it isn't the "guy does nothing so not a big deal" scenario that's preventing the freakout.  I'm guessing it's more the disconnect; when I see Facebook posts about pregnancy, there isn't as much from guys and only VERY rarely are there the pregnant belly pics that moms-to-be seem to love to post.

Now, a question that has probably crossed your mind is "WHY DOES HE CARE?!?"  My fiancée is not pregnant (thankfully) and, while friends, these aren't people who have an overly dramatic effect on my present life.  This is what I don't get.  I really, really, shouldn't care.  It's none of my business.  Not only that, but at least given the (admittedly biased) Facebook posts, they seem to be happy with how their lives are turning out and treat pregnancy as a beautiful thing (which it is), and I have no doubt that they will be great mothers.  Every belly-picture I have seen has been happy, and my coworkers talk about how wonderful it is.  But yet my brain defies the logic I throw at it (and conveniently enough starts to happen as my fiancée is slowly warming up to the idea).  I would hypothesize that part of it is probably the whole "this is inevitably coming for me" thought.  While I have always liked the idea of a couple mini-Stretches running around, thinking about parenthood is still pretty scary (and I don't even have to carry the parasite in my belly!).  However, I don't think that's enough to justify my freakout.  I don't use the term "freakout" too lightly either; I've had a couple nights where I have been unable to get to sleep because I was thinking about it, not to mention it keeps coming up in my dreams.  So thus my theory of blogging about it came about.  Maybe now that I've processed my thoughts into written form (even if it is more disorganized and rambly than normal...which is saying something!).

In summation: Pregnancy is scary, even if it doesn't involve me.  And if you ask when I am having kids, I may bite your head off.

Also, this post lacks my usual picture commentary partly because I don't think I could get much of a variety of pics, it's a more serious topic, and I don't think it would help me to be looking at MORE baby belly pics.

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