Phantom Emb(ryo)

Again, it has been many moons since the last post, as my motivation to write and desire to document my pregnancy experiences are equally low. Halloween and my would-have-been due date are just around the corner, so it’s only appropriate to tell a (gestational) ghost story.

Eight months in and I would be about ready to burst, What to Expect When You’re Expecting expectedly paged, nursery (if I had one) predictably painted, and diapers stocked for Armageddon in an ideal, prepared parent’s world. Instead of a pineapple-sized fetus living in my womb, my stomach has become home to all the delicious pineapple devoured this summer.

Mine is a vaguely flat tummy, a little flabby and cuddled by love handles as it’s always been, but lately I’ve felt a foreign emptiness there when I see pregnant colleagues all round and full, bellies as big as mine would be. I admire how their unborn babies unapologetically take up space, how their mothers wield new bodies like precious weapons. When they pass in hallways or hold office baby showers, my hand flies to my stomach without thought. Nothing is there.

I had the abortion long before the embryo became a fetus with feisty legs, so I didn’t experience the kicks common in later trimesters. But seeing other pregnant people induces within me odd reactions; a flutter of butterflies tries to mimic the quickening of a fetus’s limbsthe fetus a phantom limb itself. I don’t feel stress, anxiety, or depression as many others who have had abortions do (referred to as Post Abortion Stress Syndrome/PASS to be discussed later), but I just feel strange, dissociated, as if I’ve been cast in Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.

But I do feel relieved more than anything. That could be me.

Speaking of strange physical phenomena, there’s also phantom pregnancy or pseudocyesis, when one experiences symptoms of pregnancy without actually being pregnant. And sympathetic pregnancy or Couvade syndrome, when the expectant person’s partner experiences similar pregnancy symptoms.

The body is a weird, wonderful, worrisome thing.

Do you have similar experiences or other weird pregnancy stories? Share them below, if you wish.

Time for more pineapple!

Some resources on weird pregnancy things
(I am not a doctor, so these are not meant to be prescriptive!!):
Pseudocyesis and Couvade syndrome
BabyMed, “What Is a Phantom or False Pregnancy – Pseudocyesis”
ParentingDad’s Pregnancy Symptoms: More Than Just Sympathy Pain?”
The Independent, “Couvade Syndrome”

Quickening
The Atlantic, Abortion in American History” 
Slate, He Took It Into His Head to Frisk a Little’”
Mirror, I FELT BABY KICK 10 WKS AFTER MY ABORTION”  

 

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Abortion from Abstinence

In an ironic plot twist, I found myself pregnant shortly after posting February’s piece on celibacy.

If you know me at all, you know that I had an abortion, that it wasn’t so much a choice than an imperative. (Though I’m immensely thankful to even have the privilege to choose an alternative, especially one that is safe.) Gal pals and I would have conversations about reproductive rights back in college, mostly joke about being pregnant when a period was a little late because it was some freak Final Destinationesque accident that couldn’t happen to us.

But what we didn’t want to conceive ofconceptionisn’t as implausible as we thought.

I’m now 24, and no more prepared for parenthood. To think I was somehow immune from encountering that embryonic actuality is absurd beyond Camus: I’ve never been on the pill, have had unprotected sex with a couple partners more than a wombful of times, have taken Plan B (or its off-brand equivalent) twice.

I don’t even want children—or at least not yet. Other than mothering a beloved late feline friend, I honestly don’t know if I have a maternal bone in my body. I don’t remember when I last held a human infant, or if I ever had.

This Mother’s Day I’m especially grateful for my maternal figures and friends my age who have had one, two, more kids. How do you do it?! You are amazing!

And also grateful that I’m not yet a mother; I would be about 5 months in at this point, baby the size of a banana (according to this meticulous and a little ridiculous mapping of a human fetus compared to edible items).

In support of #shoutyourabortion, the next few posts in the series “(Un)Planned (Un)Parenthood” will be about my experiences with abortion, addressing topics including personal guilt/shame, privilege, and bodily autonomy.

Thanks for always being here for me. I’m here for you.