the one about pregnancy

So I am pretty much the worst blogger ever.

Part of the reason for my craptastic blogging is, of course, that launching a book out into the world has taken a surprising amount of brain/heart/creative energy. I was not prepared! Hopefully next time I’ll be amazing and organised. I’ll have all sorts of interesting things to say. Huzzah!

The response to Untamed has been incredible. And it’s been so crazy-varied that Jessica from The Hypeless Romantic actually wrote a review of all the reviews. It’s a pretty good overview, if you’re curious how it’s been received by the wide world.

The main reason, though, is that I’ve spent the last seven months growing a human.

One thing I can say for sure about becoming pregnant (aside from the anti-blogging side effects) is it has made me appreciate that evolution is a genius and a drunk.

There’s nothing like growing a WHOLE NEW HUMAN BEING in your insides to make you consider how crazy it is that we still do this shit. I mean, surely there’s some more sophisticated way to take care of it by now? It’s so weird that my body, which for 30 years has been just me – just the way I get from here to there, just motor control and the naïve messenger of emotion – was capable all this while of turning into the perfect incubator.

Then there’s the fact that the best way to give birth is still through the vagina. Crazy evolution.

But the genius is in the 9 months. That is some evolution I can appreciate. I have been impatient at times, but there’s no question I’ve needed every minute of that time to come to terms with all the feelings and also to buy nappies.

There are so many things I didn’t realise about pregnancy until it happened to me. Some ways that knowledge might affect future books:

1)   Even for women who long to be pregnant, pregnancy can be a terrifying, confronting, ambiguous thing. There’s nothing like facing the reality of becoming a whole new entity to a whole new person to make you consider all those tiny, inconsequential details your biology has been shouting down. Like whether you even actually want a kid.

Pregnancy is the hallmark of Happy Ever After, and when previous heroines show up in other books they’re always glowing. Don’t be surprised if I write a previous heroine who’s sick, belligerent and feeling wholly terrified.

2)   It’s entirely possibly to not even start showing until well into the 20-something weeks. A heroine could conceivably hide an unplanned pregnancy for AGES.

3)   Unless she has horrible morning sickness. Morning sickness really is the worst. I felt car sick for about eight weeks straight, all nauseous in my head. I have absolutely no idea how women maintain 9-5 jobs during the first trimester – and especially how they keep their pregnancy under wraps while doing so.

(This is where the Worst Blogger Ever bit comes in. I couldn’t even hold down a Couple of Hours a Week job.)

4)   You don’t necessarily fall in love right away. Especially if you look at images of the first couple of weeks’ gestation and discover your baby is currently in the form of a ribbon of cells that will eventually become its brain and spinal cord. (For the love of god, don’t do this.)

Even when you do start to fall in love with the hard round bit you can feel through your stomach but not name, and the tiny feet that have discovered your ribs, it’s not a very straightforward kind of love. Suddenly you have twice as much to lose as you did before.

5)   Death is thoroughly unnerving because something that was here is suddenly not here. It’s so simple, and so impossible to grasp. Expecting a baby is like and unlike that. It is unlike, because I can already feel her – I already feel like I know something of who she is, because she squiggles and is still and complains and is content. It is like, because it’s impossible to understand that in two months a whole new person will exist who was not here before.

6)   The only aversions I had were to coffee and the internet. Seriously, the internet. (Again with the Bad Blogger.) The only craving I’ve had has been in the past couple of weeks and that’s for ice. Gah, now I want ice.

7)   Growing huge can be confronting. Paired with pregnancy hormones it can make you think crazy paranoid things. Not that I ever for one second had crazy paranoid thoughts about special k hanging out with less huge, less pregnant women. Oh, no. *shifty eyes* But, you know, a heroine conceivably might.

What portrayals of pregnancy, birth and motherhood make you roll your eyes when you read them or see them on TV/movies?

Comments 22 Responses

  1. Fiona Marsden

    The whole glowing at eight months of pregnancy always makes me roll my eyes. You can’t find a comfortable position to sleep in. In summer all your extremities get puffy. Back ache. Fatness. And strangers coming up to you in the street and asking if you want a boy or a girl. I want a good nights sleep you idiot and I know it’s probably not happening for years.

    1. anna cowan Post author

      Oh God, the glowing thing! I admit I kind of like it when people say it to me, because I prefer them to see me as glowing to them seeing me as tired and bloated with unwashed hair and the last of my clean clothes thrown on :-).

    1. anna cowan Post author

      I almost put a warning on the tumblr link. Isn’t it amazing??? I love it so much.

      I’m doing fine, as long as I go at a relatively slow pace. This is where the nine months really is a blessing. There are a lot of feelings, but there’s a lot of time to process it all in, and to get much more used to this very odd idea.

      1. Catherine

        It’s brilliant! I did, in fact, wind up reading the whole thing….

        I’m glad all is well with you. I’d love to meet up and hear about the new project (the glimpses I’m seeing on Twitter are intriguing!).

  2. Shelley Ann Clark

    Everything you’ve said is what my friends who have given birth have all said about pregnancy, in those rare moments when they feel they can be honest about the process. So it’s fascinating that romance novels so rarely seem to be open about the joy, yes, but also the terror and discomfort involved.

    For me, I always worry about the health and welfare of favorite heroines who get pregnant in historicals. I know this is my inability to suspend disbelief, but at a time when women quite frequently died in childbirth or shortly thereafter, I always think that historical heroines might have quite a bit more ambivalence about the whole thing– or maybe even outright fear, or resignation. I’d love to see a book where those complex emotions are explored. And, of course, I love books that don’t require babies to be part of the HEA at all, or books where children are a positive, but nebulous far-off-future idea.

    Basically, I suppose, women’s fertility has always influenced our lives in myriad ways, and has been attached to such a huge variety of emotional experience, that I’d appreciate its exploration in romance.

    (Also, congratulations! I’m sure you glow. And that you’ll be a fantastic mother.)

    1. anna cowan Post author

      Meredith Duran’s second last release – the 18C one – had a heroine with legitimate fear about becoming pregnant. It read really true, and I agree that I’d love to see pregnancy as less of an unalloyed Good Thing, and viewed with a bit more trepidation. Even today I have friends who have lost very close friends in childbirth, and it’s a pretty massive reminder that labour isn’t always straightforward. This would have been so much more prevalent back in the day – especially when women were pregnant for the sixth, seventh time. It would attach some pretty interesting resentment to the hero in her eyes, surely!

      1. anna cowan Post author

        Especially at the *very pregnant* stage :-). Although I guess everyone’s libidos are different. Some variety would be nice, though! Libido doesn’t really get addressed very much in romance, actually – unless it’s a heroine who’s had a low libido that’s cured by meeting the hero.

        1. Fiona Marsden

          I’m writing/ rewriting a pregnant heroine at the moment. She gets worried when she’s told twins cos there are more complications, at six months she’s annoyed when she has to buy a dress to go to a function and it doesn’t hide how massive she is. Then at seven months she thinks her husband will be unfaithful (MOC) because she’s been told not to have sex. Then she spends the next two months missing sex.

  3. Ruthie

    Every portrayal of birth in every novel and on every TV show and in every movie, ever. They all drive me mad. MAD.

    Glad to see you blogging! And glowing. Greasily.

    1. anna cowan Post author

      hehe – the glow from my greasy, unwashed hair.

      The first TV depiction of birth I saw after doing all the reading and classes was in Community. I couldn’t believe how completely unrealistic all of it was, down to how contractions actually happen. I guess it’s a whole world of inaccuracy you just don’t really get until you learn about IRL Labour!

  4. Kat

    Where do I begin! I’m the terrifying guest at the baby showers who warns the mother-to-be about all the things (mostly painful) that no one bothers to tell her about BEFORE they happen. Best to be prepared, I say.

    I will say that pregnancy agreed with me. Even when I was throwing up, or couldn’t walk or put on my own pants, I felt glowy. Or maybe I was light-headed and didn’t realise it.

    I can pretty much accept most pregancy/childbirth behaviour in romance fiction, but the one that is guaranteed to take me out of the story is a historical romance epilogue that features a multiple birth (sometimes triplets, omg!). It’s just too painful and risky without modern medicine for me to fully enjoy reading about the experience.

    In medieval romance I worry about the parents dying in battle or the child dying of disease or, again, perishing from an invasion or attack of some kind.

    I think what we’re missing in romance fiction is a pregnant heroine who doesn’t exist at the extremes of glowing earth mama or grumpy fat lady. There’s enough time in those 9 months for glowing and for vomiting and (hypothetically) manipulating well-meaning family members into obeying your every whim. 🙂

    1. anna cowan Post author

      So true about finding the in-between! Pregnancy isn’t all of one thing, or all of another – that’s part of what’s so baffling about it! Truly a mixed bag.

  5. Vassiliki

    I have taught myself to be guarded when I discuss pregnancy and childbirth. So many earth mothers, so little snark. Let’s just say that though I partied through my first pregnancy, throwing up only once (during some witty repartee between Gopher and Doc on the Love Boat), I hated the experience. Second time around is what I call my martydom (once again throwing up only once). And it was angsty and horrid as my aunt died in childbirth. This knowledge was the elephant in the room that most people dare not mention. I think the HEA “I’m up the duff” epilogue may not be the right place to start exploring these fears but I would love to see it explored futher. Lori Copeland’s A Winning Combination is the only contemporary romance (category) that I have read that depicts the discomfort and horrible fashion aspects of pregnancy (and it was funny too).

  6. Vassiliki

    PS I love the Greek way of wishing a pregnant woman a safe delivery which is to wish you a “Good Liberation” which says so much about 9 months of incarceration. So I wish you all the best and a Καλη Ελευθερια.

  7. pamela1740

    Also, been meaning to congratulate you and wish you well – the book and a baby, in such a short span of weeks/months! What a year for you. As for pregnancy, mine was horrible (barfy, sweaty, a little scary) and sometimes I still feel a little bitter when I see “glowing” women who are able to do prenatal yoga and all kinds of other things I had envisioned myself doing. But that was 10 years ago and now I think when I read about a pregnant heroine I don’t so much compare to my own experience anymore.

    1. anna cowan Post author

      Thanks Pamela! It’s a bit of a mad, huge year :-). One of my best mates is a yoga teacher, and I always imagine how graceful and athletic she’ll be in pregnancy. I’ve been nothing like that LOL. The best I can manage is a swim every now and then.

  8. Shiv

    Almost 7 years to the day since my person arrived in the world. I didn’t enjoy pregnancy. At 40, was constantly described by specialists, midwives, ob/gynos, yoga teachers, birth class coaches as an “old” pregnancy/parent. Such a delight. Had to jab myself with an anti blood clotting injection every day from 5 weeks to 36 weeks and was constantly going to appts with a variety of specialists to deal with the awful possibilities of what might go wrong. Thankfully I had a wonderful Chinese medicine practitioner who treated me alongside all of the other things and kept me sane throughout.
    And then she arrived without any particular problems, all in working order and the 9 months of worry, angst and over medicalisation was over and done with. And the real work and angst and joy and despair and love and love and love and love began. What a terrifying and wonderful time you have ahead of you. I hope there’s a great footy game on tv as you go into labour. I was able to watch the Swans defeat Hawthorn for most of mine and it was a blessed distraction…
    Can’t believe you were able to create a book and a person in any of the same space. Particularly such a wonderful book. I finished it last night at 11.40pm having started it earlier in the evening. Could. Not. Put. It. Down. It grabbed me by the throat and the imagination and I was not able to walk away from your characters until I knew what their fate would be. What is next for you?

    1. anna cowan Post author

      Wow, Shiv, your pregnancy sounds like it was a LONG nine months! At 30 I still find it hard to just trust everything’s going well, so I can’t even imagine how you must have been feeling with all that external input into your and your baby’s health. I’m so glad everything was fine! That AFL game thing made me LOL :-). Not being a fan of the game myself I’m not sure it would get me through in the same way…maybe I can hope for a 30 Rock marathon instead.

      I’m so glad you had a great experience with Untamed! The characters grabbed me by the throat as well :-). I’m heading into a couple of months’ baby hiatus, but am hoping next year to come back to my next historical. The premise thus far is a female debt collector, and the naive, lovely youngest son of someone-or-other who goes to her thinking he can get his fiancee’s jewellery back by brow-beating her. I’m loving thinking about it, and look forward to having some brain and heart space to put into writing it.

      1. Shiv

        Looked back at my comment on your blog with some shame faced horror! What IS it about having gone through pregnancy and birth that makes some women – well, me anyway – sometimes just regurgitate elements of the experience to total strangers without any censoring… Aaagh! I DO hope you have a 30 Rock fiesta ahead of you. And I recommend Girls if you haven’t yet had a chance to discover it. Your new novel sounds intriguing both in plot and character. I’d press the pre-order button now if I could!

        1. anna cowan Post author

          LOL – no need to feel shame! Right now my back has given up, and I’m pretty sure in years to come I’ll tell anyone and everyone about the time I looked like a blimp and I couldn’t walk. Oh, and Girls is one of my absolute favourite shows – so smart, heart-breaking, original.

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