One thing I love about teaching high school English is our unit on the Epic. Teaching kids about quests, heroes, and the like really gets my inner-nerd going. Therefore, I can't help but compare the concepts to my own life. This is not only a good strategy for explaining ideas to students, but also a fun thing to do in your free time. I swear!
Let me explain the concept of The Quest, and see if you aren't tempted to apply it to every book or movie you have ever experienced (fellow English teachers, feel free to skim at this point).
According to Chapter 2 of the English Teacher's Bible, or How to Read Literature Like a Professor, "every trip is a quest (except when it's not)." This means that whether you are a pirate hunting for buried treasure or just a gal going to the Jewel in her GOT pajamas, your trip could in actuality be a hero's quest. Some famous examples of quests would be The Odyssey, Indiana Jones, everything about the Knights of the Round Table, and basically anything to do with superheroes.
In the same vein, anyone who has been pregnant knows that it sure as hell qualifies as a long, strange trip. So, let us consider. Why can't mothers be knights, hormones be dragons, babies be princesses, and childbirth (aka give me my body back you unrelenting parasite) the Holy Grail?
So, if by Foster's definition "the quest consists of five things: (a) a quester, (b) a place to go, (c) a stated reason to go there, (d) challenges and trials en route, and (e) a real reason to go there," that gives us something to work with. Inconceivable? I think not!
Nerd with me:
- a) The Quester, in this scenario, is any young female person. Specifically, one who will eventually reproduce. Her motivation may range greatly; it does not matter. This woman may be a lifelong momthusiast
or just someone who merely needs a minion to care for her if she becomes senile.
Maybe she couldn't afford a mini-cyborg to love her unconditionally.
Perhaps she would simply enjoy seeing a small human who is an exact tiny replica of herself.
- b) The Place To Go is thereby pregnancy. Unfortunately, there is not yet a way to birth a baby without being pregnant.
- c) The Stated Reason is to give birth; the logical conclusion to being pregnant. The end goal. The Holy Grail, even, considering everything involved in the next step…
- d) Challenges and Trials. Oh so many challenges. 9 months of forced sobriety. Incessant exhaustion and/or insomnia. Random sobbing. Being clumsy AF. Cankles. To name a few.
- e) The Real Reason: Newsflash: it's not the baby. That's right, it is definitely NOT the miraculous wonder of beholding your newborn child (ok fine, that ends up being part of it). But the reason you DIDN'T KNOW you were looking for, is the discovery of a profound self-efficacy; the ability to maintain your sense of identity despite giving your entire being to another person.
Yes, it IS possible to retain your personality after motherhood. A work friend told me, when I was four months preggo and already OVER IT —
— that I could do anything for 9 months. I hadn't thought of it that way before. It turned out she was right in more ways than one.
Foster emphasizes that for the hero, "the real reason for a quest never involves the stated reason… their quest is educational… the real reason for a quest is always self-knowledge." So then the Holy Grail is not childbirth itself, but rather independent discovery. Whether that manifests as love, joy, unprecedentedly efficient adulting, or something else — a pregnant gal will inevitably embark on some soul-searching.
Personally, I was just relieved to discover that I
could survive sober social interactions without dying of a panic attack did not become completely boring while pregnant. I also managed to maintain my level of commitment to my job, and FIERCELY refused to let the experience turn me into a sub-standard friend. I did not use being pregnant as an excuse for anything. You see, for most people the end goal of pregnancy is having a baby. This is fine; this is normal.
I am not normal.
I have debilitating anxiety.
I truly feared I would lose myself once the baby came. I was terrified I could turn into a self-righteous she-wolf who tells everyone they don't understand love or life because they haven't had kids. Don't get me wrong: I knew that some of my priorities would inevitably shift. It's human nature. One takes things seriously when caring for the helpless. But I was deeply concerned about becoming that person who thought it was cool to be lame, just because they were a parent. I did not want to post on Facebook about how I needed nothing more in life than watching Nickelodeon on a Saturday. I mean, have you seen the new Alvin and the Chipmunks? It's creepy AF. And that Mickey Mouse Hot Dog Song…
So, my REAL reason for making this epically dorky (pun intended) metaphor has to do with being an OG Gangsta, aka a fiercely independent ladyforce…
…and not a conformist to uber-impossible and un-fun-soundingsocietalstandards. In essence, I take pride in the degree to which I was able to stay the same. Despite my jadedness about the whole thing, I must grudgingly admit that if you are pregnant, never will you be forced to unwittingly learn about yourself as much as now.
Unless you are Beatrix Kiddo and you can karate chop your way through solid objects, and through your enemies too. In that case, I have a few people I would like you to meet.
In any event, I implore you not to forget who you are! Keep being a friend, a fur-mama, a Good Time Sally, and a true individual. This is not a zero-sum game; space exists for all good things in this life. How else do you explain why *NKOTBSB happened?
I have faith that you, too, will be proud of what you find. Becoming a mother does not change the fact that you are YOU. And YOU can do ANYTHING YOU WANT.
Well, ALMOST anything. Some exceptions may include: the ability to consume endless calories without gaining a pound, losing the last 20 lbs of baby weight while putting in zero effort, or being paid large sums of money for doing nothing but leisure activities. Surviving pregnancy sadly has not shown me how to do any of these things. If you have figured out a way to do them, please tell me ASAP.
Good luck on your Pregnancy Quest.
*Full disclosure, I am 100% team 'NSYNC. I am patiently waiting for the announcement that OTOWNSYNC is hitting Ravinia. Never give up on your (liquid) dreams, my friends.