Every pregnant woman is beautiful in her own way. However, from time to time in my work I encounter a woman who seems to be handling pregnancy and motherhood with unusual grace.
A while back I saw such a woman for a prenatal visit. She was a mother of four, and her beautifully behaved children were with her in the office. She was far enough along to be sporting a little baby bump, and she looked gorgeous and put together. During the course of the visit, I inquired in sort of a perfunctory way as to how she was doing, certain that she was handling everything just fine.
Boy, was I wrong. She looked at me desperately and said, “I’m really scared!” Then she proceeded to pour out a list of concerns: how is she going to take care of a baby, will she be able to handle labor, will she be able to breastfeed (she’s breastfed all of her other children), is she a responsible enough person to be a mother . . .
Frankly, she sounded like a first-timer, not a veteran mother of 4.
Listening to her talk, I was ashamed of myself. I had made assumptions about her based on her appearance, and had forgotten that she was a unique person. A person who is so busy being a mother to four children that the thought of adding another infant to her life leaves her weak. A person whose smiling facade leads people to forget that she needs sympathy and support, too.
Stereotyping is too easy. It’s tempting to look at a pregnant woman who has 4 or 5 children and think, “She already knows all of this; I won’t waste her time chatting about it again”. In reality, that conversation might be the only chance that this woman has to talk about her hopes and fears regarding pregnancy. Every pregnancy is different, and welcomes a completely unique human person into a family which must change to accommodate it.
The moment that taking care of women becomes routine for me is the moment that I should stop caring for women.