In many ways, my life thus far has been a tale of two cities. I grew up in the Bronx, surrounded by diversity, yet in my tiny little enclave of a neighborhood, everyone looked like me. We were okay financially, very much middle class, but I have family members on one side who really struggle and family members on the other side who don’t struggle at all. When I was fourteen, my house burned down. We lost everything. In a world before Go Fund Me, and crowd sourcing, the neighborhood still managed to rally together, and people brought us clothes, gift certificates, and other small items to help us get through the rebuilding period. I remember my father being embarrassed. We didn’t need “handouts.” We’d figure it out on our own. We didn’t need help.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I’m now in a similar position to my parents. We’re okay financially. We’re not living in the lap of luxury by any means, but we’re not homeless. We struggle with bills sometimes. We don’t splurge. But we’re comfortable. We have heat in the winter, clothes on our backs, and food on the table.
We moved to Cincinnati a year ago. The other day, I realized that I have been pregnant longer in Cincinnati than not. Which is wild to me. As I finally near the end of this pregnancy (Hello Long Awaited Third Trimester!), I find myself the recipient of a ridiculous amount of generosity. I’m very fortunate in that I’ve made a lot of really amazing friends in the short time I’ve been in this city. Friends who have offered such pregnancy perks as meal trains, and sprinkles, and on-call assistance in case baby comes early and I have nobody to watch my daughter. These are things I didn’t have back East. These are the types of things I’ve never actually been offered before, and to be honest, I’m not sure how to handle the generosity that’s been bestowed on me. While I’m utterly grateful, excited, and feeling blessed, there’s a side of me that feels so guilty. Guilty that other people would have to go out of their way for me. Guilty that I would suck up somebody else’s time. Guilty because we’re okay. It’s super hard for me to say yes to these kinds of things, even though sometimes I really want to say yes.
I’m not the kind of girl who likes to “pamper” herself. First of all, I don’t really like that word. Pamper. It makes me think of old, rich ladies drinking tea, wearing pearls, and gossiping as they flick their wrists at servants. Ok, maybe I watch a little too much Downton Abbey. But still. The word pamper brings to mind connotations of superiority for me. Second of all, I’m not very good at accepting help, generosity, or “services” (think hair, nails, massages, etc.). I was taught that it’s selfish. I had a super small wedding. A super small baby shower with my first baby. I couldn’t bring myself to do it otherwise because I felt so completely and utterly guilty just at the idea of inconveniencing people and making them feel obliged to bring me a gift. I really struggled with invitations because of this; I felt like I was basically mailing a “come party with me and write-me-a-check” letter. I seriously tried to avoid a wedding entirely after Hurricane Sandy forced us to change our original date. That’s how bad I felt. I only decided to go through with it because my dad got all choked up that he wanted to walk me down the aisle.
And now here I am facing another duality. On the one hand, having no immediate family in the area, it would be great to have some help. I didn’t ask for any help with my daughter, and I remember a lot of days of not eating anything until 11AM, and eating quick junk around the house when I did manage to eat because it was fast and easy and I was exhausted from never, ever sleeping. Plus, it would be great to have a “Sprinkle” and celebrate this baby with friends. On the other hand, I know I could get by without any help. Why should I allow others to go out of their way just because I chose to have a baby?
It’s a Catch22 and I honestly don’t know which side of the fence I fall on. Do I want someone to take care of me, treat me like I’m fragile, bring me coffee (decaf be damned!) in bed, give me a massage, tell me I’m doing a great job, hug me, rub my feet, run me a bath, buy me clothes that actually fit, talk to my belly, shower me with attention, purchase cute baby clothes, cook dinner, prevent me from carrying heavy things (like my daughter), and basically attend to my every need and whim? Uhmmmm… Am I bad person if I say yes? Sometimes I do want that. Sometimes I’d love someone to coddle me and understand that being pregnant is hard. It’s long. It’s painful. It’s exhausting. It’s long. It’s scary. It’s frustrating. Did I mention it’s long?
And then there’s the other side. Do I really want all of that attention? Do I really want to be treated like some delicate flower that’s incapable of lifting a finger? Do I want to sacrifice my independence, my soul in fact, to turn into the kind of person that I tend to feel bad for when I’m not pregnant? I like the idea of going wherever I want, driving myself, getting things done, staying active, planning events, going to the gym, not having to make small-talk at the salon, taking care of myself, not having people fawn all over me, playing with my daughter (even if it means carrying her all over the zoo), and not having to write thank you notes because people were generous and I’m awkward and can’t handle when people are nice to me?
In the grand scheme of life, pregnancy is not that long. But when you’re in the moment, the day-to-day countdown to your due date (and sometimes beyond!) it can feel like an eternity. We all know that women can be really hard on themselves. I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I’ve decided that, if offered, a little “pampering” isn’t going to turn me into a selfish, demanding person. It’s not going to make people shake their head at me, as one of “those women.” I constantly feel as though accepting generosity forces me to walk the line between rich and poor, greedy and gracious. While I’m grateful to the point of tears, I also feel incredibly responsible for the other people involved and their time and effort.
What would you do?