This is, I think, fundamentally a good thing. No individual, parent or child, should be reduced to the horrible task of being normal. Especially when normal is, as one of my pregnancy books suggested, to become distressed by violent or disturbing images. Out of context that doesn't make much sense, but what the book was actually suggesting is that I, in my highly fecund state of being, should not watch television shows with violence since I might find myself uncontrollably sobbing and powerless to look away.
Television. Fiction. Was the assumption that pregnancy had made me unable to tell the difference between SVU and the nightly news? I'll admit to being somewhat more scattered than usual during those forty weeks, but really, I was hardly addled. Perhaps the authors expected my corset to be cutting off the blood flow to my brain.
So fine, I remained essentially unchanged during my weeks of pregnancy. I grew larger, sure, but not more fragile. And then Emmaline was born. She ate, she slept, she pooped, she grew. And, because she sleeps through the night, I was recently lucky enough to pick up my old copy of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.
My mother HATES this book. It makes her viscerally and gut wrenchingly ill to discuss it. Growing up, having first read the novel in tenth grade on our battered orange (yes, orange) living room couch, I'll admit I thought her dislike was evidence of some inner weakness. I thought she couldn't handle the dystopian vision of an America ruled by the Tea Party...I mean a totalitarian theocracy.
But as steadfast and unchanged as I was by my pregnancy, it seems I was not unchanged by Emmaline. When reading about the narrator's separation from her daughter I nearly vomited. I fought the urge to cry. I turned into exactly the sort of hapless sap my pregnancy book said I would and I understood my mother in a way I never had before.
It's still one of my favorite books, but I don't think I'll pick it up again anytime soon. I'll stick to Atwood's other, less disturbing tomes. Like Oryx and Crake.
Sure the world basically ends, but at least no one kidnaps a little girl. I can handle a theoretical apocalypse. I'm not a total wuss.