Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Stupid Weepy Pregnancy Hormones!

As an adolescent, I grew to hate hormones.

Annoying. Distracting. Inconvenient. Indulgent. Ick.

After a few instances of thoroughly embarrassing myself with emotional outbursts (age thirteen-fourteenish), I started analyzing social dynamics. What was actually going on? How ought everyone to behave? And, most important, how could I, at least, avoid further humiliation?

I observed variations of a few basic scenarios played out, over and over again.

Tell me if any of these sound familiar from middle and high school years:

1) Three guys and a girl, all eighth graders, are assigned to a group project. They meet to discuss division of labor. The girl tries repeatedly to impose some sense of order upon the proceedings, but is ignored while the boys engage in belching contests and discuss the latest basketball brackets. Finally, she gives up in disgust, yells at them, and storms off to do the entire project herself. They all look at each other and shrug. "What's with her?" one asks, and another says "Somebody has PMS." (Naturally, she couldn't have a legitimate grievance.)

2) Ten minutes before morning bell, several friends are clustered around their lockers, chatting. A girl in their group stomps in, glares at everyone equally, and announces, shrilly, "I have PMS and I'm not responsible for anything nasty I say in the next forty-eight hours so stay out of my way!!!" She slams her locker and stalks off again. The boys stare after her and tremble.

3) A seventeen-year-old boy cracks a very obscene joke. In mixed company. A girl winces, then pointedly walks away. The boy calls after her, "Hey--sorry--but you know, I'm a guy. I can't help it!"

4) An eleventh-grade couple are eating lunch:
Guy: ...happy they didn't raise taxes.
Girl: [horrified] But they're oppressing the poor who need those programs! The Republicans torture puppies for fun and now they've moved on to the American people!!!
Guy: [calmly] I would just rather see reduced spending than raised taxes.
Girl: [hysterically] I had no idea I was dating a FASCIST!!! [Wails] You don't love me! I have to [sob] break up with you!!! And right before the dance! How could you DO this to me??? [She rushes off to the bathroom to indulge her grief, and ends up missing half of her next class.]

Incidents like these, played out every day in American schools, lead to stereotypes about how "guys are jerks" and "girls are irrational airheads."

It's easy to criticize the teens, but then I look at their role models, like helicopter parents, evil bosses, and pandering politicians. In an ideal world, everyone would be calm, polite, and balanced. They would engage in public discourse with dignity, decency, honesty, and a modicum of logic.

Since that's not going to happen, I suppose I'll just have to mock 'em all equally.

The problem, concluded my fifteen-year-old self, was that nobody wanted to take responsibility. In many cases, the kids weren't even aware of how much they were influenced by their own neurochemical state, and honestly thought their anxiety/crankiness/hysteria was warranted. For them I felt some sympathy. But people who used them as excuses, crutches, or weapons...the same did I most heartily wish to smack. Or smite, depending upon the severity of the offense.

"Maybe people can't control their hormones," I decided, "But they can always control their behavior." Thus, even if I was especially exhausted, or cranky, or frustrated, or twitterpated, I still made a real effort to act calm. Fake it 'till you make it. This was, I decided, the essence of true adulthood. (I do not claim I was perfect at this, merely much better than most of my age-mates.) People said I was unusually mature, or poised. I thought I just had a really smart, successful survival strategy. (And let me say, I avoided a great many humiliating mistakes by concealing my true feelings. I also got a lot of laughs by deliberately hamming up the melodrama.)

Now, I'm sure you're all thinking, "That's very nice. So what?"

Well, I must now confess that my smug sense of superiority over my adolescent classmates has evaporated. Here I am, twenty-nine plus or minus ahem-mumble years, mother of multiple kids, and I can't stop crying.

I'm not depressed. I'm not upset at anyone. I don't cry all the time. But when some minor thing sets me off, I start bawling uncontrollably. "I am a mature and rational adult," I tell myself, "And I will deal with this minor problem in a professional soon as I stop crying." An hour of crying later, I have serious doubts about the "rational" part of my self-message.

Poor Jon. For the last several months, he has suffered several iterations of me choking out, "And I KNOW I'm over-reacting and it's not actually a big deal, and I hate that I can't control myself, but I just can't stop crying...Waaaah!"

Now, I do make efforts to mitigate the damage. I try not to make any major decisions while super-hormonal. I try to acknowledge "I'm over-reacting; it's the pregnancy hormones," to anyone who crosses my path while I'm weeping copiously. I try to extricate myself from social situations and bawl in private. If a person has upset me, I try to wait until I am calm to confront the issue.

Nevertheless, this system is not perfect. For one thing, I keep crying at church. There is no good retreat at church, unless I want to go sit in my car in 105-degree heat. For another thing, not everyone believes me when I sob, "No, everything is fine, I'm just pregnant..." Many kind souls assume someone has seriously offended me. Finally, I may wait until I think I'm calm, but frequently I start crying all over again.


This is seriously annoying.

So, I have decided to take a break from personal responsibility. A few months ago, I got upset about something.
"Blame the baby," I told Jon.
"Which one?" he asked.
"I don't care!" I answered. "A baby, any baby!"
Babies make such convenient scapegoats. (I begin to regret our selection for U's first stuffed animal. He's a very masculine bull, with, I am certain, nary a taint of progesterone poisoning.)

As pregnancy symptoms go, this one isn't all that bad. It's better than nausea, vomiting, fatigue, interrupted sleep, and sciatic pain. I'm not sure if I'd choose weepiness over swollen feet or memory problems.

Hopefully U got some awesome build points for taking this quirk.

One month (give or take) to go. I can make it. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me!

(Except, of course, stop crying.)