Marvel comics readers were promised a lot of changes following the major Secret Wars event last year. One of the most significant differences, as far as I was concerned, was the appearance of Spider-Woman (also known as Jessica Drew) with a big round baby belly.
In September, I found out that I was pregnant. It doesn't matter how long you've been trying or how much you want to add a child to your family, knowing it's likely happening for you changes EVERYTHING.
A week and a half later, Amazing Spider-Man #1 was released, featuring the first post-Secret Wars Spider storyline, including preview snippets of several other Spider-titles. One of them (written with great heart by Dennis Hopeless) featured Spider-Woman with a brand new baby bump -- a bump that left her eating ice cream for breakfast, telling little lies to her best friend, and wondering exactly how to protect it while being the superhero she is destined to be.
As the series begins, we see Jessica reluctantly taking maternity leave; despite setting her own timeline for removing herself from the line of duty (or trying to, anyway -- it's a superhero comic!), she doesn't take the backseat to her self-trained motley team-up of Ben Urich and The Porcupine without a number of reminders as to why she needs to step back. She does what she has to to take care of the bun in her oven, but that doesn't always means she likes it.
Jessica is not known for mincing words. She's very vocal when she doesn't like something, and there are more than a few aspects of pregnancy that annoy her. She also faces the age-old question any woman who has had any size bump in pregnancy has faced:
And the one that on-lookers think is well-meaning but just irritates a soon-to-be mama (because, of course, we can't be prepared for the unknown):
When you reach the point of pregnancy when you realise that you just can't do the things you used to, you don't have to be a superhero to have a hard time adjusting. In many ways, your independence becomes limited, and, if you define yourself -- even partially -- by the things you love to do and the things you are proud to be able to do, having to step back is hard.
I haven't always been very capable, so, since becoming healthy, I have prided myself on being strong and resourceful. I taught my husband to do DIY, learning new things myself along the way, and we have completely renovated our home. When we moved, I carried just as many boxes and assembled/dissembled just as much furniture as he did. I enjoy pulling my own weight, and I value my own strength.
Then came baby.
Suddenly, I could barely wield a screwdriver. I certainly couldn't tighten any screws with it too much or I might strain my core. I couldn't pack many boxes because all the bending might hurt my back. I couldn't carry anything heavier than a few pillows (that's how it felt, anyway...) in case my centre of balance was off. I had to take a position of standing back and watching, and it drove me up the wall.
I may be a poor excuse for a superhero, but I miss my autonomy. That can sound selfish for someone who has chosen to bring new life in the world -- how autonomous can I ever expect to be again?! -- but I'm constantly told how my life is about to change without any acknowledgment for the fact that it already has.
I'm not stupid enough to think that things aren't changing again. They're changing every day.
In my head, I have a perfect birth plan. I have exactly how everything will go just as long as I make a stand for what I want. The truth is: I'm terrified it won't happen that way -- not because I wasn't firm enough in my belief and how I pursue it but because things happen. I refuse to believe that the only important thing is that both Baby and I come home, but, yeah, it is the most important thing. Faced with complications and confusions, intervention might happen.
Does it make me any less of a superhero mama if I can't do it all on my own?
Jessica Drew required an emergency c-section and went immediately to kick Skrull butt. While I doubt I'll have the ability -- or need -- to channel Rambo only moments after any manner of giving birth, what she does is show the enormous strength involved in having a baby. She doesn't do so in an emotionally detached way; she has the ability to fight because she is a strong and loving woman.
Also, can we take a minute to marvel (pun intended) at the scene of Spider-Woman breastfeeding?
The baby arc doesn't end at the birth. We get an entire issue to watch Jessica become a mother, struggling, worrying, stressing out, and unable to focus on other things. She finds herself by letting her be herself again. She is utterly changed, but she is still Jessica Drew, Spider-Woman. Her job is her strength and wit, and she gets to teach her baby these very traits as he grows. She will be his superhero.
That's not a bad role model to have -- for her son, for me, or for mine.