I have always been in love with the idea of the Mystic Woman. You know, the wild-haired wastrel living on the edge of the village. No one knows where she gets her ideas, but everyone swears by her poultices. Some people have seen her doing odd things alone under a full moon. She might be a witch.
As you may be able to tell, I have read a great deal of fiction.
I've also met my fair share of Mystic Women. I used to flit between Mystical Friends the way some people flit between boyfriends. There was the sighing girl with the tarot cards. The roommate who’d say things like “I’m not going out today; it’s a white day today.” They always looked serene and self-assured, these women, as though they were tapped into a special ribbon of feminine feeling that runs through the universe, passing from female to female, like a Jedi Force, only with periods.
My mother was a Mystic Woman – she dealt in "energies" and swore that she could see spirits. My grandmother, apparently, had the ability to tell whether a pregnant woman was carrying a boy or a girl from the shape of her bump.
Female mysticism abounds in the hallowed halls of motherhood. You hear the words ‘you just know’ a lot from other mothers – and this can be about anything: whether your kid is ready for a haircut or has done a poo
Female mysticism abounds in the hallowed halls of motherhood, too. You hear the words "you just know" a lot from other mothers – and this can be about anything: whether your kid is ready for a haircut; has done a poo; and especially if you're in labour.
I, it should be noted, am not a Mystic Woman, and this has not changed since I became a parent. I am a Doubting Woman. I am about as psychic as a potato. I am the woman who Googles “diarrhoea/bad mood/insomnia sign of labour?” about 500 times a day as I approach my due date.
The bun in my oven is almost cooked now. My life now is a list of ailments, fears, and handfuls of minutes spent trying to get in and out of chairs. I’m 36 weeks pregnant, but measuring weeks ahead, and under my skin the baby performs enormous full-body turns in his slumber, like a giant creature of the deep.
This morning I woke up with intense contractions and girdle of pressure that felt as though my pelvis might snap off. And so I am in hospital, hooked up to the baby monitor, with a midwife frowning between my legs.
"Well, your cervix is closed," she tells me. "Do you feel as though you're in labour?"
I don't bloody know. What does purple feel like? My last labour was induced, the contractions artificially stimulated, they all rolled in one on top of the other and felt like a knife attack to the abdomen. Do I feel like that now? No.
“Maybe?” I wheedle. "I feel different from how I did yesterday. And I feel like something is happening."
The midwife smiles at me and nods. "We'll leave you hooked up for a bit longer and see if anything transpires," she tells me. "Sometimes a woman just knows," she offers, before leaving the room.
Wait just a minute. Maybe I am one of those women who just knows. For the past few days I've been feeling super uncomfortable and just off; emotional, and a bit fluey. According to countless pregnancy fora, these are surefire early signs of labour.
I knew it. I knew I was a mystic bloody woman! Bloody look at me! I'm all ethnic and shit and I've got all this long, heavy, dark, witchy hair. I play the guitar, for god's sake. And I'm in touch with my uterus – I practically have a psychic connection to my unborn child – and he's basically telling me he's ready. Goddamn, I am the mysticest.
And so I try. I close my eyes, take a few deep breaths, and try to tap into the Great Menstrual Force of the Cosmos. For a few minutes, all is calm. I am quietening my mind, listening to my body. Listening to what it’s trying to tell me. I feel my heart, thrumming like a machine. For a second – a second – I feel the processes of my body, brewing, maintaining and nurturing, working in harmony. Could this be it? Could I be labouring?
And then it happens. It happens long and thin and loud. A fart. Something releases in my belly and back, and I fart again. And again. Gradually the air fills with the smell of rancid crisps as the air escapes and the awful pressure and pain lets up. It’s not fucking labour. It’s fucking wind.
Soon they take me off the monitor and send me home with a slightly red face and a flea in my ear about roughage.
I am not a Mystical Woman. Not even a labouring one. Just a flatulent one. So I shall stop looking for signs from the universe about labour beginning, and start looking to the floor, for signs of my waters breaking.
Fuck women's mysticism. Fuck women's mysticism in its womanly, intuitive arse. Hooray for non-psychic potato women.