I remember being about 8 months pregnant with my first and clutching my husbands arm as we crossed a street one weekend during a community fair. There were cars and throngs of people. I felt vulnerable and slow and obvious. I remember thinking to myself, "if a Tiger attacked me right now, I'd be toast, I have zero get up and go, I'd be two treats in one and it'd be over before I knew it."
The feeling got me thinking about how the human race survived with all these slow pregnant women waddling around attracting saber tooth tigers and tyrannosaurs rexes from down below in the valley. Now, I imagine that part of it is that our naturally living ancestors did not suffer from some of the maladies that we do caused by your sedentary life styles, poor posture, and lack of good role models around child bearing and birth. But even if the average early pregnant lady could probably kick my non-pregnant and highly fit butt in a foot race, I imagine that she was slower than her non-pregnant compatriots and if I have learned anything from all the Discovery Channel and Planet Earth I have watched it is that hunters like to pick of the slowest wildebeest in the tribe.
So why are we all still here? There are probably lots of good answers to this founded in a solid understanding of human evolutionary science, archeology, and history. This is not one of those answers. I imagine that our fore-mothers did what I have found myself doing. She relied on her tribe. Or on her village as we moved out of the caves and settled down. I would bet early husbands held the hands of pregnant mothers as they crossed the stream and were a little extra vigilant as they climbed aboard the wooly mammoth mini van to drive down to the local Target. When she went to fetch water I image her non-pregnant friends kept their eye on her and carried an extra spear in case the man who met them at the well was more of the rape and pillage type than Eliezer was when he arrived to lure a maiden away with riches as a wife for Isaac.
I felt the power of my own tribe on our recent trip hiking in Sequoia. We saw four bears! Thanks largely to the unnaturally keen vision our official bear spotter, Maura. My husband went on to see five more over the course of the trip. Normally I am pretty excited about wildlife. On a trip to florida before we were married I stopped paddling our canoe right by a huge alligator so I could get some close up photos. Alarmed, my then boyfriend, now husband, paddled furiously and chastised me for trying to get us eaten (I still don't think they would have gotten into the boat, but I suppose he has been keeping my ass alive, pregnant or not for a while now). But in my hobbled pregnant state these bears made me a bit squirrly. I am the slow wildebeest. But I didn't have to do anything, some of my friends got behind me and others in front and made sure I was never the end of the line. We were not in any likely danger, but my feeling safe mattered, and they didn't think twice about becoming the end of the line themselves. This also kept me safer from the more real risk that I would just be so much slower than everyone else that I would be left behind or twist my ankle thanks to my extra lax joints and no one would notice until they got to the car a few hours later, short 1.5 people.
My tribe has stepped up again this last week when I was told by my PT, that thanks to my abdominal wall tearing apart like a cheap old zipper on an overstuffed duffle bag, I was to rest for a week and not pick up anything over 15 pounds for the rest of my pregnancy. (Did I mention I have a 2 year old? He weighs, 25 pounds...). My sister showed up to play on my day off. My mom took him multiple afternoons. And to my amazement, my two year old, who usually refuses to walk five feet on his own listened thoughtfully as I explained that Mommy had an ouchie and it was hard for her to pick him up and that he needed to walk, did so, without complaint and repeatedly. Even my toddler is part of my tribe.
These days pregnant women and new mommas are not as likely to get eaten by a wild animal or attacked by a neighboring village. But we still need our tribe. We are vulnerable to feeling isolated and alone and stranded. We have a sort of weird hands off rule with new families, etiquette some how telling us to keep our distance rather than come on in and make sure everyone is hanging in there. Isolation seems to be a huge factor in postpartum depression, which impacts at least 10% of new families. Our tribe may do less fending off of wildlife with spears than it once did but its role as support and nurturing for pregnant women and new families are as critical as ever, if not even more important since many women live far away from their family that might have been their natural tribe even a few generations before. As I look around me, I know that I am one slow wildebeest thankful for my tribe.