My Body, My Self?

4.23.2007: Week 16


I'm starting to show. I know I boasted of this last week, and it looked like I was lying. But I mean it this time.

This, apparently, is how my body "does" pregnancy: showing its cards only once I'm well into the game. It seems silly to wish it to be otherwise--what, I want to look like I'm in my third trimester when I'm in my first?--but I do, kind of. Let's face it: People are nicer to pregnant ladies. And pregnant ladies can use every bit of consideration they can get.

A friend who's about a month further along than me is also finally visibly pregnant, and she was complaining about the lack of chivalrous treatment she's been getting from strangers. No one's offering her his seat, a kindly smile, or letting her and her husband jump ahead when they were flying stand-by. If she had only looked pregnant, the red carpet would come rolling out. Or at least the bastards would feel guilty about it not.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-... you know

Even though it seems we're presented two options in how to feel about pregnant bodies--either Totally Reverential or Totally Grossed-Out--I bet most pregnant women feel the way I do about the changes my body is undergoing. Part of me is enthralled by the process--that my belly button is suddenly an outie. That I'm no longer comfortable lying on my back. That the diameter from my spine to my midsection is already surprisingly vast, even if I can only catch a glimpse at just the right (or wrong) angle in the mirror. That I have to pee all the time. That the boobs are boobalicious, sure, but also that my veins are now visibly mainlining blood to them across my chest. That all of this is happening because of what I did one night in January.

Cool, right? Magical? Yes. And also... weird.

Body issues must come up for everybody who goes through pregnancy, depending on how they've experienced things like weight gain or puberty. It's a hot button topic--how could it not? For me, the strangest part of it is that my body is changing at all. I've been at basically the same weight since I was 18, with very minor fluctuations. Don't worry--I'm not complaining. Just saying that pregnancy has so far marked the only time in my adult life that I've felt my body acting without my permission, seen it stretch its previously-held boundaries, show me it has a mind of its own, so to speak.

As I write this, it strikes me all over again. That's pretty cool. And also kind of weird.

Turn and face the strange... you know

I don't like to think of myself as resistant to change. Seeing what my body was capable of was part of what I'd romanticized when I first dreamed of getting pregnant, years ago. But like most things I imagined about pregnancy and motherhood, I learned the hard way that I was better off without my rose-colored shades.

I've said it before--and I know I'm bound to say it again, when I tell my first-time labor story--but my own expectations are what trip me up as a mom. In pregnancy, it was: I'm not a completely different, glowing feminine being like I thought I'd be--I'm still just me, only 30 pounds heavier. After giving birth, it was: Labor did hurt--even though I studied hypnobirthing and thought it wouldn't. Postpartum, it was: I felt a connection to Sylvia when I first saw her, but not overwhelming love like I expected--that grew over time.

The worst part of this process was the immediate backlash I felt against my own disappointments. How dare I feel anything but ecstasy and joy in my changing body? In the way my labor went? In the first moments after giving birth? (Okay, there I have to admit I was ecstatic, but it was out of relief at labor being over--and totally fueled by an intense adrenaline rush. Instead of gazing into Sylvia's eyes, the scene was more like: Me, cracking jokes a mile a minute to the midwife and nurses while they stitched me up, every once in a while noticing Sylvia on my chest: And oh yeah! Hey, there's the baby!) The emotional hangover from the self-castigation was intense, and required a lot of patient counseling from friends and Aron.

In every case, once I realized that my expectations had set me up for disappointment, I could accept my reactions as normal and human, and move on. Instead of struggling against what I thought should have happened or I should have been feeling, once I let myself feel those normal, human, complex emotions, each time I came around to an honest, unique, and complex sort of joy, all on my own--something that felt a lot more real than whatever movie-of-the-week notion I'd had before.

Time may change me... but I can't trace time

So that's what I'm trying to do, here and now, pregnant for the second time and with a little belly to prove it. The changes to come are intense--especially, in my experience, in the weeks after giving birth, when the baby is out in the world and the work of piecing my body back together begins. (Not a pretty picture.) I know what I'm in for this time, and I know to go easy on myself. After all, pregnant ladies can use all of the consideration they can get.

Join writer Emily Bloch each week as she chronicles her pregnancy.

Next week: As her ultrasound appointment approaches, Emily get excited (and then worries about being excited).