I have a confession to share with you:
I am not very good at being pregnant.
Shew. It feels good to get that off my chest. The truth is, despite a good fight to eat healthy foods, exercise and wear more than yoga pants, I have waddled into my third trimester with acne, no control over my bladder and what I’ve deemed “Walmart Belly,” which is that less-than-sexy thing that happens when your shirt no longer covers your stomach.
I don’t feel like a fertile, beautiful goddess. I feel gross. I feel limited. I resent when people tell me to sit down and rest almost as much as I resent how badly I really do want to sit down and rest. I want to be able to drag a piece of furniture out of my garage, paint it and haul it up the stairs on my back without having to wait on someone (cough: a man) to do those things for me. I want to go into my laundry room without getting trapped between the door and the washing machine because, again, I’ve misjudged the size of my belly. I really want to go an entire day without peeing my pants. ONE. WHOLE. DAY. But more than anything, I want the world to stop expecting me to glow.
With my daughter, I packed more than 60 pounds on a small frame that looks ten pounds heavier after just eating Thanksgiving dinner. I had rash-like acne, my hair was flat and frizzy at the same time and maybe this is TMI, but I couldn’t walk long distances without pooting like an old car. You know what people told me? “Oh, it’s because you’re carrying a girl. Girls steal their mother’s beauty.” True story. People SAID that.
With my son, I did everything differently and my body has reacted the same way. Sure, I’ve kept my weight in check and being gluten-free seems to have helped the acne a little but I still don’t look like the picture of maternal grace I feel I’m being measured against. Maybe it’s the hormones talking but sometimes I get the distinct feeling that some people are disappointed by the reality of a pregnant woman’s body and let down when we all don’t glide through pregnancy with rosy cheeks and birds bringing us our sensible snacks. I’m a pretty strong gal but it hurts when people say things like:
Wow. Are you sure there isn’t another baby in there?
Did you get this big with your daughter?
Your face looks…different.
Are you sure you’re not further along?
Oh, and let’s not forget the unprompted: You’ll lose the weight!
The unspoken truth I’ve heard over and over again when confronted with these sorts of comments is that these people think I could have tried harder to be easier on their eyes; that I am not quite living up to the vision they had of pregnancy perfection.
Please, friends, don’t mistake my honesty with whining. Don’t assume that I feel bad about myself, my skin or my toddler-like bladder. Hear me when I say I love this big belly and the baby in it and I am in awe, AWE, of the beautiful people this body is able to create. What I don’t love is feeling like this body I’m literally sharing with another human is something that can be viewed, analyzed and discussed by others. And I say that not only for myself but for other women, too. I was absolutely disgusted after actor Chris Hemsworth’s wife was fat shamed after walking the red carpet seven months pregnant with twins. I feel truly sad that the final months of her pregnancy were interrupted with hurtful words from unkind critics and that we live in a society that misses the true beauty of pregnancy by looking for a “basketball belly” that should be flat again within six weeks of delivering an equally perfect baby.
To say I have felt watched throughout this pregnancy is an understatement. I think most women who have experienced pregnancy would admit the same. I have been stopped in stores, on the street and even at family gatherings to hear how other people see me but it’s the quietest person’s eyes I am most aware of and that person is my daughter. You see, she is constantly watching me and I am always competing with princesses for the right to shape her confidence. I think the biggest mistake I made my first pregnancy (even bigger than milk shake binges) was feeling disappointed that I didn’t live up to that ideal of pregnancy; to let myself feel, even for a second, like pregnancy was something I had to be good at and I have made it my mission not to make that mistake again while under the watchful eye of my perceptive three-year-old.
Pregnancy, in reality, isn’t pretty. Not by the world’s standards, anyway. In my experience, you grow hair in places you didn’t know you could grow hair. Your nose gets wider. You learn that getting bigger breasts doesn’t necessarily mean more attractive breasts. Your body stretches and grows and along with it, so does your heart. Sadly, what gets overlooked when the world sees a pregnant woman is sacrificial love and I hope that by watching me awkwardly make my way through a first trimester that saw me constantly crouching over a toilet through my third trimester with all of its aches and pains, my daughter has learned that I have loved her and her brother enough to hollow myself out and carry them. I want her to know in the depths of her heart that they haven’t stolen my beauty but enhanced it in a way that only unconditional love can. I wasn’t a goddess through either pregnancy and I want them to know that. I want them to someday run their fingers over my stretch marks while we’re sitting by the pool and know deep in their hearts that someone exists who will constantly grow to accommodate who they become and that there is at least one person in the world who has always, ALWAYS, loved them anyway.
Yes, I feel gross. I feel limited. I am weary from having a foot in my rib cage and heartburn that makes me fearful of setting the curtains on fire if I breathe near them. I am sacrificing, again, my body and aware that maybe this time, my skinny shorts may end up in Goodwill instead of on me. I want to be completely transparent with the fact that I am not good at being the pregnant woman the world assumes I should be and I hope that my transparency will help my daughter be more gentle, not only with her body, but with the bodies of other women. I hope instead of hosting insecurity and doubt, she learns from me to allow her body, her temple, to be a place where love resides.
Really, I hope this for us all.