This post was inspired by Nora Ephron and her collection of essays entitled, I Feel Bad About My Neck. She died last Tuesday at the age of 71. I discovered her essay late last year and after reading the said collection proceeded to read through every essay collection she ever wrote. I loved her movies first–When Harry Met Sally is arguably the best romantic comedy ever written–and then loved her essays full of wit, intelligence, and insights free of self-important gravitas.
I feel bad about my prego body. I truly do. If I said this out loud, even to a group of good girlfriends, they would probably squirm uncomfortably, ignore my vanity, and say something like, “You’re getting so big!”, “You look so healthy!” and “You have the pregnancy glow!”
I’ve gotten the last complement (or consolation) several times from different people, so I’m fairly sure I have something like a glow since becoming pregnant. However, I think it has more to do with the fact that it’s been almost a year since I smoked my last cigarette, seven months since I had a drink, avoided sunbathing because shopping for a pregnancy swim suit strikes me as particularly unappealing, weight gain, some of which has probably fat-toxed my finer lines, and hormones that have eliminated acne. Corollary factors rather than pregnancy itself is responsible for my “glow”.
The implication of the prego glow is that pregnancy is so magical, beautiful, and singular an experience, that it’s evidenced all over my face. It’s a state of existence a woman’s body was designed for through billions of years of evolution making a woman more fully woman. Truly natural. More natural than natural even.
Of course, so are bowel movements, eye goop, hair loss, and aging. Speaking of aging, there seems to be a lot of parallels between being a geriatric and being a prego. For instance, I’ve had a young woman offer me her seat on the subway; buses slow down conspicuously slowly when I’m at the stop as if to give me plenty of warning and time to gather myself before going aboard; a man at Fenway stadium opened the extra wide entry gate for me to pass through rather than leaving me to negotiate the turnstile; people offer me a larger girth on the sidewalk and walk around me rather than ask me to move aside or signal for me to move faster.
There’s also a curious parallel in the utterly unconvincing way people write or talk about them, namely, being old/pregnant is a spiritual experience, a right of passage into a state of happiness and wisdom thus far unknown; it’s natural and (therefore) beautiful.
Have you seen the pictures of pregos featured on books and maternity wear websites wearing jeans, high heels, and Crest stripped smiles with the only evidence of their pregnancy being the protruding basketball lumps on their torso? Who do they think they’re kidding? They look like skinny women with a giant thing on their bellies. It’s just weird.
And who are they kidding about pregnancy looking like that anyway? Incubating a baby inflicts the entire body and mind with pressures that are almost never desirable or attractive. Everything gets rounded out: limbs, waistline, and brain. Oh yeah, those women don’t let on that your once sharp bantering personality and engaging sense for humor becomes dull and rounded too: you forget words, can’t think of witty remarks, and struggle to come up with engaging conversation topics. Meeting new people becomes a pain because of having to remember names and ask questions and say something about yourself that they might find interesting becomes such an effort when all your attention is held hostage by this enormous growth on your body.
And what about the stretch marks? Do none of these perfect 2-D pregos on book covers get them? Maybe they don’t. Or that bizarre line that appears down the center of the ever inflating navel? How about those, do they get those? And it’s not cute or sexy either. It’s just weird.
Do they really think that their pregnancy bellied bodies, lopsided and waddling, are as sexy as or sexier than their svelte unpregnant ones? Do they enjoy putting away most of their fabulous wardrobe in favor of elastic waistbands, leggings that come up all the way to their bust line, husband’s boxer shorts, and baggy t-shirts? Don’t they feel annoyed having to pee every hour and sometimes in their pants because of reduced bladder control? Don’t they miss beer? Are they really pregnant? Seriously. Are they really pregnant or just pulling my leg, my round water logged leg?
Every morning while still lying in bed I pull up my t-shirt and touch my belly. It never fails to astonish me with its girth. When I put on my maternity clothes designed to accentuate the bump, it is amazement and perverse fascination that makes me stare at my reflection rather than from beholding beauty. I try to remember my body before and look at pictures of me in my coral colored Victoria Secret bikini while on holiday, looking tanned and toned and fabulously sexy. I sigh when I see my lacy red push up bra as I reach for my nude D cup full coverage bra. Actually I do enjoy my engorged breasts. It’s kind of awesome being an Asian and a D-cup.
And Squeezable Companion agrees. He thinks I look fantastic and not just the breasts. I think he’s smitten with the physical manifestation of his virile masculinity, namely his ever growing progeny. He says I’ve never looked sexier and part of me is relieved and love that he loves it, but the greater part of me is confused and question his sanity.
Sometimes, I’ve caught a glimpse of myself in a store mirror and it takes me a few seconds to realize that the enormous woman walking towards me is me. I’m shocked at the circumference of my thighs, the squat looking figure, the planetary orb hanging precariously on my torso. Far from looking natural and beautiful, I look alien and droll to me. After several months of this, it’s gotten so that I’m no longer shocked at my reflection, but I still think I look pretty funny and not entirely in a ha-ha way.
I’ve been told by a friend who is a mother of two that once the baby comes, all the worries, concerns, all the preoccupations before parenthood, that seemed so important and large will suddenly fit into a thimble. Priorities.
But I don’t think vanity lends itself up to lists that order things from important to unimportant. It just hangs out and comes and goes as it pleases. I think about the situation in Syria and listen attentively to the news about Obamacare, wondering about Justice John Roberts’ decision and what it means for American politics. Then I sit on the toilet to pee yet again and wish my prego thigh flesh didn’t spread like that.
I’m fairly certain that I’m going to love this kid like crazy and he’ll be the most important thing in my life and I’ll do the best I can to be a great mom. But some morning soon when I don’t waddle down the stairs and I can pull on my jeans with the button waistband and a belt, I won’t think pregnancy was wonderful; I won’t long for the boring clothes, the dulled angles on my body, the exasperating stupidity and forgetfulness of pregnancy, and the yikes inducing reflections of myself in store windows.
Nope, I won’t miss my prego body at all. And I won’t feel bad about feeling bad about my prego body.