Some women have miserable pregnancies. They are sick. They are swollen. Their health--or their baby's--is compromised. If you are one of those women, feel free to call me names.
Because I have wonderful pregnancies. I love being pregnant.
I expected to hate pregnancy. The whole process is weird. Another being is growing inside you. Even now, I maintain my babies in utero are parasites--mine and therefore adorable and wonderful, but parasites, nonetheless. After I got married, I got pregnant because I wanted kids and, if I'm being honest, wanted to put pregnancy on my list of "Things I Have Done."
Pregnancy also belongs on my list of "Things That Make Me Feel Good."
Instead of throwing up for three months, I spent my first pregnancy just wanting to hug myself. I was inexplicably happy, even when smells brought on nausea. Through both my pregnancies, the changes in my body just amazed me. I feel beautiful as my waist expands and my weight pushes the scale higher.
Genetics explains some, maybe most, of my pregnancy love. My mom says being pregnant and having kids was one of the first things she ever felt she was truly meant to do. She never aspired to be a mother, but she found her body was efficient at producing and delivering babies. She and I share a joy in the process of forming life, and we're good at it. Our bodies and minds respond well to it. If I had struggled to conceive or carry a child, if my belly were scarred with stretch marks or if I spent nine months running to find a place to be sick, maybe I wouldn't be so enamored of pregnancy.
But I think even then, I still would be happy with my pregnancy body.
Pregnancy is hard, even when it's easy. There are fatigue and heartburn, constipation and hemorrhoids. And if those last ones don't make you lose your dignity, well, you'll find it disappears when some old woman tells you you're HUGE--and you still have months to go--or you look down hours after a meal and discover crumbs stuck on the shelf of your belly. (And yes, I speak from experience. There is nothing glamorous about becoming a crumb-catcher.) There is worry about the baby and your diet and how you're going to take care of this little thing once it arrives. There might be fear over the arrival.
Still, pregnancy is what our bodies were made to do. And that, for me, is what makes pregnancy such a great time. I looked in the mirror the other night--I'm 32 weeks and 20 pounds into this pregnancy--and realized I am what ancient civilizations worshiped. That sounds egotistical, but it's true. All those little women totem statues from civilizations across the globe and through time, they weren't just fat little things. They were pregnant women with round bellies and breasts.
Our culture fetishizes women to the point where we--and certainly many men--don't even know what we're supposed to look like. Between Photoshop and plastic surgery, the female bodies portrayed in the media are nothing like the ones most women walk around in in real life. And many of us see those images and try to match them. We manicure and wax, Botox and dye, diet and exercise--and we still fall short. Even those of us who aren't trying to match that impossible ideal sometimes fall victim to it. We pick apart our bodies, sharing our flaws with our girlfriends and asking our significant others if they really don't mind that little bit of cellulite. Combine that with modern medicine, which gives us pills to stop our cycles and pills to start them, and many of us have no connection to the body in which we live.
Pregnancy erases those things. Pregnancy, with all its little hardships and indignities, forces you to figure out what your body is doing, when and how. While there are some enhanced photos of pregnant celebrities, pregnancy is mostly free of an idealized image. Every woman's body is a little different because every pregnancy and every baby is different. A pregnant woman is supposed to be rounded curves. Your body stretches and moves to make room for a new life. That's a powerful thing.
For me, that power means feeling strong and sexy and beautiful. Even when my belly makes turning over in bed difficult.