I’m 33 weeks pregnant. I think. It might be 32. To be honest, it’s the second child so I’m not 100% sure how pregnant I am. I could sit down and work out the dates, but I tend to gauge how pregnant I am by the efficiency of my pelvic floor. By those standards, I’m pretty frickin’ pregnant. Needless to say, I’m also pretty large and, while I know that my body is an amazing thing (I mean, it’s building a human atom by atom), I’m also developing a fairly complicated relationship with it as it changes…changes that are happening beyond my control.
It’s not really considered OK to whinge about how fat you feel when you’re pregnant. People tend to gently reprimand you with phrases such as, “Oh for goodness sake, you’re pregnant, not fat!” or “You’re supposed to be fat; you’re pregnant.” There are other variations but the principle is the same: we’ve got no time for pregnant women worrying about getting fat. Be glad you’re growing a human and get on with it.
Obviously, I’m delighted to be pregnant. I’m struck dumb on a daily basis by the unknowable witchery that my body is performing as it builds a teeny-tiny human. I never once take for granted the fact that I’m able to get pregnant, stay pregnant and remain relatively healthy during pregnancy. Please don’t think this is me complaining about being pregnant. It most definitely isn’t.
It is however me sticking my slightly bloated face above the parapet and saying, “I get that pregnancy is amazing. I know my body is magical, but can it just be ok to have a wobble of confidence with a side-serving of insecurity about the fact that I don’t recognise my own body? I can’t find any clothes that I’m comfortable in and, well, let’s not even talk about wearing a swimsuit on holiday.”
You see, it’s hard to watch your body change so dramatically and so independently. It’s annoying knowing that you can’t do anything about it. It’s a bit depressing to go into shops and have to pick up clothes that are 2 or even 3 sizes bigger than you normally would and still wonder whether they’ll fit. Perhaps it’s shallow. It’s definitely not that important in the grand scheme of things, but as I look in the mirror every morning, it’s getting harder and harder to feel confident about what I look like which, in turn, makes it harder and harder to feel confident about going out and doing the shizzle that I have to do.
We all dress for effect. It’s a fact. Even if you don’t think you do, you do. Remember that scene in The Devil Wears Prada when Meryl Streep quietly and terrifyingly rips Anne Hathaway a new bum-bum hole when she dares to suggest that both belts are the same? Constructing our image each day is about armour and preparation and wanting to kick ass. It’s not shallow because it’s about confidence and strength and feeling good and when your armour doesn’t fit you anymore, it’s a little daunting going out unprotected.
I went to a meeting today in maternity dungarees and Birkenstocks. A great outfit for a day with the kids. A perfect outfit for being 33 (or 32) weeks pregnant. Not a perfect outfit for a meeting with a client. I would have felt totally badass at any playground, playdate or playgroup in my outfit, but I felt dowdy, unprepared, uncomfortable and sloppy at my meeting. So, why did I wear it? Because it was the only thing I could fit into with any degree of comfort.
And then there was our holiday. Of course, I’m not arrogant enough to assume that everyone or anyone gave even the smallest of shits about whether or not I should be pouring my pregnant ass into any kind of swimwear, but knowing that didn’t make me feel any more comfortable about it. I found myself wrapping sarongs around me before I stood up because I didn’t want my enormous arse and flabby thighs flapping in the breeze. Then there’s the thigh-chaffing, the moles that keep popping up everywhere, the varicose veins that strain and pop, the burgeoning boobs that are inconceivably itchy and who the funk knows what my bikini line looked like…I sure as hell couldn’t see to check.
I suppose what it comes down to is a simple request: I think we’re quick to dismiss a pregnant woman’s concerns about her changing body and her discomfort with it. While we’re all totally happy to see the belly bulge, it’s not as easy to see the muffin top bloom, the thighs expand, the bum grow and grow. We know we’re pregnant and we know that our bodies will change and we know that it’s all for a greater good. It’s just that sometimes, we want you to remember that we’re still the women we were before we were growing humans and we’re still doing the things we had to do and we still care what we look like and how we come across. It’s not a vanity thing as much as it’s a confidence thing.
So if you’ve got a friend who’s pregnant remember this: she’s already practically incontinent, she’s probably not sleeping, her hips are likely to be killing her, she can’t get off a sofa by herself, reaching around to even wipe her own bottom is getting harder and harder and people think the Eastenders theme-tune is starting when she walks down the stairs. That’s all pretty tough especially when you wake up and you realise that you can’t fit into any of the clothes you could fit into yesterday and your face is bloated, your feet look like blown-up latex gloves and your arms are more Dumbo ears than bingo wings. All this and she’s supposed to go and kick-ass at a presentation or a work meeting in an hour?
And let’s not even factor in the hormones.
While we’re all crazy excited about the impending bundle of joy that’s about to land in our lives, please be gentle with our shaky self-esteem. Cut us a little slack and please excuse the dungarees at work meetings.