Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Thoughts on Pregnancy and the Body

I just posted some extensive comments at A Delicate Boy, and I thought I'd share them here as well. They were in response to this note:

To our fellow women,

We are students at the University of Hartford and are completing a project for our women weight and worry class.

Many women consider being pregnant a beautiful thing. "Look at her, she's glowing" is usually heard when commenting on another woman's pregnancy. However, when commenting on our own body, our views tend to differ.

Please assist us with our project by responding to the following questions. If needed, feel free to include any additional comments.

Women who have been pregnant and who desire to be pregnant in the future are welcome to respond.


*How do you view pregnancy?
*How did/do you expect your body to change?
*How do you think you would feel/felt during the changes in your body?
*What type of clothing do you think you would/did you wear during your pregnancy? Why? (eg. Would you show your stomach? etc)
*What, if any, information would you want to have made available to make the change of the body easier?

I didn't know how to view my pregnancy during the first trimester. I hadn't yet felt any fluttering or movement from the fetus, and I was sick all the time. I felt my body was betraying me in some way. After all, pregnancy was supposed to be wonderful and glowing, and yet I very clearly remember wondering during one TAship if my students would find it odd if I curled up in a ball on the floor in the corner while the professor lectured. Already, I think, they had suspicions about my increasing consumption of pretzels around the clock.

I expected to put on a lot of weight, and I did: about 40 pounds. But the weight gain was gradual, so aside from my clothes not fitting very well, I didn't feel especially huge until the last couple of months. It didn't help that it was summer, 100+ degrees, and I was trudging all over campus every day. I didn't know a person could sweat so much.

I also was devastated by stretch marks, those big purple tracks that make me look like a lion tried to disembowel me. They're supposedly genetic, and the women on my mom's side of the family didn't get them, so they struck me unawares. I blame my dad's genes.

On clothes: I was glad to be huge during the spring and summer, when I could wear shorts and t-shirts and sneakers (my feet swelled and grew) and not have to worry about looking fashionable or spending lots of money on autumn and winter fashions. I was shocked by how expensive maternity clothes are, so I shopped at discount stores (Motherhood Maternity and Target).

My midsection has never been exposed to the sun, and I wasn't about to start showing it off during my pregnancy.

Honestly, I've been more surprised by the changes in my body post-pregnancy. I lost 30 pounds in a week and a half. That was tough, as was adjusting to breastfeeding. And my body has been gradually deflating over the past three months. Today I wore my favorite pre-pregnancy jeans for the first time in 9 or 10 months. And my wedding ring fits again.

I've come to be more accepting and forgiving of my body. After all, I know now what it's been through. Childbirth was tough for me (almost 40 hours of labor), but I've learned that my body, although not svelte, can do amazing things. I no longer worry about my little pot belly, nor whether a shirt makes my breasts look too big (they all do now).

I don't think I needed much more information on adapting to the changes in my body during pregnancy. (It helped that I received care from midwives, who emphasize the naturalness and beauty of bodily changes during pregnancy.) What was most shocking to me about pregnancy were the truly raging hormones post-partum. The baby blues are the worst, in large part because you're adjusting to living (yet again) in a new, very sore, and still-bleeding body. Only after you've given birth do your friends admit that they thought during their first two weeks as mothers that they had made the worst mistake of their lives. I would have liked to be more prepared for that emotional roller coaster.

I'm white, 30 years old, and a Ph.D. candidate in the interdisciplinary humanities. My son, my first child, is three months old.

No comments: