At 40 years and 6 months, I became pregnant. At 40 years and 8 months, I became bloated.
I bounced up 2 dress sizes. I could no longer button the tops of my jeans, much less get them on over my hips. Even though I knew my little bean was barely a bean at that point, I looked pregnant.
I’ll be honest. I panicked.
Weight gain during pregnancy is normal and encouraged. As a smart and rational human being, I know this. I accept this. I recognize that my body will not stay the same over the course of these 10 months but instead will morph and grow as it needs to. As a woman in her 40s however, I fought the belief that I would soon look like every other pregnant lady waddling around. I hoped instead for a round basketball of a belly, perfectly situated on the front of my body, like the top of a giant muffin stuffed with sweet goodness inside.
But over time as my hips widened, my shoulders rounded, my thighs chafed, and my skin broke out with an angry rash not seen since high school, my anxiety also grew. I no longer knew this body. I packed away my pre-pregnancy wardrobe, grieving the idea of who I used to be. I worried: what if I never bounce back from these changes?
Me: the woman raised by feminists. Who believes in howling at the moon and the power of a quiet walk through the woods. Who has re-read Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek every year for the past 20 years and who wholly supports the silly notion that any body is a “bikini-ready body.” (Got a body? Got a bikini? Good, now you’re ready.) Growing up, my mother always told me the most beautiful woman in the room is the most confident woman in the room. The ensuing panic I felt about my changing appearance simply knocked me off my feet.
What if I never bounce back from these changes? Well, what if I don’t? My body is thriving and expanding at the pace it needs, regardless of how emotionally comfortable I feel. And that’s ok. I never thought I would be lucky enough to get pregnant. Who am I to let pre-conceived notions of how I should look ruin this amazing experience for me?
As Dillard says, “Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf. We must somehow take a wider view, look at the whole landscape, really see it, and describe what’s going on here.”
I am resolved to take the wider view.
So let my shoulders round, my arms will be strong enough to hold my little nugget. Let my hips widen, so I can rock and sway that extra girth right into the delivery room. And finally, let my thighs chafe – my legs are strong enough to walk this Earth while supporting the increasing weight of two humans.
Tell me, how have you changed during pregnancy and after childbirth – and what parts of your amazing body are you most proud of?