Having it Both Ways

“You look like you are about to drop!”

“Are you sure there aren’t twins in there?”

“A whole MONTH to go?” 

I’m rediscovering that a pregnant belly is pretty much the equivalent of a sign on your forehead that says “please comment on my body”. I’ve had people tell me I look small, others tell me that I’m huge, some express shock that I’m crazy enough to go back for a fourth time, and others leap off their chairs as if they have been scorched in their haste to offer me a seat.

I’m no stranger to these comments in some ways, but I had forgotten just how open people can be when they catch sight of new life blooming. My favourite is actually the unmasked wonder of children – slinking up to ask shyly if there is a baby in my tummy. There is something magical about the mystery of life forming in secret that undoes us.

Of course, there is also the flipside – the heavy blanket of exhaustion that covers even the little movements. The four step process that it takes to heave myself out of our low slung couch. The silent (and not-so-silent) curses that come to mind every time I drop something on the floor.

As someone who likes predictability and control, I struggle during these last weeks. Straddling the possibility that it could be tomorrow… or five weeks away. Feeling the impending pressure of tasks that inexplicably seem urgent all of a sudden. Gazing in horror at the tough moments of parenting and wondering how on earth we are going to cope when another newborn is added into the mix. Feeling the spike of fear that something could go awry in the darkness of the womb, in the highly fraught process of delivering a child into the world.

When identity is built on ‘doing’ – on keeping things tidy, helping out, reforming, improving – this process can be jarring. I miss my ‘old self’ – the one who could bend over without groaning, hold a child on her lap easily, reach the sink without wincing to wash up the dishes.

Conserve was my word for the month. I had high hopes of diversifying the experience to include jarring the burgeoning crop of tomatoes that sprung forth in a wild tangle, of exploring what it meant to use more environmentally compatible products in my cleaning, looking into our bills and figuring out what we could do to use our resources more wisely. Instead, my efforts were contained to one thing – conservation of my own energy. I learned that the pattern of going hard until everything is completed just doesn’t work for me (or my family) at this stage of pregnancy. Instead, I began to view my stores like a wave that could burst forth for a short stint, then recede back into the ocean before summoning the power to surge again. I learned that conserving energy sometimes means allowing others to help out – Dave, family members, friends. Gratefully accepting their sincere offers rather than chastising myself for not being able to do it all…

I conserved my words – directing little energy into writing this month when it became too difficult to maintain an upright sitting position for more than a limited time, resigning myself to the fact that that crashing on the couch every night to read a book wasn’t the worst way I could be spending the evening.

As I write, my belly writhes with life. Limbs thrashing and poking constantly – fighting the confining space. Reminding me of the vitality that my limitations are creating. I wordlessly give thanks for the wonder of the process, whilst pleading for the perspective needed to see me through this last stage.

I embrace the complexity…with reluctant arms.

This post is inspired by the Five Minute Friday writing challenge. Each week I join with this talented group of writers, free writing for five minutes in accordance with a prompt. Though clearly today I spent far more than five minutes! Today’s prompt is ‘embrace’. 

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  1. Praying you through these last weeks and days. Ive never been pregnant abs can hardly imagine what it’s like. I try to be quiet when I see a pregnant woman. I don’t want to hurt her feelings etc. Love you friend. I’m in the 6 spot this week.

    1. Oh Tara, you are so kind and I cannot imagine you offending anyone, but I know what you mean. I try to see it as people just trying to connect with me, but I know that if there are underlying insecurities about one’s body, even the most well-intentioned comments can be difficult for some to take. Appreciate your thoughts and prayers so much xx

  2. Like Tara, I cannot imagine your journey and process but I pray grace in abundance to you in these last weeks … Grace to “embrace the complexity,” even “with reluctant arms” and to accept all the help available. Blessings. Visiting from FMF.

  3. Emma, I love the transparency and candour of this essay.

    For what it’s worth, I was educated never to comment on another person’s physical state unless I was a medical professional. I simply can’t fathom those who would be so rudely forward as to make remarks on your pregnancy (children excepted).

    But then I’m a British-educated Asian, so I have rather a double-dose of reserve.

    1. I hear you, Andrew! I try never to comment on other’s bodies either, but it does intrigue me how common it seems once pregnant… Ahh well 🙂

  4. Thank you for sharing, Emma! I’ve never been pregnant, but I definitely know what it means to have people comment on your body without being asked to. That is really weird. I pray that you find rest and strength for these few weeks and all the best when the new baby arrives! Lots of love!

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