The great thing about having an ever-expanding waistline is that it makes it so much easier to navel gaze. There’s just something about pregnancy that makes me turn inward. Many of my friends have noticed it, wondering aloud if I’m okay (yep!) and when Old Charlotte is going to come back (better give me at least a year, sorry!). While disconcerting to some, I don’t think I’m alone in this pregnancy induced self-absorption (selfishness?). Not only have my sister and several friends who have recently spawned experienced similar feelings but it seems like famous women – women who have more money, resources, talent and looks than I do – are similarly affected. Poet Laureate Maya Angelou has written a poignant essay about her pregnancy with her son and his birth, noting that while she didn’t write during her pregnancy her creativity was channeled inward; fittingly, her son is now a novelist. Sylvia Plath’s creative and emotional struggles during her pregnancies are well documented. Perhaps this is one reason why Jennifer Hudson, despite being obviously pregnant, refuses to confirm it.
Pregnancy is a mixed bag. Despite this being my fifth pregnancy (sixth if you count my miscarriage) I am not one of those women who loves gestating. It’s the end product that keeps me coming back.
Things I Love About Being 24 Weeks Pregnant (On Saturday)
1. Feeling the baby move. For awhile I was the only one who could feel her testing out the newness of her bones and the potency of her fledgling muscles. Now my children and husband can feel her and – weirdly – see her moving under my skin. There simply isn’t a way to describe the intimate wonder of having another person living inside you. It’s a feeling so unique and so precious that after the baby is born – years after, even – I will still stop what I’m doing and pause (pregnantly?) when an intestinal burble feels like a phantom kick.
2. Heightened senses. During the first trimester, my heightened sense of smell lead me to puke in church due to an injudicious use of drug store cologne and run past the meat counter at the grocery store while holding my breath. Now however, it makes food taste amazing. Everything from cereal to a grilled cheese to alder-planked wild Alaskan salmon tastes divine. Nothing ever tastes as good to me as it does when I’m pregnant, a fact that amuses my husband to no end as I gush over an off-season apple or even a cold french fry. And it’s not just smell and taste either. Colors are brighter, music more moving, even my sense of touch is honed as I can’t stop touching the smooth cheeks and soft curls of my already-borns.
3. I’m calm. The hormones from pregnancy soothe my tumultuous soul and I am offered a respite from the clawing anxiety that unpregnant I must manage with drugs or therapy or lots and lots of yogic breathing. Calm does not mean unemotional though. I cry during baby soap commercials and when my three-year-old falls asleep in the arms of my seven-year-old and at the ending of The Book Thief (which I totally recommend if you haven’t read it yet!). But it’s not a sad crying but rather a heightened appreciation for all the fragile pieces that make up a life.
Things I Do Not Love About Being This Pregnant
1. I hate being big. Some women feel sexy and fertile and, well, womanly whilst gestating. I just feel… obvious. Conspicuous. I am not so large yet that I am terribly uncomfortable but I know what is coming and with each pregnancy it seems to strike earlier: the heart burn, the bone grinding monotony of only being able to lay on my side (and only my left side if I’m feeling particularly generous with the oxygen), the needle-stabbing round ligament pain that has already signaled an end to my running 2 months earlier than last time, the chronic gasping for breath, the wee limbs poking my cervix. And worst of all, the chronic complete overpowering exhaustion that my doctor attributes to anemia that is not remedied by iron pills nor parting ways with my vegetarianism.
2. I hate being big (part II). Every part of me feels big. Unrecognizable. Foreign. The part of my brain that was critical of me before now has ten times the fodder to work with. I try not to listen to it or to the scale that shows I have already gained 18 pounds at a point where most women have gained half that. This weight can be partially attributed to my orgiastic delight in food these days and also to the fact that I have large babies (averaging 9-10 pounds a piece). Neither fact consoles me. My husband tells me to enjoy this last pregnancy and eat what I want, that I have the rest of my life to lose the weight. But I know how hard it is to lose weight and the expectations of society, acquaintances and even friends weigh heavily upon me. I don’t want to have to “lose the weight.” I don’t want to fight that epic battle with “the last 10 pounds.” I don’t want to care if I am an MILF or a yummy mummy or if I just have a mummy tummy. But I will lose and I will fight and, sadly, I will care.
3. Introversion. How quickly introspection degrades to introversion. There are entire days where I look up at the end and for the first time realize there is a world outside my window. Friends need a listening ear, neighbors need meals, books need writing, houses need cleaning, blogs need posting. But all I want to do is sleep, eat and marvel at my children. And read everything I can get my hands on. My secret – and I’m positive, hormone-induced – obsession is watching shows about pregnant teenagers. Not having cable, I crouch in front of Hulu every night to enmesh myself in MTV’s 16 and Pregnant or ABC’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager. I know from past experience that almost immediately after birthing, these shows will lose their thrall over me and that my interest in The Important Things will return.
In fact, this is the one overriding aspect of this entire pregnancy: the temporariness. Babies, by their very nature, are fleeting and all of it – the loves and the hates – will be over in a little more than 3 months. After that I will never again have a good reason to navel gaze, except perhaps to watch my stretch marks fade from tiger-lady red to lightning-bolt silver. And so I do it now.