by Stephanie Ondrack
When we are pregnant, our focus often dwells on the discomforts and deprivations associated with the condition: Our aching back, our puffy ankles, our cravings for cabernet, or camembert. Sometimes we look down on our swollen belly, our stretch marks, our sore calves with bemusement or even antipathy. How did I get like this? Can this really be my body?
The pregnant body seems to have a mind and will of its own. It infuses us with a unique incursion of hormones that alters our physiology: our shape, our circulation, our very constitution. Our body expands and morphs to accommodate the pregnancy, shifting in shape and texture before our eyes and under our fingertips. No part of us is immune to alteration: our skin, our brain, our hair, our thirst, our feet, our breasts, our appetites, our energy, our libido, our joints and muscles, our moods, and of course our ever-expanding belly. Do we even recognize ourselves within this altered body? Have we been taken over, reformed, according to alien specifications?
Historically, we are told, and still in non-industrial societies, the pregnant body is revered as the most beautiful womanly shape, an ideal form of femininity radiating fertility, maternity, strength, and good health. Here, we tend to equate largeness with being overweight, even when our intellects know that pregnancy and obesity are as unrelated as apples and beach balls. Do we luxuriate in our pregnant body, admiring our new curves, and appreciating our new contours? Or do we count the days until we can fit back into our ‘normal’ clothes?
Despite our ambiguous feelings about inhabiting this temporary body, we know that it provides a medium for our growing progeny. As strange and unfamiliar as we may feel about it, our body is, quite literally, essential to our baby. The pregnant body’s changes, fluctuations, and bizarre new habits are all helping baby form and develop. It is an enormous feat, growing, cultivating, and nourishing a whole new human being; This triumph is not to be undervalued. The pregnant body is a body of transition; a miracle of nature, an achievement of evolution, a non-illusive magic trick. From one of you, to two of you: A whole new human emerges.
In this issue we look at some common pregnant body considerations. And then we indulge in an account of why we were pregnant in the first place, the fruit of the labour: a birth story in which a mother tunes into her pregnant body’s intuitions to make decisions to support her labour. So like most pregnant women, we will linger for a while in the mundane effects of pregnancy, but also acknowledge the incredible fact of the pregnant body: it grows a brand new person. From scratch. Wow.