A changing relationship with our bodies (and body-image) is one of the central aspects of the experience of pregnancy, and yet I've written very little about it. Partly, that's because when I'm feeling down I don't want to come across as a whiner or as ungrateful and when I'm feeling up I don't want to come across as gloating. But there's a lot more to this evolving relationship with ourselves than just weight gain. A few recent events have highlighted that more than ever.
Two-thirds of the way through my second trimester (wow!), I'm feeling fairly strong and healthy and great. None of that first tri nausea, bloating, discomfort, and exhaustion. I wake up refreshed--even if I don't get enough sleep--and feel ready to physically and emotionally tackle the day.
It's hard sometimes to remember that I am under an unusual physical strain, and because of that, I often overtire myself. Last week, for instance, I decided it would be a grand idea to take a 30+ block walk from the restaurant where I met a friend for lunch to a midtown department store where I planned to buy new bras. To put this in perspective, 20 NYC blocks is roughly one mile. Being a New Yorker, I walk a lot and a trip of this length is really no big deal--I have frequently walked much farther than that, especially during the summer.
Of course, it was also mid-day and 98 degrees. Which feels like 115 when you're surrounded by pavement and bodies and glass buildings. Despite the bottle of water I diligently sipped during the walk, I was sweaty and exhausted before I reached my destination. And yet after that leg of my shopping trip was over, I continued running errands, hopping a subway down to the West Village to take care of ordering my sister's wedding gift and meandering around shady but circuitous streets for forty minutes. By the time I returned home, it was all I could do to crawl to the couch.
And about that bra-buying expedition: I'd put off buying any new bras until that point. I hadn't wanted to spend money on new bras at 15 weeks only to have to buy more at 24, so I was almost 23 weeks by the time I bought any. I'd been wearing my 34 B-cup bras on the widest settings for several months.
Turns out, I'm now a 36 D. After I picked my jaw up off the floor and selected a few cheap, comfortable, underwire-free bras in my new size, I was able to reflect on the fact that squeezing the girls into a bra two sizes too small probably had a lot to do with the massive red underwire welts that had start appearing on either side. No bueno.
Walking too fast, turning in the wrong way, or certain yoga moves all have the potential to set off a bout of sciatic nerve pain (which three weeks ago rendered me immobile for three days). I'm lucky enough to have never suffered a serious or chronic injury or dealt with long-term pain (something for which I'm newly grateful), and it's strange to have to be so physically careful.
Ultimately that's what this post is about: not that I worry I'm gaining too much weight or too little (both of which have applied at different points in the pregnancy) or that I feel I'm no longer attractive or am even more attractive (both of which I have also felt) or that I dislike being uncomfortable or love feeling physical proof that Smudgie is growing and that I'm pregnant.
Simply put, this is the first time as an adult that I've had to reacquaint myself with my body, and it's a disorienting and alienating experience. I don't like or dislike my new body--or rather, I like some things about it and dislike others. It's strange, both from the inside and the outside, to identify it as mine.