While my pregnancy has been a time to get acquainted with the idea of being a parent and the fetus currently assaulting my insides, it’s also been a time in which I’ve had to do the unthinkable (for me): re-acquaint myself with my body. I thought I’d examined all aspects of pregnancy before trying to get pregnant, but what I hadn’t counted on was the way my changing shape would affect my everyday life.
When I look at myself in the mirror every day, at first I look the same as I’ve always looked “¦ if I look straight on at my front. But the moment I turn to the side, I’m confronted with the undeniable proof of what’s happening. I estimate that the belly weighs (currently) about 17 pounds: that’s the baby, muscle, blood, placenta, uterus, and all the other fun stuff that is required to bring my offspring from zygote to newborn. As the belly has grown, it’s taken a toll on my entire upper body–by the end of a busy day, my abdominal muscles ache from the combination of supporting the 17lbs and their slow, inexorable push to separate my muscles from each other.
My belly has gotten big enough that lacing up my running shoes is literally a breathtaking experience, because as I bend down to reach them, my uterus crams everything in my abdomen up into my lungs. At this point, not only am I breathless, I’m having a hard time reaching my feet because there’s a possibly-wriggling mass in my belly that doesn’t move or flatten when I need it to. Last night I priced out pedicures simply because I didn’t know if I could reach my toenails long enough to trim them. (With one foot propped on the toilet at an awkward angle and holding my breath, I can.) The belly has made me re-evaluate compact parking spaces, because I don’t trust other parkers to stay on their side of the line. It’s made me give up on putting clean dishes away in one corner of my kitchen, because I can no longer wedge myself between the stove and the fridge to reach the lazy Susan. I can no longer comfortably fit a laptop and a cat on my lap. I can’t step into the shower with my husband in the morning, because the stall doesn’t comfortably fit two adults and the belly. When I get off of the couch, I sometimes grunt with effort, much like our elderly greyhound does getting off of her bed.
All of these pale in comparison to where the belly is truly a hindrance: in bed. No longer can I slide into clean sheets and fall asleep face-down on my stomach, there’s a belly in the way. I can’t be the big spoon to my husband, because the belly requires a pillow for support, thus negating any physical closeness we were going to achieve. The ideal sleeping position while pregnant is on one side, facilitating maximum blood flow to the placenta. To help me achieve this, I purchased a Snoogle, a roughly C-shaped body pillow that fits along my back, between my legs, over my shoulders, and curves up to support the belly. I’ve spent ten years being able to reach out in my sleep and touch my husband, but the Snoogle restricts this movement from my normal full-body roll to him to a reaching arm in the middle of the night. Wherever I go in bed, the belly leads and dictates my actions. This is just when the kid is asleep. If he’s awake and wriggling, it’s impossible to get comfortable in any position because no matter what, there’s a three-pound being in my belly, flinging himself to and fro in some awful mockery of my own enthusiastic dancing (and he seems to be sadly lacking in rhythm just like his mama). He’s big enough now that his gyrations stretch from one side of my abdomen to the other, reaching ribcage to cervix. It’s practically a party trick now to watch my stomach move, he’s so energetic at inappropriate times.
During the first trimester, I used to think that the first thing I would do when I got home with my new baby would be to have a glass of champagne and a piece of blue cheese. But more and more, I think I’m looking even more forward to crawling into my own bed and physically turning my back on the world that has spent so much time staring at my stomach.