My darling, I know you've been here for me throughout this pregnancy . I appreciate it, I do. But I also know you will never understand what it feels like to be nine months pregnant. So let me give you a little insight. You know that whole "it's like having a bowling ball taped to your stomach" analogy? That 's inaccurate. This bump isn't just riding along in front of me. It's squirming inside of me, pushing my organs out of the way, bending and separating my very bones to make enough room. My sternum now curves unsettlingly from where baby has snuggled up under it. Body parts I have never noticed before now hurt. One rib aches and stings from where our baby presses against it. My bladder spasms when kicked. My back is sore, buckling from the weight pulling it forward. My legs and feet throb from the sudden demand they carry around from an extra 40 pounds. Muscles I cannot possibly stretch hurt . Even body parts you think would be unaffected have their own indignities to bear. My fingers are swollen, my wrists tingle with carpal tunnel. Even my nose (my nose!) is affected, from a heightened sense of smell to the occasional nosebleed. I know you are tired of hearing my litany of complaints (not as tired as I am, but still , you're a little tired). But I'm absolutely overwhelmed at the changes my body has gone through. For example, have you thought about how exhausting it is to move? I know we've all seen the TV trope of a pregnant woman crying because she's too big to get off the couch. It's always a good bit for a chuckle. But it's different when you are actually living it. Every move requires thought. How can I pick up this toy off the floor? Bending over will give me a nasty case of reflux. Squatting might cause my hips to permanently disconnect. How can I get off this couch? My abdominal muscles, which I've used forever without thinking of them, no longer function. Do you know how unsettling it is to have an entire group of muscles rendered virtually useless? It's not about getting off the couch. It's about the humiliation I feel not being able to.
I know, I know. You understand. I'm pregnant! What pregnant woman can get off the couch? But to me, I'm not just "some pregnant lady." I'm me. Only for the last several months, I haven't felt at home in my body at all. You say I'm beautiful, and I groan and sigh. I knew I would gain weight. But I didn't expect my face to change. I didn't expect to not be able to recognize my feet. And it's not the weight that bothers me. It's looking in the mirror and not knowing the person looking back at me. Because the physical changes are just a tiny part of what's going on inside of me. They are a constant reminder that my entire life—my entire identity— is about to change too . Every ache, every pain, every kick to the rib reminds me that I am responsible for bringing a life into the world. Every time the ultrasound tech lifts the wand to my belly, I say a prayer. I know if anything were to happen, you would hold me and say it wasn't my fault. But that's not exactly true. I'm doing a job no one else can, and it's terrifying. Exercise! Don't exercise too much! Eat organic! Don't gain too much weight! Eat nuts! Don't eat nuts! All day long I hear mixed messages about what I am supposed to do to set my kid down the "right" path before they're even born. It's a lot of pressure to parent correctly before the child is even born. I am holding a life inside of me. It's an enormous challenge, physically and mentally. But at the same time (even though I don't want to admit it because I want you to keep getting me ice cream every night and rubbing my back when it aches), I feel a bit sorry for you.
Each of my pregnancies and births has empowered me like nothing else I have experienced in my life. They have not made me a better or truer parent—I have watched your love for our children, and the love of friends who have adopted, and I know pregnancy is only a small part of the parenting experience. But for the first time in my life, I have felt truly proud of and confident in my body . Knowing what my body can accomplish has made me deeply grateful for it, and much better able to ignore all of its imperfections that bothered me pre-motherhood. It's a powerful experience, and one I wish you could have. (Seriously. I wish you could have this experience. And I wish I could experience that beer you are drinking right in front of me, too. 😜) I have to do this part myself, and it's a large load to bear for my body and my soul. So what I need from you is this: Believe me when I tell you how hard it is. And remind me you'll be there to share the load for the rest of the journey.