A confession: I do not enjoy pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong, feeling a new life kicking inside you for the first time (and realising, finally, that it’s not wind), or being pregnant with a second baby and looking at your first child when they’ve allowed you four solid hours of sleep, and realising that soon there is going to be a new personality in your household that you will love and obsess over just as much – these are all moments of intense joy and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
But the six weeks of hyperemesis I had in my first pregnancy? The three months of migraines I just endured? Plus, living through a WILDERNESS OF ALCOHOL for most of a year each time? I would trade all this for anything. For a mangy donkey. Two solid days of diarrhoea. Anything. Some people are sunshine and rainbows throughout their pregnancy. I am mostly pizza and vomiting. Pregnancy is not my natural state.
That said, there is something I am enjoying: my belly. My imperfect baby bump. I am a short, plump woman with a history of yo-yo dieting and poor body image. For most of my first pregnancy, I didn’t look so much pregnant as “Pregnant?” and no one was sure whether to give me a seat on the Tube unless I was wearing my “Baby on board” badge. I was bloated and horribly self-conscious of what I saw as a big, wobbly square-ish belly, which wasn’t so much a baby bump as not-quite-set jelly that had flopped out of a baby-bump-shaped mould before it had set properly.
That said, there is something I am enjoying: my belly. My imperfect baby bump
Finally, in my 30th week of pregnancy, I popped for real. My belly rounded and hardened, and I developed such an extravagant booty that, side-on, I looked as though I was smuggling a beach ball under my clothes, and I celebrated the fact by joyfully inner-tubing myself into a series of maternity bodycon dresses.
Before I was pregnant, my clothing was about fat mitigation. I’ve low-carbed, no-carbed, low-fatted, pilled, shaked and juiced my way down to a sample size – and hidden my shameful self in voluminous layers until I hit my goal – then proceeded to balloon back up to plus-size faster and faster each time. Somehow, although I’m not quite bikini-ready yet, pregnancy knocked some of that out of me. Post-pregnancy, my clothes have been more fitted, more celebratory, less apologetic. I’ve dressed to complement my shape, rather than hide it, without really thinking about it. Partly because I like clothes and I just can’t be arsed to deny myself any more; partly because I don’t want my son growing up thinking I’d do that to myself.
Now, I’m pregnant a second time and, like many short women, I’m showing early. This time, though, instead of squirrelling myself away behind big shirts, I’m putting my belly out there for everyone to see. The topography of my growing baby belly is an undulating one. Not for me the classic teardrop shape of a blooming pregnancy. Mine juts. It wibbles. It dips in the middle and hangs down at the bottom. A friend of mine cheerfully calls this lower-belly hang the “gunt”. My two-year-old son calls the whole shebang “Mummy big two-tummies”. They’re both right, really. While the top bit of my bump is all baby and uterus and stuff, the rest is largely pizza. I am having a plus-size pregnancy. And I love it!
Now, conversely, the bigger I get, the happier I am. After a lifetime of wanting to draw attention away from my body, at my full beach-balliest during my last pregnancy I was feeling strong and confident in a series of bodycon dresses. I felt powerful and thriving with fecundity. Not in a smug, hi-I’m-having-a-baby-don’tcha-know way, but in the way of gosh-I-have-an-actual-physical-body-and-it-can-do-stuff-why-am-I-hiding-it-away. Fully pregnant, I felt what I imagine Beyoncé must feel every day when she looks in the mirror, except with less heartburn, probably. And I can’t wait to feel like that again – whether or not I’m pregnant at the time.
So, now that the debilitating sickness and sensitivity to smells (“Someone has a CAT on this road!”) have evened out in this pregnancy, I am ready to feel powerful and fecund and almost perfectly round again. To feel the baby swinging happily around inside me like an escaped monkey on a chandelier. To feel, in general, my body moving under my power and at my will. Bring it on, pregnancy. Bring it on, life. Bring it on, pizza.