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Monday
May312010

When She's Soft

The end of pregnancy can be so challenging. Everything hurts. Feet, lower back, hips… and, often, feelings. Pregnant women are tender, sensitive. And rightly so; they are growing an entire human being inside their bodies. 

Festive gatherings are devoted to the ills and fears of pregnancy and birth –they’re called Baby Showers. There, women see who can scare the soon-to-be mother most, exposing the wonders of varicose veins, both on the legs and in the rectum (aka hemorrhoids)… telling her how they had to have an episiotomy the size of a bread knife and how their nipples are still languishing in a nursing bra somewhere. Instead of feeling full of pretty cupcakes and that the baby’s closet is now overflowing, women often leave shell-shocked and tear-stained, worried sick about the impending labor and birth. 

But who talks about the good parts? Does anyone wax poetic about the kicking baby inside? 

I remember when I was pregnant, how tired I was, especially with the second and third babies. I remember the separation of my pubic symphasis, how it was hard to even lift my leg to put on my underwear. I remember my backaches; I was very fat already… add baby weight on top of that and I was miserable. I cried a lot, feeling isolated and like nobody could possibly understand what I was experiencing. Even when I went to La Leche League meetings and Bradley classes, I still carried around that poor-poor-pitiful-me attitude. 

If only I could go back. 

I’ve tried to revise the remembrances of my pregnancies and births. Instead of seeing the darkness, I concentrate on the bright and beautiful aspects I was too neurotic to see the first, second and third go-‘rounds. 

Sitting on the bed, propped up on a bunch of pillows, I sat cross-legged, hands on my belly. Long before I knew anything about “meditation” or even inward focus, I pondered that rolling and turning baby inside my uterus. This was the olden days, so we had to wait until the birth to discover the baby’s gender; I swore I was having a girl (he was a boy). Not being anything remotely like a midwife, I couldn’t “see” a baby in there unless I was looking at the drawings in the baby books I read voraciously. Today, with all the technology and information, I think it would be so much easier to visualize my baby, to really know what he or she was experiencing deep inside my body. 

In my revisionist mind, I think about the massive amount of swelling I did those last few weeks. Once in labor, I was diagnosed with preeclampsia. My skin was taut, fluid filling the cells and tissues beneath. I like to say Nature didn’t make a hole for an IV needle to go in, but did take the opportunity to collect fluid so mom has reserves for labor and early postpartum. She did the same with adding blood volume, knowing there would be some bleeding postpartum and that a little extra wouldn’t be a bad thing. So, we can’t wear our wedding rings, we do get to wear slide-on shoes! 

I remember how my vagina got all gooshy and swollen in the last few weeks. I’d need to wipe myself a couple three times to get the extra mucous before pulling my underwear back up. (Actually, by 36 weeks, I all but gave up on any underwear at all!) As a fat woman, I did have to keep an eye on those yeasties… they love to multiply right there inbetween my thighs. Summertime pregnancies were the most difficult, so I just got myself a bathing suit and lived in and around the pool. Once back home, off would go the suit and I’d blow dry my crotch area before putting on some corn starch. 

So, what’s the good in having that much juiciness? Not having to use lubricant, for one. Anytime I wanted to make love, my body was ready. And I wanted to make love a LOT during my first pregnancy. A lot. So much so that my former husband had to wear condoms so he didn’t hurt himself. That’s how much. As full as our first pregnancy was, that’s how empty the second and third times were. I think we had sex maybe eight times between the first birth and the third weaning. Sad, but true. But, that first time, I was so hungry for stimulation, so ready for orgasms; I couldn’t get enough. (Oh, I said that already.) Now I hear women tell me how sensual they feel during pregnancy. There are some who are the polar opposite, but most seem to feel very attractive sexually. Even with the weight gain, even with slowing down, even with the Braxton-Hicks contractions, the hemorrhoids, the swollen feet… women seem to embrace their feminine possibilities. 

Pregnant women are so round, so soft… their whole appearance takes on a soft-focus glow. Wrinkles disappear, lips are fuller and their bras overflow. I encourage women to revel in these few months. When they’re in it, it seems like it will last forever, but once the pregnancy is over, that’s when they realize just how fleeting it really was. Even when women wear granny panties with the elastic shot and tattered nursing bras, they are sexy. I do so hope their partners appreciate their beauty. 

Touch your belly. Feel that baby shifting beneath your flesh. Relish the brief moments you two share, just you two… a symbiotic team that no one else can interrupt. Your baby will never be safer than he or she is inside. Deep within you, your baby is yours. Be possessive. Be discriminating with who touches your stomach, reaching for the baby’s aura. 

I have this belief that growing babies have pure auras. White and radiating, only the mother experiences the glorious warmth at all times. But, even if people don’t “see” auras, they can feel the purity of a fetus and are compelled to touch him or her. I believe that once we are born, our auras shift and our experiences affect them, often shortening/dimming the glow because of pain and sadness. Because we no longer carry that shimmering aura, people lean in to touch your stomach, hoping to snatch a sliver of light. Don’t let them! Be choosy who you let into your space. 

(I also believe this is true of newborns. Everyone loves to hold and kiss newborns. I encourage my mamas to keep the newborn glowing as long as possible… to let the baby be held by the immediate family and, even then, only by those that will give unending love to the baby, who won’t take any of that sentient being’s freshly born perfection.) 

Oh, how I miss being pregnant. I can remember every sensation, good and bad. As each day moved me closer to the birth, I was more and more worried about labor; would I do okay with the pain? If I could go back, I wouldn’t think so much about the negatives, but remember the potential growing inside me. Before birth, anything is possible. It’s easy to forget that that tiny, naked being will grow into a child, an adolescent and an adult… with his or her own likes and dislikes… wishes, desires, hopes and dreams. My children are all grown and in their twenties and even though my uterus is no longer growing babies, I smile remembering that the ones I birthed grew under my heart and into my soul. 

Only they share those un-remembered secrets within me.

Reader Comments (13)

Beautiful post and very timely for me: 34w pg with number 4, looking forward to another delicious homebirth. Thank you <3

May 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZo

Thanks Navelgazing Midwife, the last weeks are hard - it's like Christmas - anxiety and excitement and dread all rolled into one. So, here sitting at the nearly end it is a welcome relief to read your essay, helps the worries seem less important.

Sure wish the wrinkles were flat though, since I sleep on my face the swelling makes the ones on my cheek bones deeper.

May 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEthel

This is absolutely beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes and was truly touching. Thank you for this!

May 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermella

Great post. I'm 27 weeks with #2, and I've been reminding myself to enjoy it, even though I'm exhausted after hardly doing anything. I'm also enjoying the baby belly, which started showing earlier than last time. :) I try to not dwell on the fear I have surrounding a VBAC, and I promised myself that I would not tell any pregnant lady the horrors (or not) of my birth(s) and that I would do what I could to stop other women from doing that when I'm around. :)

May 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenny

Beautiful post and a great reminder to relish what we have for such a short time. I absolutely love being pregnant, but the first time, I did give into the nagging "what-ifs" way too much. I deeply missed being pregnant after my son was born, and I wish I had savored those last few weeks more, and not worried so much about labor and beyond. This time around (35ish weeks now), I've made a commitment to savor each moment, rather than think/plan ahead the entire time. I'm loving every minute, and have sat transfixed - many a time! - by chasing a little foot around my belly, or feeling her hiccups. I wish this for every woman.

May 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

what a wonderful post. I actually miss those last weeks of pregnancy. I felt so energized and so radiant! Yes, feet were swollen but I felt so alive. I told people to keep horror stories to themselves, I chose to protect myself from the negative in those last weeks. I stopped watching the news and watch Pixar animated movies instead! Now, I feel compelled to protect other pregnant friends, i tell them to shun negative people and comments. We should protect our pregnant sisters and support them, make them feel confident for birth.

June 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElodie

Ooh, Barb! You brought it all back to me! I LOVED being pregnant, I loved how I looked and I loved how I felt, I loved feeling the baby kick and squirm. I loved being pregnant and nursing so much that every once in a while I feel a twinge of sadness and loss that I won't ever do it again.
I always tell pregnant women how gorgeous they are, how beautiful their bellies, how their auras glow.
I tell them how in some cultures, it's believed that pregnant women and their babies are so open and receptive to energies surrounding them that every one near them tries to shelter them from anything ugly, painful, stressful or sad, attempting to surround her with only beauty; beautiful flowers, beautiful music, beautiful thoughts and actions, kind words and deeds.

I too believe unborn babies and newborns have this amazing, powerful aura (are you SURE we're not related? We even look related!) that people are irresistably drawn to, that's why they're compelled to reach out and touch a belly when they wouldn't normally dare to invade someone's personal space. I advise women to wear the baby close to their breasts in a sling or wrap, so strangers don't try to touch them. A baby in a stroller or car seat on a shopping cart is just too open and tempting, folks have a hard time keeping their hands to themselves.

June 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterColleen, LM

Thank you for reminding of the beauty of these last days of my pregnancy. At 38 weeks, sometimes it isn't easy to remember how much I will miss this when it's over.

June 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGlennis

Thank you all... I am so glad the piece resonated with you. It keeps me writing! Thank you all so much.

June 1, 2010 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I also Loved being pregnant so much. I would do it again in a heartbeat! Funny coming from someone with almost no maternal instinct, who denied for a good 12 weeks that I was even pregnant!
I hardly remember the discomfort, really. Looking back and reading your post I am reminded about the difficulty of getting dressed and exercising, and I did have a mild case of PUPPS at the end...but I really didn't mind that. I treasure the pictures I took with my mother at the end of my pregnancy- they remind me of how beautiful I really felt and how special it is to nurture a little person inside your body. :) I wore a bikini for the first time in my life when I was pregnant!

June 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersara

Thanks for a lovely post. I thoroughly enjoyed all of my pregnancies. I felt deliciously juicy and sexy in a way I don't when I'm my non-pregnant (non-curvy) self. I am planning one more pregnancy this fall and I can't wait to delight in every moment of it. :)

June 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSummer

I loved being pregnant. I felt so ripe, so round, so full of life. You explain the softness of a pregnant woman so well. Society tells us to be thin and angular, and yet while I was pregnant I reveled freely in my softening, my rounding, my fullness. I took professional pregnancy pictures and the photographer captured the beauty and sensuality I felt from my pregnancy. I am so glad that I have those to look back upon and allow me to instantly remember. It was also wonderful to see that softness from the eyes of someone else.

June 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertara

hi, i'm pregnant for the first time (16 weeks) and have been enjoying your wonderful blog, you write so beautifully. i haven't commented before but had such a yes! moment when you suggested that the unborn baby has a white and pure aura, that's just what i feel, when i am mindful and think about the baby, whose movements i've been able to feel for about the last month. it's easy to get caught up in day-to-day things but i've noticed that when i'm conscious of the baby i'm more protective, wanting to deflect negativity and anger which feel toxic and out-of-synch with that very clean and innocent energy inside me. i'm loving being pregnant so far, and loving your blog, thank you.

November 19, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermm

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