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“That can’t be…That can’t be…me?”
I stared at the side-by-side image that’s now on your screen. Fresh-faced and innocent, there’s November Natalie, beaming and slightly-freaking-out after reading the word “Pregnant” on that fateful test. Swollen and worn-down, there’s Natalie of Today (38 weeks pregnant tomorrow), protruding belly button and flabby arms, ready any day to meet the tiny girl now bursting at the seams and clawing scary red marks on her mother’s once-flat abdomen.
Who Is She?
The strange thing? It wasn’t the puffy pregnant woman that shocked me. It was my nine-months-ago self that I didn’t even recognize.
You see, I have learned a lot since I first discovered I was harboring a human. Like the fact that I’m just not one of those glowing women who gushes about how much she loves pregnancy.
Hate me for it, but between the constant aches, sharp jabbing pains, strange bouts of exhaustion, puffy feet, incessant trips to the bathroom etc., I’m about ready to meet this baby and say hello to sore nipples, sleepless nights and sweet tiny human snuggles instead.
Pregnancy Isn’t Easy
I didn’t expect pregnancy to be, well, hard. Sure I knew giving birth is hard — I’d watched a million episodes of “A Baby Story” — but despite my mother’s warnings, I wasn’t prepared for the emotional and physical challenges of growing a human.
I didn’t expect the constant side effects: The lack of motivation, the exhaustion, the difficulty breathing, the back pain, the sleepless nights. And even though it was becoming apparent at week 18, I didn’t understand just how tough it’d be to embrace my ever-changing body.
You see, twenty weeks ago (can you believe it?) I wrote a post called Embracing My Body During Pregnancy. In it I told my story of struggling with body image my whole life, only to find my changing pregnancy bod a little too much to handle. But I ended with resolve: I would love this body. It was creating life, after all.
But like many a failed New Year’s Resolution, that vow was much harder to keep as the weeks wore on.
At 18 weeks, I had gained just 7 pounds and could easily disguise my bump in a baggy shirt. Still, I’d grown out of my old bras, my once-flat stomach was bulging, and the first trimester had pummeled my body with morning sickness and a cold.
Twenty MORE pounds, tiger stripes and a nearly-bursting belly later, I look back at myself then and wonder how I could think I’d really changed that much in just 18 weeks. But, you know, hindsight.
I’ll never forget the first day I noticed my “innie” was officially an “outie” or I saw the first itty-bitty red stretch mark (that later blossomed into plenty more) appear on my stomach. Both changes led to a dramatic emotional breakdown on my part (Bless poor Casey, who reassured me that this was supposed to happen).
And then there was the doctor’s appointment where I discovered I’d gained 4 pounds in just two weeks. And that moment my belly band no longer stretched over my belly, meaning I had to retire my last pair of “normal” pants for good. And those three suitcases of clothes beneath the bed that I might be able to wear “someday,” or I might have to pass on to a better-looking, non-pregnant woman instead. And those pairs of heels in a plastic bin that I couldn’t walk in if my life depended on it.
The only constant in pregnancy is the constant state of change. I get used to one side effect, one sleeping position, one outfit that I feel comfortable in, only to turn around and discover a new ache or garment I can’t clasp.
No wonder I don’t recognize November Natalie anymore.
November Natalie had never stared at stretch marks. She’d never tipped the scale over X pounds. She could get out of bed without looking like a flailing turtle.
But I don’t envy her. Not at all.
As hard as it’s been, and as many tears as I’ve cried and breakdowns I’ve waded through, Natalie of Today is way better off than her former self.
November Natalie had never felt the magic of tiny hands, feet, knees and elbows wriggling inside of her. She’d never gone to bed, hand on her tummy, breathing to the rhythmic hiccups of her own little daughter. She’d never seen her husband gush at the sight of her stomach because, “our little baby is in there, babe.” She’d never whispered to her unborn child when no one else was there to hear.
Does it hurt? Yes. Am I crampy? Yes. Overheated? Yep. Overwhelmed? No doubt.
But the sacrifices are oh so worth it. At some point over the next three, four… (five?!?) weeks, I’m going to hold this tiny princess in my arms. No, I won’t have November Natalie’s body, but I’ll have something so much better: A daughter. A child. A little, precious baby.
Pregnancy is not glorious — at least not for me. But the outcome? It’s a miracle, and one I feel so unworthy to experience. No, I’m not going to vow to love my pregnant body, but I vow to love this child.