A few brief notes before the post. First of all, despite the fact that I am about to talk about some hard parts of pregnancy, I am NEVER not grateful. I do not take it for granted that I have gotten pregnant four times and so far have had three live and healthy babies. I know that is not everyone’s happy story and I have heard many of your stories and prayed with and for you as well. Knowing that I even have a pregnancy, difficult or no, is a blessing, despite the fact that this may sound whiny to some of you. Which brings me to my second point: I am about to talk about some things that are difficult for me. I don’t write it because I want to vent or because I am trying to drum up a lot of “we love you’s” or throw myself a pity party. I am writing very honestly about this because I know that there are other women out there who might be feeling some of these same things. Many of whom have it MUCH worse than I do. But better or worse, I think there is something special that happens when you know you’re not alone, when you know you have a community or even one other person who can say, “I know,” and mean it. I write this for you.
“She’s got that glow!”
That has to be one of the most overused phrases (both in movies and in real life) for pregnancy. Like any cliched phrase, there is some truth to it. Often pregnancy does result in a sort of glow. Sometimes from joy and sometimes from hormones and the sheer miracle (and it is a miracle) of your body growing another living person. Other times that glow is just the sheen of sweat because that beautiful pregnant woman has been vomiting all morning.
Sure, there are women who rock right on through pregnancy with beauty and poise. Some walk red carpets and look beautiful and radiant just days away from having a baby. Whether or not they really feel as amazing as they look, these women, remains to be seen. Perhaps five minutes after walking the red carpet that woman is crying and peeling off her dress so she can breathe again and asking someone to please for the love of all that’s holy rub her aching feet. That woman who seems to breeze right through pregnancy might actually be suffering, just in the privacy of her own home. (Click to Tweet)
Last week, I found myself almost crying in the dressing room of a Target in Orlando. I stood there, alone, looking at myself in the mirror. I don’t tend to look in the mirror that often while pregnant. I don’t feel like I’ve got a glow. (Click to Tweet) What I do have is a tendency to gain more weight that’s recommended, to swell up in the third trimester as soon as it gets warm outside. I get comments like, “Due any day now?” consistently when I’m 30 weeks pregnant. Surprised looks when I say, “Nope. Three months to go.” I avoid mirrors during pregnancy.
But after the move I couldn’t find bathing suits before our trip to Florida. So I grabbed a few tops to try on, a few bottoms, and a few athletic shorts just in case I couldn’t handle bathing suit bottoms. I tried on a few things and I looked, really looked in the mirror. There was no glow. Instead, there were legs, ankles, and feet that had swollen up on the car ride, despite frequent stops. That stayed swollen in the 80-90 degree heat. I had no ankles. I had no knees. Just swollen, enormous legs.
I don’t feel beautiful when pregnant. Am I alone? (Click to Tweet)
It could be worse. I know women who showed up at church Sundays looking happy and radiant, but who confessed that they were so sick throughout pregnancy that doctors recommend they don’t try again. I know women who vomited all forty weeks, who were on bed rest for months to keep the babies inside. Swelling isn’t so bad, really, other than the fact that it’s humiliating and painful. It hurts, and it also reveals just how vain I am. You never realize your own vanity until it is stripped from you, until you stare at yourself in a Target mirror and can’t find your knees. (Click to Tweet)
And now that we have come home from our trip, I have developed pregnancy mask, a discoloration of the skin pigments. It’s in my face, making me look like I have a dirty forehead and cheeks, and worst of all, a mustache. Just slight, but enough that it’s noticeable. I look dirty. I don’t feel beautiful, or even pretty.
I am grateful for this pregnancy, for this child who has been kicking away like an alien baby ready to escape right through the walls of my stomach. I will never NOT be grateful, never NOT know that this is a miracle, that a little (okay, a lot) of swelling and the appearance of a mustache is totally worth it. But it is hard to not feel beautiful at a time when many expect women to be beautiful and to feel beautiful. Not only do I not feel beautiful, I ache. My swollen feet and legs, my pinched sciatic nerve. My body hurts. Any pregnant glow you might think you see? It’s just sweat. (Click to Tweet)
Pregnancy is a beautiful thing. It is beautiful because of the sheer miracle of a group of tiny cells growing inside a woman’s body, forming tiny fingers and hands and a miniscule beating heart. There is a beauty to it, but it is not the beauty in a magazine cover. (Though for some fortunate women, there is that too.) It is the beauty stemming from the hard work carrying a child and the invisible work of a child forming while you go about your daily life until that one day when it is time for that precious, beautiful life to emerge. It is honoring work. It is work with grit. and bared teeth, beauty with an edge. It is often hard and tiring work. Pregnancy holds a mysterious and powerful beauty, but it does not always look or feel pretty. (Click to Tweet)
I write this post feeling very exposed. Though I love to be honest and to share photos of kitchen fires and my terrible morning hair with you, I’m not going to share many pictures of this pregnancy, and definitely none of what used to be my legs. I am sure for some of you who may be reading, longing with every fiber that it is in you to carry your own child, you may be thinking that I am being shallow or that you would be glad to go through any of the sufferings for the joy of a child. I, again, don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I would rather go through pregnancy with all its difficulties, but they do not cease to be difficult simply because of the inherent joy of carrying a child. I think many women don’t feel they can be honest about this for fear of sounding ungrateful or to have this question lobbed over the plate: “Well, why do you keep having kids if it’s so hard?”
You can acknowledge a struggle and still be grateful. (Click to Tweet) You can be honest that you are miserable vomiting every day all day, but still be very joyous at the cause of your sickness. I cannot wait for this pregnancy to be over not only to hold a sweet and precious miracle baby, but also so I can reclaim what is left of my pregnancy-wrecked body. (For after four pregnancies, it surely is wrecked.) Yet I am so glad to have had this chance, this miracle, this baby inside me.
I write this knowing that there are some women out there who, for whatever reason, struggle to feel beautiful while pregnant. Who hear about this glow they should have and yet don’t feel it. Who see other women who seem to be breezing through pregnancy and wonder why it is not so easy. I’m sure NO woman really breezes through a pregnancy, though there is a wide spectrum of how women are affected. I hope that this might bring some sense of encouragement, camaraderie, community. No two pregnancies are alike, but you are not alone. And it is okay to struggle even in the joy of something so miraculous and wonderful.
Is pregnancy a time when you feel beautiful? Do you feel the pressure to have some kind of elusive “glow”? Or are you longing to be pregnant even with the challenges? I’d love to hear from you in the comments about your experiences.
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