There are loads of fun things about being pregnant. Watching the multitude of things people pretend to do/look at instead of noticing you’re wearing a Baby on Board badge is brilliant. I feel absolutely no shame in walking into a pub/café/restaurant, buying nothing, using their toilet and walking out again. The baby? Pretty exciting. But there’s one thing that I’m really looking forward to – growing a big ol' belly.
For many women, a changing body is one of the most difficult things to deal with in pregnancy. A BabyCenter survey found 42% of women liked being pregnant, but found body changes uncomfortable – 14% went further to say they disliked them and missed their old body.
But for someone who’s only come close to a flattish stomach after a really bad double-antibiotics-beating throat infection left me unable to eat for 10 days, the prospect of a bumpy tum that is applauded rather than reviled, is an exciting prospect.
Like most women I know (even the slimmest) I have a problem with my stomach… I have had problems with lots of my body parts, which I’ve shrunk and built up with muscle to varying degrees of success, but I cannot recall a single time when I’ve not tried to cover up, disguise or squish my stomach into some VERY uncomfortable contraptions. I wish I could be better and tell you I just love my rolls, ‘Stuff you society!’, but honestly, for most of my life, I haven’t. When it comes to other people, I’m very body-posi… your stomach looks great, I promise, but I’ve always been unable to show the same kindness to myself.
So, the idea of it getting bigger, looser, covered in more light silvery stretched lines should fill me with dread, surely? Well no, because a baby bump – unlike my muffin-topped rolls – is something society deems attractive, ‘natural’ and is coveted – grabbed at and stroked even, it’s so admired.
That’s why, for the first time in my life, I’m excited to expand myself – to move my belly past what society deems acceptable and then pop right out the other side. At the moment I’m at that stage most women over a size 10 reach – where you’re just a bit chubbier around the middle than you’re used to and most people probably think you’ve just had a few big lunches.
But already I’m starting to enjoy my changing shape and have decided that once I pop, that’s it, I’m going full All Saints. Ok, I might not go bare midriff in the tank top overhanging my noughties combats, but I’m already looking forward to repurposing clingy dresses that might’ve previously left me self-conscious and pulling at the material around my midriff.
I know it may sound shallow to some, but after 34 years of living with my body, a confidence boost gained by growing is a really exciting moment for me. And honestly, I think a lot of pregnant women probably feel the same way. It’s a perk of pregnancy and I intend to enjoy it. My skin’s not glowing like those weekly reports tell me I should be, my hair’s not glossy, just a bit of a mess because I’m tired in the mornings and can’t really be bothered to do much more than run a brush through it. But my growing belly is giving me joy.
Obviously, the time after the baby vacates the building might be tough – and as a first-time mum, I’m trying to be aware of not being presumptuous and taking things day by day. I already follow several pregnancy Instagram accounts that give out confusing messages – prompting me to sign up for their exercise regimes post-birth… while also posting ‘inspirational’ images of people ‘brave’ enough to bare their baggy skin and changed bodies and post them online. As with every other time in a woman’s life, it seems that pre and post-natal is just another excuse for people to tell us what our bodies should look like.
But for now, I’m enjoying my bit of shallow and dreaming of a summer filled with tight tops, bikinis and not feeling endlessly self-conscious about my size. Because, of course, the main reason I’m excited about it is that it’s all quite miraculous – an unprecedented change in my body that’s about to affect my whole life and bring joy to me and my family. My greatest hope is that I’ll view the changes that come afterwards with such a forgiving and excited eye, knowing for the first time my body’s about so much more than being beach-ready, attractive to others or a tool for comparison.