Pregnant? Been pregnant? Contemplating round one (two, three or four)? Well then, let me ask you: how do you feel about your pregnant body? And how does your partner feel about it?
The first time I was pregnant, I didn’t really pay much heed to how I felt about my body. I was too wrapped up in the fact that I was actually going to have a baby whilst trying to plough on through the sickness. I also looked most pregnant in the winter months – so swathed the bump in jeans, jumpers and cosy coats.
Second time around: it’s June, I’m seven months pregnant, and ’tis the season of little summer dresses and display of flesh. I’ve also been holiday, sporting a maternity swimsuit (minor aside to give thanks to the weather gods for providing us with sunshine befitting the English Riviera). All of which has led me to be much more conscious of my changing shape.
Now on one hand, we’re sure two children is our number (that’s another post altogether); that this baby will complete our family. Therefore I am unlikely to be in this pregnancy game again (all being well). So I’ve been trying to take the time to appreciate the moments you only have when you are carrying a child: the intimacy between you and the baby – as if the two of you are the only two in the world who share a secret; the ripples of movement – I like to think the baby is having a little chuckle to itself; the sudden feeling of a hand or foot exploring like a mini mime artist; the sheer wonder and delight of growing a small person. “Looking back with a rose-tinted glasses on,” says Alex (who has, as you know, three boys), “it is an amazing thing to experience. Your body rocks to be able to cook a baby inside and I really appreciate it for what it’s done now. Also, in a weird, completely bonkers way I kind of miss the feeling of having a baby wriggle inside me!”
But on the physical side: am I one of those women who bloom? I think not. Do I feel alluring in my roundness and fecundity? Definitely not. I feel slow and uncomfortable. (Grace of Mothers Collective and The Pregnant Beauty Guide agrees: “I wasn’t worried about what it looked like, just how it felt. I felt really out of control and frustrated as towards the end my bump really slowed me down”.)
I am used to being lithe(ish); to darting about chasing my daughter; to nipping around; to – let me be possibly too frank here – having small and perfectly manageable breasts. I find my pregnant body to be a puzzling and strange entity. A wonderful thing, yes – but a stranger to me.
And my body is a stranger to my husband. He is endlessly loving, protective and caring (no mean feat given that pregnancy has the capacity to render me extremely grumpy) – exhorting me to take it easy without censure, making a supreme effort to be super helpful and lighten the daily load. But he admits that he is not one of those men who find the pregnant form attractive, so simply does not find my pregnant body in any way hot.
I threw the issue open to the floor (for which read: ‘I asked my friends’). The responses were fascinating. They ran the gamut from “I so like having a lovely baby bump” or “I adore being pregnant – I actually prefer my pregnant body to my non-pregnant body”; to “I felt pretty humungous – because I was. My cankles were something to behold” and (amusingly) “I. Was. An. Elephant.”
Does the size of your bump make a difference? The uber-chic Laura Fantacci (style crush alert), who documented her pregnancy look on her wonderful blog, Wearing it Today (she too had a summer pregnancy – so if you’re seeking inspiration, check it out) “loved” being pregnant. “I was lucky that I went from not showing at all (for quite a long time) to a neat round bump that was so much fun to dress up. Aside from the last few weeks when you are just over being pregnant, I loved experimenting with new shapes and ways of dressing. My husband loved pregnant-Laura and most probably liked the bits I didn’t favour too!”
But then I have a pretty neat bump as yet. And still I find my body, essentially, just rather odd. I am not going to be one of those mamas-to-be who takes beautiful, softly lit photos of her pregant form. Perhaps it’s the breasts? Can I take a moment to talk about those? (And not in a ‘No Sun no fun’ manner). Alex and I are in agreement that having a large bosom is not for us. (Not because we have issues with breasts per se, but when you’re not accustomed to them…oh my.) Even style whiz Laura found them hard to manage: “I lived in sports/reducing bras and did everything in my power to hide them”. But Emily, 37, mother of two, looks back wistfully at her cleavage as “the best thing about pregnancy”; Ellie, 39, went so far as to “book a holiday when I was four months pregnant with my second, as I knew that was when my boobs would look their best. I’m not kidding. I made my husband take about 50 pictures. Now, after three children, I have nothing but sad little spaniel’s ears.”
“How I feel about my body is definitely different with my second pregnancy,” writes Amy, 34, mother of five-year-old twins, who is expecting her third baby next month. “In the first pregnancy I loved to watch my body change and wanted my bump to get bigger. However, this time ’round I’ve wanted to hide it more. My choice of clothing is different too. [The first time] I wore tighter dresses and t shirts which showed off my pregnancy bump, whereas this time I’ve chosen looser t shirts and skinny jeans. I think my attitude towards my body is linked to how I’ve felt this pregnancy. It’s not been the easiest and I haven’t had the glow. I will not be pregnant again that’s for sure. It’s not necessarily the look and size of my body, more how I feel: I’m worried about how my body will be after number three, whereas I felt more body confident before. Perhaps body fears are age related? I had the girls when I was 29 and now, at 34, I worry more.”
I think there is definitely something in this. You worry about your body more as you get older – and a lot of us are leaving it later to have children. Moreover, our society is body conscious when we’re not pregnant. And then when you are, everyone has an opinion; or you compare yourself to your friend, your sister, that woman over there. “I got so big, so quickly with my second,” writes Jess, “that I had to ‘fess up to my boss before I was three months’. I spent the entire nine months having total strangers commenting on my size.”
“I thought I would love a pregnancy body, and was really quite excited about the thought of it,” emails Maya, who is four months pregnant with her first baby. “But actually I am constantly worried about being bigger than I should be at this point. I know everyone is different – but should I really have a bump at 15 weeks? [Errr, ask Jess, who cheerfully described herself as “a whale”.] This may partly be the result of my best friend and sister – who both remained ultra slim and chic! I’m due to go on holiday when I’m 30 weeks and BIG and I hope I will be proud (and hugely excited).”
I would also add that I think much depends on your ‘journey’ (forgive the X-Factor term) to pregnancy. I am always so beyond thrilled when any of my friends announces their pregnancy – and when that pregnancy has been hard-won, it has that extra edge of joy. “I found it a struggle to get pregnant,” writes Anna, “So, for me, the bigger my bump gets the more reassured, confident and excited I feel. It might sound strange, but I looked forward to the day someone offered me a seat on the Tube because it meant, to even those who didn’t know what my figure was like before, I looked unequivocally pregnant.” Perhaps further down the line – when I’m heaving much more weight around – that sense of well-being will change. But all I can say is, for now, I’m proud of my body for finally acting like it’s supposed to. I guess at first the changes felt odd – my waist was expanding, but not in a definable way. But during those early months I was so busy throwing up, that any anxiety about my expanding waistline was a secondary concern to simply getting through the day. It just didn’t seem important in the grand scheme of things.”
Anna’s partner is also in the ‘hel-lo there pregnant lady’ camp. “My husband is excited about my changing shape, especially now you can see it clearly as a pregnancy bump. He says he likes the fact I suddenly look so different. We’ve been together for eight and a half years and, during that time, my body has barely fluctuated from the 9 stone mark. All of a sudden, when he holds me around the waist, he can’t feel my hip bones and my breasts are more womanly. It’s nothing to do with liking this better, more that it’s just new and intriguing and exciting because of what it means. Again, I think this is partly wrapped up in the fact that it took us so long to conceive – so we both feel really positive about all the physical signs that something is truly happening in there. It makes it all more real after so much disappointment.”
I remember being pregnant with my daughter and being at a cover shoot for the magazine I worked for at the time. The photographer, with whom I had previously had a perfectly cordial but professional relationship, suddenly became hugely attentive and started waxing lyrical about the beauty of the pregnant body. (In a nice way rather than an alarming fashion, I hasten to add.) It was something of a novelty. My husband is not a ‘kiss the bump every morning’ kind of chap.
Maya’s partner is both happy and “perhaps even slightly proud” of her changing shape. Rebecca’s husband is another fan: “My husband loved me being pregnant. Possibly because I became I actually jumped on him in a way I haven’t since we were first together. Remember in Sex and the City when Miranda was pregnant and desperate for sex? That was me.”
Was it you? (It’s definitely not me!) As ever, we’d love to hear your thoughts on how you feel (or felt) about your pregnant body.
Some names have been changed
Images: ivillage; Celebrity Baby Scoop