|Photo by summerbl4ck|
Somewhere over the course of the last couple of weeks, I have "popped." And while I love that even the cashier at the Quik Star can - and will - now ask, "When are you due?" with confidence, my new protrusion has made for some curious interactions. (A quick aside? The last time I saw my grandmother, I told her I would keep her up to date on my "growth." I suppose I meant "progress," but I'm new to the whole pregnancy thing. And while Dan and my little brother were laughing so hard they were snorting sweet tea out their noses, I think Gramma got the idea. Maybe "protrusion" has the same effect? Humor me, will you?)
Recently, at one of the nursing homes I visit regularly, the daughter of a patient passed me in the hall and immediately put her hand on my belly. "I didn't know you were pregnant!" she said. "Yes ma'am!" I responded. "Just over halfway." She looked surprised and said "Really? You look much further along than that!" Now, just what does one say to this? A coworker of mine suggested I ask her age and then, shocked, say something along the lines of, "I would've guessed that you were much older than that!" But she is generally quite kind and well-meaning, so I said, "Well, the doctor says I'm normal, which is something I don't often hear [chuckle chuckle], so I'm going with it!"
Same nursing home, different day. A nurse approached me with a question but, instead of looking at my face, looked straight at my belly. She didn't comment on my size, just stared. While asking me a question. About a woman who happens to be on Hospice. Serious stuff, you know? The kind of stuff that generally warrants eye contact. I started to tell her that I was beginning to get a sense for what it must feel like to be a woman who has huge breasts and has to contend with the wandering eyes of poor conversationalists. But midway through my fascinating comparison - more specifically, right after the phrase "huge breasts" - we were interrupted, and upon returning to the conversation, she said only, "You don't have huge breasts. Your stomach is bigger than your breasts." Yes. Yes, I know.
Probably needless to say, my support staff got an earful. My sister said that I should only pay attention to those people who have had babies in the last, oh, six months. Her expectations for the general public (she calls them "the GP") are pretty low, though, and so she wasn't exactly surprised. My mom said that I was lovely and perfect, but I'm having her first grandchild, so nothing she says can be categorized as "reasonable" for the next 5 or so years. My husband said that I should disregard most everything that most anyone says about my body, my pregnancy, or my life. But being that he is at the tail end of a year of dissertation writing, he might be getting a little too adept at disregarding the outside world.
Or so I reasoned. Because the fact remained that I was bothered by these comments and the plenty of others that have followed. And here, I think, is why:
Before I was pregnant, I knew my body. I knew what made it feel good, and I knew when it was out of whack. I knew how to dress it and how to feed it and how to move it. When it came to my body, I wasn't often swayed by others' habits or choices - what they chose to do with their bodies was their business - and I wasn't receptive to others' unsolicited critique.
It my present state, however, it's a bit of a different story. I know my body less. I pay attention. I listen. But I am constantly, time and again, surprised, startled, confused, and, I think justifiably, concerned. I find myself turning to the books and blogs of women who have done this before. And I care what they they have to say. So when Random Mother #1 says, "You look much further along than five months," even if she means, "You look healthy and happy," I hear, "Are you sure you're taking care of yourself? Do you think perhaps you're gaining a little too much weight? Maybe you need a lesson from Auntie Random Mother here who has far more experience than you?" And when Random Mother #2 says, "Your stomach is bigger than your breasts," even though she undoubtedly implies, "I have huge breasts and they became awkward and painful during pregnancy; you're lucky," I nonetheless hear, "No, you're not the well proportioned mama-to-be that you think you are. Your belly is big, and you need to ease off the late night mug cakes."
And then I pause... and I remember. This body of mine is changing, yes, and those changes are sometimes shocking and more often than not totally baffling, even frightening. But they're also pretty amazing. But the bottom line is that even despite the changes, my body remains my body. Despite its differences, I still know it better than anyone else possibly can. And despite the fact that its messages are a bit more garbled or convoluted or, I don't know, foreign than before, I still understand it more clearly than all the random mothers in the world, regardless of experience.
So next time I'm greeted in the hall by well-meaning critique, I think I'll save my thoughtful consideration, emotional reaction, and witty comeback. "We're very excited," I think I'll say, "and I'm doing great." And then I'll move on, a confident smile on my face and my own hand on my belly.