Excuse the alliteration there.
Roundedness has many meanings in my current state. For one thing, as I sit cross-legged on my couch, laptop in lap, my increasingly globular belly encroaches on my keyboard view. I have to reflect on what that feels like for a moment. For one thing, when you see pregnant women, you often think warm, kind thoughts about their state – bringing new life into the world. It seems like such a happy and picturesque existence. I am here to warn that the photos you see on pinterest of lovely pregnant ladies looking maternal and serene, perhaps offer a glimpse of a rare and lovely moment – but on the whole do not reflect reality. As least, not mine. I don’t sit around all day mulling over my belly and the new life I’m creating. Rather, at almost 27 weeks – on the cusp of the third trimester, I marvel at the fact that maternity clothes, which I bought early and used to be swimming in, now fit me. I look at my body and I don’t even know it anymore. Whose thighs are these? Whose hips? Where did my previously toned arms go? Where did these boobs come from? Why do my ankles have to look like that? And, holy shit are my feet sore! My belly – well, that was to be expected. The rest, I wasn’t as prepared for.
It’s hard losing control of your body. And it’s weird that someone I’ve never met is kicking me from the inside. Kicking my cervix, kicking my ribs, occasionally causing a mug I’ve gently rested on my belly to quake from a rogue elbow jab from within. I think people expect that as a woman you are somehow prepared and intuitively knowledgeable about these things. I’m not! All I know is that my bed has become a structural challenge that requires several pillows propped in just the right spot to make me feel at ease. My hips, always narrower than my shoulders, are no longer. They ache. They are moving. My posture is changing. My body is operating under the command of hormones and I no longer have a real say in the way things go around here. By the end of the day, my entire belly feels stretched to its limit. I wonder if there is enough shea butter and vitamin E in the world the allow it to continue to grow without bursting. Then I remind myself that I am only just beginning my third trimester. And then, I get a bit nervous.
Meanwhile, as I observe these bodily changes day to day, during what I’ve heard is one of the biggest periods of growth, Rick and I are taking on some fairly challenging things. Rick began an entirely new career as a teacher this fall. He teaches honors Algebra II and pre-Calculus at the highest-ranking school in Colorado. Let me say it again, he has just begun his teaching career. It’s no small task to be thrown into an incredibly rigorous and notoriously grueling school as a first year teacher. He is burning the candle at both ends. I try to pick up the slack. I manage dog responsibilities, cook dinner, keep the house in order, and arrange doctor’s visits and birthing classes and doula interviews. There is also the small matter of my full-time job where I am taking on major projects and doing an increasing amount of travel. WE are burning the candle at both ends. We are a tired pair. In our lives at this stage, we have not found the ideal balance of well-roundedness that I think we both strive for. And we both are intimidated knowing that we haven’t even HAD the baby yet.
This morning I had a little bit of a breakdown. I had a hard week at work. We hosted a going away party for some friends last night, so I was getting the house ready all week, and Rick’s mom is staying here for a few days. We have a lot happening! Plus, we haven’t had a weekend at home in a month! This morning when I woke up, I guess I just felt the strain. As Rick and I talked in bed, I found my eyes tearing up, asking him to remind me that he still thinks I’m pretty. (He tells me all the time, actually. So clearly that wasn’t really what I needed to hear.) I guess it was my overly simplified way of asking him to reassure me that all the stress and pressure at home and at work and changes to my body and our lives won’t change what WE have. I needed to know that the way we understand each other and work together and approach the world with a unified front wouldn’t be undermined by the myriad changes in our lives.
When I look at Rick, his strength and his character and his toughness draw me to him. It makes me stronger and tougher and better. He is such an inspiration to me each day and he drives me to set the bar higher. When I look at myself and I feel sore and tired and, well, pregnant, I feel bad that I can’t give him the full support and encouragement that I want to. I feel like I am falling short trying to be the best employee, the best wife, and the best-prepared mother. I feel constantly as though I need to give more and be more. Perhaps it is my hormones, or my pitta drive that makes me feel like I need to live up to external standards and measures of achievement. I don’t know what it is, but I do know that I am tired.
I wonder if this feeling that life is getting overwhelming comes to all pregnant women? I know stress definitely is normal, and I wonder if I am conflating external stressors with my internal hormonal tides. It’s hard to say.
When we got engaged in March of 2013, some of the best advice we got was to just relax and enjoy the time we had together as an engaged couple – knowing we had the future ahead of us and each other. I fall back on this advice now, telling myself to enjoy these moments of just Rick and me, (and Adelaide the puppy, of course) knowing that together we’ll get through the challenges we face.