Here’s my advice to all you gestating women of size out there in cyberspace: don’t ever, ever agree to appear on camera in your third trimester of your third pregnancy in roughly three years.
I’m filming some Catholic content for a forthcoming project spearheaded by a major Christian media company, and while I’m flattered (and deeply, deeply confused) to have been tapped to speak on parenting, I’m now reeling from the approximately 6.5 minutes I just spent reviewing unedited footage of myself talking about discipline and sleep deprivation while looking absolutely huge. Huger than I imagined myself in my wildest nightmares and certainly much, much bigger than those floor to ceiling mirrors at the gym are willing to admit. Oh holy hell, only 7 weeks to go, how much bigger can I get?
At least I’m in the good ‘ol USA where perhaps a handful of other women can relate to my significant swelling in stature. Roman mammas would have run screaming from me in the piazzas, I presume, stilettos clicking hastily away down cobblestoned alleys, errant cigarette butts tossed aside, still smoldering, while clutching their petite pregnant bellies in horror. Bellies which more closely resembled a taut, youth league basketball stuffed under a thin veneer of cashmere.
I love these little people so much, but they have destroyed my body. Not just altered it, but absolutely destroyed it. I just have to believe that I am being remade, stretch mark by stretch mark and dimple by wrinkle, into someone more beautiful and more worthy of the immense dignity of this vocation. But no wonder, no wonder motherhood is so denigrated by our society: it’s appalling. Not on everyone, certainly, and not at all times, but when it comes down to it, it’s basically biological war being waged on a woman’s physique. And what mothers – what I – choose to do in response reveals the deepest held beliefs about the worthiness and the nature of the call. Do I really, really believe there is some higher purpose to what I’m doing here, aside from propagating the gene pool and ticking the next box on my life-long to-do list?
After looking at myself looking like that, I sure as hell better believe it. Because otherwise why, why, oh why would anyone undergo this kind of searing, soul-scarring transformation, this death and dying to self and to the world and to one’s image in the mirror…all for love of another? And then possibly another. And another.
I hope this is not coming across as some bizarre mashup of piety and self-loathing. I’m honestly stunned by my own appearance, and stunned by my reaction to it all the more so. I might hate what I’m seeing, but I have the emotional and spiritual distance for the first time in all my life to realize that she isn’t fully me, that I’m more than the sum of the camera angles or the reflections tipping my own image back to me. So is it horrifying? Decidedly so. But there’s a degree of detachment that I haven’t experienced before, and that’s pretty surprising. In a good way.
So here I lounge, debating between a long, hot bath in the semi-clean tub only recently vacated by two pair of toddler buns clutching melting Klondike bars in their grubby fists versus a nice hour in bed with my current dystopian young adult fiction addiction of the moment (Allegiant, the final book in the Divergent trilogy, FYI), and while my larger-than-life image will be forever burned into my retinas, I don’t think I’ll lose sleep over it tonight. At least not as much sleep as will be claimed by sciatica and heartburn.
And so to all you other big, pregnant mamas out there: I salute you. It’s not easy being stuffed full of life in a culture that gluts itself on slender death, and it’s certainly not always easy to look yourself squarely (roundly?) in the swollen face and say, bring it on, I got this, I was made for this. But you’re doing it. We’re doing it.
Motherhood: it’s not for the faint of heart (or for the small of pants.)
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Mama Needs Coffee and is reprinted with kind permission.