Friday, June 15, 2012

Bump tales 3

As some of you would know, throughout the second half of this pregnancy, I've been posting photos of myself on Facebook. It was a way to take my bump shots while we still held back on announcing the pregnancy (see our pregnancy announcement video here). Here's a photo I took yesterday.

When I was finishing up my second trimester, I posted a photo of myself on Facebook and I got a comment (from someone who knew I was pregnant) that said something like, "You still look good!" That was a jolt to me. What did it mean - I "still" looked good? Did it mean that a pregnant woman is not expected to look good? If so, why? Because of her big belly? Does a small belly mean I look good and does a big belly mean I don't?

Two weeks ago at Shichida class, one of the parents asked me, are you pregnant or what? I was amused seeing the look on her face when I told her, I was not only pregnant, but I was due to deliver anytime. Yes, I am happy when people tell me my tummy is small and tiny for whatever stage of pregnancy I'm at, because these people are usually trying to pay me a compliment. It's not the smallness of my tummy that I am pleased to hear about. Rather, it's simply the sentiment that I look good - that's always a sweet thing for anyone to hear, isn't it? I'm equally happy when people tell me my tummy is big (and beautiful, heh heh). I'm pregnant after all - I want to look like I'm pregnant!

Having a big belly does funny things to your mind. We girls grow up with a vision of what we should look like, and big bellies do not feature in that vision. Wearing a protruding belly, we vacillate between trying to hide it and trying to accept it. But then, what sort of memories do we end up with?

Some women go through pregnancy in a constant state of denial, insisting that they feel no symptoms, that their belly isn't showing, that they are absolutely unaffected. I find that very strange. Pregnancy is supposed to affect your body. It's not a disease that you need to be ashamed about. It is an incredible and significant event - why downplay it such that there's nothing worth remembering?

Then, there are women at the other extreme, women who cannot forget for one second that they are pregnant. Once they find out they're pregnant, they suddenly develop various disabilities, despite having no medical issues at all. They walk slower, they don't carry any bags, they don't do any housework, they feel tired all the time, and they refuse to venture out of the house. They get paranoid about everything, they will tell you that they can't do this, they can't eat that, they can't, they can't, they can't. At the end of the day, what sort of memory do these women have of their pregnancy?

As my first pregnancy drew to a close in 2008/2009, I knew that what I treasured most about it was not the various baby things we bought, or the various preparations we made, or how fast or slowly my tummy grew, or what I ate/didn't eat, or what I put in my hospital bag. What I treasured most were all the emotions. The knowledge that we were starting a family. The anticipation of meeting our son. The exciting feeling that I was going to be a mother, a parent. The joy, the happiness, the indescribable feeling of having been blessed with the privilege of carrying a child in my tummy. Those were the memories worth keeping.

A very important part of those treasured memories was having and showing a pregnant belly. However, being at peace about having and showing a pregnant belly doesn't come naturally to every woman. I wouldn't say it came naturally to me. I did have to take a conscious mental step in that direction. I had to let go of my insecurity that I might never again look the way I did pre-baby. I had to let go of my vanity so that it would not prevent me from enjoying my pregnancy and all the physical changes that marked its presence.

And I was glad that I did. Every single thing that could possibly have been a "negative" - a big fat belly, the fear of getting stretch marks, unfashionable maternity wear - all that didn't matter once Ryan popped out. The big fat belly went away, the stretch marks never came, the unfashionable maternity wear disappeared from my wardrobe. If I had not changed my mindset, I would have spent my pregnancy being anxious and worried about things that were completely unworthwhile and undeserving of memory space.

So, when I was pregnant with Ryan, I took regular bump shots, exposing my tummy in all its glory. But these were strictly functional shots - they showed only the belly and nothing else. You wouldn't have felt any of my emotions from looking at the shots. They captured none of the happiness that I felt at the time. They were completely impersonal and meant for only one purpose - to record the size of my tummy at various stages. As if I was recording data for research.

This time, I wisened up. I recorded my pregnancy with a focus on showing how I experienced it, as a positive and happy time. All the logistics, the preparations, the stuff we bought - if I recorded any of that, good. If not, that's fine too. It was more important to make sure I recorded what was more important. And in doing so, I gave my tummy the attention and the limelight it deserved. I let go of that vision that we girls grow up with, and embraced the fact that a pregnant and full belly is beautiful.

As for photos, apart from the photos I took of myself, I had two separate maternity photoshoots done by professionals - one showcasing our family at this time, and one showcasing my tummy and the full beauty of a pregnant woman (I'll share some photos from the second photoshoot soon!). When I did my selects from each shoot, I chose the ones that showed my tummy at its largest and our joy in its natural state.

Now, as my pregnancy draws to a close, I feel a reluctance to let go of this baby belly of mine. No doubt, the adventure that I get in exchange for my tummy is the main attraction, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't enjoy being pregnant, right? Knowing that I only have a few days left, I want to stretch these few days for as long as I possibly can, and each day that passes by peacefully without contractions is another happy day with my big and babylicious belly.


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