What’s Happening to My Body?

by Brittany Henage '04

“Your tummy is pretty,” the supermarket cashier said to me. The compliment caught me off-guard; I usually don’t hear comments like that. She went on,”Pregnancy is such a beautiful thing.” She immediately became my new, dear friend. We continued chatting as the bagger looked on with one eyebrow raised, shaking his head. As I pushed my shopping cart through the parking lot I thought, “She is right! My tummy is pretty, and I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks so.”

The shape of my body has changed quite a bit in recent months. I started noticing a difference within mere weeks of the second stripe appearing on my home pregnancy test. First, to my pleasant surprise, I gained some weight in my chest. After that, I stayed about the same size and weight for awhile—although my husband said my legs were looking a little too skinny. Next,my belly started to expand. It was difficult to become accustomed to this, especially since I spent all my teenage years as an aspiring ballerina, dancing in front of a full-length mirror and criticizing any body part that jiggled or looked too big. Often, during the first few weeks after I began “showing,” I would walk by a mirror, see my protruding belly, and gasp.Then, with a rush of relief I would remember that I was supposed to look like that. But I still felt huge, and it seemed that everyone who walked past me was staring at my middle. Oh—I mean my beautiful middle.

The next phase of my pregnancy brought on a new body image problem: clothing. I’m told maternity clothes of today are much different from the maternity clothes of years past. In my mother’s time, an expectant mother hid under “yards of billowing calico,” as my sister puts it. Today mothers-to-be have a wide selection of stylish clothes from which to choose, from low-rise jeans to strapless tops. It is now even acceptable for a pregnant woman to show a bare belly! While I’m not one to show much skin, I do like to wear clothes with a trim, flattering fit. I don’t want to hide my pregnant shape as if I’m ashamed of it, but I can’t seem to get the skin coverage I want without looking like I’m wearing a tent. Most maternity shirts I’ve seen look the same on a woman whether she’s four months pregnant or nine months pregnant, overweight or underweight. Perhaps I am more superficial than I like to admit, but I don’t want people to think I weigh 230 pounds when I really only weigh 130 pounds.

The current countdown to my due date is eight and one-half weeks. Fortunately, I haven’t had too many stretch marks…yet, and I have also managed not to gain excessive weight…yet. Yes,my tummy is pretty and I’m proud of it. I’m thrilled for the opportunity to be a mother. I practically go into tears every time I feel a tiny foot slide across my insides, or see a head-shaped bump pop out from under my rib. I just better go back to my original size when it’s all over.