My body, thank you very much

Preg­nancy took my body from me ... and gave it to ev­ery­one else.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Health - By LAUREN CHVAL

SINCE en­ter­ing my third trimester of preg­nancy, I al­ways have to have head­phones.

I walk about half an hour to and from work ev­ery day, so head­phones were al­ways a part of the com­mute.

But the first time I for­got them dur­ing my sev­enth month of preg­nancy, it wasn’t just an in­con­ve­nience.

“Nice belly, baby.”

“Hi, Mommy.” “Look­ing good, Mama.” With head­phones on, I was bliss­fully un­aware of men on the street mak­ing com­ments about my preg­nant body. With­out head­phones, my skin prick­led with em­bar­rass­ment and dis­com­fort.

The sec­ond time I for­got them, I stopped at the first con­ve­nient store I came across for a pair of over­priced head­phones. The US$25 (RM107) was worth it to drown the com­ments out.

Strangers are not the only ones who want to talk about my body.

“You’re so tiny!” some tell me, mere mo­ments af­ter some­one else has said, “You’re get­ting so big!”

How do I re­spond? “Thank you!” “Sure am!” “Yep!”

Is tini­ness what I should be as­pir­ing to in preg­nancy? Or is big­ness? The an­swer is nei­ther; I should be as­pir­ing to health­i­ness, but no one ever says, “You look so healthy!”

I’m not used to my body be­ing a topic of con­ver­sa­tion – it’s al­ways been thin with no at­tributes to write home about. At age 15, I un­ex­pect­edly had to go to the doc­tor while vis­it­ing my aunt and un­cle.

I stepped on the scale – 51kg – and the nurse went to write it down. “En­joy that,” my aunt said with a trace of smug­ness. “You’ll never be 51kg again.”

She was right; I weighed 50kg when I got preg­nant.

My body has not changed for over a decade. I still wear some of the nicer clothes I bought in high school.

I know how my body moves, what it can do, spa­ces it can fit into, the weight it can lift, the dis­tance it can run.

I’ve nav­i­gated mas­sive changes in my life from 15 to 26, but my body has al­ways been a con­stant. I know it in­ti­mately, and there’s com­fort in that.

Preg­nancy, of course, put a stop to that. This is not my body, not as I know it. For­get how it looks (although that’s fairly im­pos­si­ble) – ev­ery day is a dis­cov­ery in things it can­not do any­more.

I used to be rather skilled at nav­i­gat­ing crowds of tourists clog­ging the side­walks on Michi­gan Av­enue, but try weav­ing through peo­ple with a cir­cum­fer­ence more than twice your usual size.

Ev­ery day, I can’t help think­ing, “I can’t wait un­til I have my body back,” as if it’s miss­ing some­where.

Log­i­cally, I know that this is my body, and it’s my body do­ing some­thing more in­cred­i­ble than speed-walk­ing through gag­gles of tourists. I’m grow­ing some­one – another whole body – in­side my own, which is her­culean, if I do say so my­self.

So then why do I feel so em­bar­rassed of this body and all the pains and ug­li­ness that come with its new mis­sion?

Why do I long for my former one, which was noth­ing spe­cial ex­cept that it was ca­pa­ble and it was mine?

Maybe that last word is the key: mine. In terms of ca­pa­bil­ity, this body has my old one beat. It’s do­ing some­thing much more im­pres­sive, and even af­ter my child is born in a few weeks, I’ll still be feed­ing him or her ev­ery day.

My body has never been more needed, nor more able to meet those needs.

But mine? Right now, my body be­longs to the lit­tle per­son in­side it, and I’m per­fectly fine with that.

But it also seems to be­long to ev­ery­one else ev­ery­where.

Preg­nancy mag­i­cally gives other peo­ple the right to com­ment on my body, to ask about my fu­ture parenting choices, to de­mand in­for­ma­tion from me.

It’s not just that I can’t wait to be skinny again; it’s that I can’t wait un­til peo­ple don’t view my body – and by ex­ten­sion, my life – as pub­lic prop­erty.

But maybe this is good prac­tice. My body is not my own in preg­nancy, but my life won’t be my own in par­ent­hood.

It’s com­pletely naive for me to think that af­ter I give birth, things will re­vert to how they once were. My life will be wholly changed. It’s not just about me any­more, and it would be self­ish to ex­pect that.

The most grat­i­fy­ing com­ment I’ve re­ceived while preg­nant came from a friend: “You carry preg­nancy re­ally well.”

When it comes to par­ent­hood, all I can hope for is a sim­i­lar out­look. My body, my sleep­ing hours, my alone time all will be taken from me. But my hope is that I carry it well. – Chicago Tri­bune/Tri­bune News Ser­vice

Preg­nancy mag­i­cally gives other peo­ple the right to com­ment on your body, to ask about your fu­ture parenting choices, to de­mand in­for­ma­tion from you. — TNS

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