I’ve moved so far from the old me, so quickly

I knew there would be phys­i­cal changes – some are good, some are bad, some are to­tally un­ex­pected

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Family Motherhood - Tanya Sweeney Mammy-ish

Aquick up­date from my preg­nancy app: “At 27 weeks, your baby is con­tin­u­ing to re­hearse for life by dream­ing, cough­ing and prac­tis­ing breath­ing.”

Hon­estly, have you ever read any­thing as wild in your life? There is some­one dream­ing in­side me. The other de­vel­op­men­tal mile­stones are no less sur­real: this baby now has eye­lashes. I have kneecaps, kid­neys and all sorts go­ing on in there. And at the risk of sound­ing a mite crude, I’m ei­ther car­ry­ing a tiny pe­nis in my belly, or mil­lions of lit­tle eggs in­side a baby girl, pos­si­bly des­tined one day to be one half of a grand­child. Ei­ther way, *makes atomic bomb noise * I knew there would be phys­i­cal changes, but I had no idea that I’d move so far from the old me, so quickly. Some are good (see: eye­lashes). Some are bad (see: boobs that have turned to sad pip­ing bags, hell-bent on ic­ing the floor). Some are to­tally un­ex­pected.

I had no idea, for starters, that hav­ing a baby bump could make a woman so vis­i­ble. I’d never been one of life’s true head-turn­ers, but at 40, I thought I’d put my more “vis­i­ble” days as a woman be­hind me. Nowa­days, the eyes of strangers fall down­ward when I pass. Men eye­ball my heav­ing belly war­ily (don’t worry love, it’s not yours). Furtive glances are stolen on pub­lic trans­port. Ei­ther I’m para­noid or peo­ple are weird.

Im­prove­ment

The funny thing – and this is no small irony – is that your body hang-ups start to ebb away the big­ger and more preg­nant-look­ing you get. I had no idea just how much en­ergy I had spent fret­ting about what my body looked like be­fore. Now that I’m mak­ing ac­tual eye­balls from scratch, I hon­estly couldn’t care that I’m the biggest I’ve ever been. This is, ad­mit­tedly, a new thing for me.

Rewind via time’s giant wheel to a year ago. I didn’t quite hate what I saw in the mir­ror, but would grudg­ingly ac­knowl­edge that there was cer­tainly room for im­prove­ment. I had a clas­sic case of Writer’s Body. The din­ner-lady arms might ben­e­fit from a few (thou­sand) tri­cep dips. There was a per­sis­tent belt of stom­ach flab, as faith­ful a com­pan­ion as you could hope for, that the right dress from Cos might flat­ter. The only way my fortysome­thing bum could be de­scribed as peachy was if you were talk­ing about a piece of fruit that had an un­for­tu­nate knock to the floor, or had sat at the bot­tom of a fruit bowl for months. The whole kit and ka­boo­dle, cor­po­re­ally speak­ing, had seen bet­ter days.

For many women, hav­ing body anx­i­ety, or try­ing to har­vest enough time to do some­thing about it, seems like part and par­cel of adult­ing. It’s up there with floss­ing, do­ing laun­dry, pay­ing your TV li­cence fee. Com­par­ing your­self to the west­ern bod­ily ideal is just some­thing you do. Wor­ry­ing about not eat­ing well enough, not be­ing ac­tive enough is and not look­ing like you care enough about this stuff is a gen­uine con­cern for many women in a cul­ture where skin­ni­ness is still an ac­com­plish­ment. Re­search claims that on av­er­age, women have 13 neg­a­tive thoughts about their body daily. Some 97 per cent of re­spon­dents in a US study ad­mit­ted to at least one “I hate my body” mo­ment a day.

Well, it all went out the win­dow, and I can’t tell if it’s the happy re­sult of get­ting older and car­ing less about this stuff in gen­eral, or my “del­i­cate” con­di­tion. I don’t think I’ve passed a mir­ror I haven’t liked in months. At home, I un­dress and gawp at the bump, ad­mir­ing its huge, glob­u­lar weird­ness for whole swathes of time.

There’s some­thing about the mak­ing of the fore­said eye­balls and kneecaps that lib­er­ates you from that needling in­ner critic. In terms of nu­tri­tion, I’ve taken an en­tirely dif­fer­ent tack, and it runs counter to the ab­stemious ap­proach that most women re­sort to. In­stead, the fo­cus is on eat­ing enough of the right stuff nu­tri­tion­ally, and if there’s the odd slice of cake in on top of that, let’s not fret too much.

A doc­tor had asked me about ex­er­cise a few weeks ago, and I told her that I had been at­tempt­ing a daily goal of 10,000 steps. Hon­estly, she couldn’t have looked more im­pressed if I was get­ting triathlons out of the way be­fore break­fast. Ac­tive preg­nan­cies are rec­om­mended as a mat­ter of course, but no one’s re­ally push­ing an overly stren­u­ous fit­ness regime on a preg­nant woman. Not least in the same way so­ci­ety seems to on non-preg­nant women, at least.

And then, owing to a di­ag­no­sis of SPD (or pelvic gir­dle pain), it was sug­gested that I knock walk­ing on the head for a bit. If I man­age to get a Pi­lates class or two com­pleted a week, we’re talk­ing gold stars all round. Kick­ing back! On med­i­cal ad­vice! You can’t beat it.

Ap­par­ently there could well be a mo­ment, per­haps a year from now, where I’ll re­turn my at­ten­tions to the squashed peach bum and the soft apron of ab­dom­i­nal flesh. I might not like what I see, and I might want to do some­thing about it.

I sus­pect it will take me some weeks to get around to car­ing.

Be­sides, I might just be a bit busy by then.

The funny thing – and this is no small irony – is that your body hang-ups start to ebb away the big­ger and more preg­nant-look­ing you get

PHO­TO­GRAPH: NICK BRAD­SHAW

Tanya Sweeney: “At home, I un­dress and gawp at the bump, ad­mir­ing its huge, glob­u­lar weird­ness for whole swathes of time.”

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