My PAL Body
At eighteen weeks with Sweet Teen, I pulled out my maternity clothes. Regular jeans had to be retired to the drawer a couple weeks before, but even my shirts got to the point of needing a bit of the maternity stretch and ruching to feel comfortable or even remotely chic. It was around 18 weeks that I felt like I turned into more of a whale. Perhaps I was hiding my belly really well before, or maybe it did just pop out because of a growth spurt… but the baby bump eventually became undeniable and the clothing needed to adapt. It is bittersweet—I know that I only have a limited amount of time left to wear my maternity clothes, which hold so many various memories. I realized that I should eat up this opportunity to wear my maternity clothes because I will have the rest of my life to wear regular clothes, but before I know it, I will be packing away (or giving away) my maternity clothes for good. So it was time to embrace the dresses that are longer in front, the jeans with the hilarious stretchy panels in front, the shirts with elastic in the sides so they look ruched and snuggly. Until about 18 weeks, I had honestly still been trying to hide this belly—but not only did that that pretty much become unrealistic at that point, but also I just realized that it is a privilege to have this belly, and I needed to not be worried about covering it up. There are occasional times when I know I will be around someone who is struggling with infertility, and I take the extra thought not to look too obvious about my belly if I can help it, but even then… well… here are the maternity clothes, for the honor of being round, for the comfort of wearing something that actually fits well, for the joy of feeling chic rather than frumpy.
I love the fact that my body shows the outward physical signs of an inward growing little life—this roundness that is inescapable & undeniable. Ever since about nineteen weeks, even when I would lie down, the roundness remains, rather than disappearing somehow by the force of gravity and spreading out in my abdomen to my hips as it did when I would lie down before then. I love this bump! I have sacrificed so much for the baby who makes my body change into this shape! There is nothing in the world I want so much as to continue growing to accommodate the growing precious person who inhabits this part of my body!
Yet I do feel unfamiliar in my own skin, uncomfortable in my daily-changing shape, unacquainted with the shifting of bones and muscles that takes place to make way for a growing baby and the growing womb in which it snuggles. I have long had a difficult relationship with my body, both how it looks & how it functions. My struggle to grow my family, and the recurrent miscarriages recent years have held, have magnified this struggle. It’s made a very private struggle much more public. And now it’s the aches and pains and pressures, plus nine months of nausea, that are a double-edged sword, reminding me how imperfect my body is, but also how miraculous it is that it is a healthy living baby that has caused these particular maladies right now!
I do love this body and what God has been doing in it and with it. I am—some moments—enamored with its changes. I catch my breath when I walk by a floor-length mirror, and see the round protrusion reflecting back at me. It’s me! There is a roundness in the center that wasn’t there before, and I can hardly believe that a living baby is the precious little culprit behind that masterful magic trick! I am fond of the bruises which remind me of the sacrifices I make by giving myself all these injections. I am entertained by the way my abdomen becomes cone-shaped when I laugh as I lie in bed, and my belly button squirms with each chuckle until it eventually pops inside-out.
My physical frailty and emotional instability continue to remind me that I am made of dust! I am so thankful for the endurance granted by the Lord, the gracious nature of a diligent husband, the cheerful strength of resilient children. I praise the Lord for giving me spiritual fruit even when I feel like the physical productivity I so often rely on slips through my fingertips. God is good, and He is here. This is the work of His hands.