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Ocean View Verandah
Monday, 31 December 2001
It is interesting how my feelings about this whole pregnancy thing change. At the moment I feel that I'd like to spend the next 3 months seeing no-one but Chris. This is because being pregnant feels to me to be intensely personal, but so completely and inevitably public.
Its is very hot in Canberra at the moment. It's been hovering in the high twenties to low thirties for the past couple of weeks, which is to say I guess around mid 80s to mid 90s Fahrenheit. Something like that anyway. Consequently I am inclined to wear scant frocks which do very little, if anything, to disguise what I feel to be a huge belly sticking out several feet beyond my normal body.
I feel vulnerable.
I read that pregnancy puts you in the public domain. People in the street will come up and ask to touch your belly - or even not ask, just act. People who know you even more so. People will feel free to offer advice, and often be offended if you choose to behave in a way different to their own way. "I drank all through my three pregnancies" they say, "I ate soft cheeses and all my babies are fine." Or "Do you really think you should have that sip of wine? What a bad mother you will be."
In truth, I have had less of this than you might be led to expect from the books. Of course, while I feel enormous I have three months of getting even bigger, so perhaps I should not count my chickens... But the fact is that even what little I have had (three people touching my belly uninvited - and let me assure you no one but Chris has been or is likely to be invited - , lots of people giving me unsolicited and mostly useless advice, but none of whom I have yet told to f*uck off, and only a few people telling me to drink or not to drink) has been more than enough. And it is all the other people whose glances focus no longer on my face or even my breasts but on my belly, that make me feel invaded, intruded upon.
"It's my belly," I want to yell at them, "Keep your eyes to yourself."
I suppose it is the fact of being in the public domain when I am used to being private. I am not an intensely private person, but I am quite private, as much as having an online journal may suggest otherwise.
I suppose it is having my belly stick out that much closer to the edge of my usual personal space than it used to, and constantly feeling that someone may want to touch or look at it.
I suppose it may be that this is my first baby and even now, while it is in the womb, I feel terribly protective of it.
It may also be to do with the fact that I know I will do a lot of things differently to many of my peers and elders, indeed I am already doing so, and I am preparing for criticism, while dreading giving offense.
It is all of these things, but none of them capture it entirely.
Whatever it is, I feel vulnerable. I like wearing skimpy frocks that allow the breeze to caress my skin, but at the moment I do not like the feeling of being seen that they engender for me. I do not like the feeling of being seen.
I love to feel the baby moving, and to see it as it kicks out towards to world. But I dread other people noticing. With Chris, of course, it is completely different. We discovered together that you can see the baby moving now, and it was a magical moment. But eventually, I imagine, someone else will notice. I imagine them pointing, and saying loudly, 'look, you can see the baby move!' and they will say 'isn't it exciting?' demanding that I engage in their excitement. Perhaps people will gather round, wanting to see. Perhaps I will tell them to get nicked.
All those people who have asked me if I am excited - have a felt that baby yet? isn't it exciting? they say. To them I have been noncommittal at best. They probably all think I will be a terrible uninvolved mother.
But the truth is, it is exciting. For me. Alone or with my husband. Not on display though. Being on display is not exciting, it just feels invasive. And when someone else finds out, that yes, I can feel the baby moving now, it is no doubt exciting for them. They can remember when they were pregnant, perhaps they are hoping to be so again soon or someday, and they can get a vicarious thrill out of my experiences. But for me it is just another part of my private, personal experience which has suddenly become part of the pubic domain.
Of course, it is not true in every case that I get upset or irritated when someone asks me have I felt the baby move, or offers me unsolicited advice. It depends on my relationship with the person, how I am feeling at the time, whether I have actually felt the baby move, whether the advice sounds useful. It is mostly people at work, people who perhaps I would not ordinarily talk to, or not about my personal life, who have bothered me.
But it is also just being seen. By anyone.
I started by saying it's funny how my feelings change. Perhaps they do not change at all. I am sure I have been railing against the publicness of pregnancy since people I didn't know well started congratulating me in the first trimester, and I was irritated that they knew at all, and more that they had the temerity to congratulate me. How did they know I was happy, after all (probably someone told them I was, the same person who told them I was pregnant, but then what were they doing talking about me in the first place?!)?
But, I think there was a moment in there somewhere when I was happy with my changing shape, with it now being so obvious that I was pregnant that no-one could mistake it. Proud to let me belly stick out in very definite maternity clothes.
And in someways, at moments, I do feel that way. And I am happy with my changing shape, and I love to see and feel the baby move and know that it's now really quite big (relatively). I just don't want to share it with anyone else.