Becoming a Mamme
As a kid, my body was only a lowly, ignored vessel for my soul. Once, when I was a teenager, I unearthed a white dress from a box of hand-me-down clothing, and wore it on Yom Tov. It was different than my standard Shabbos suits, with their boxy jackets and stiff skirts. This dress was made of a silky material, cinched in at the waist, draped loosely over my hips.
“You’re lucky,” my mother said, admiringly. “You’re lucky that you have the body to pull that off. “
Her compliment didn’t sink in for years. It took me that long to understand that the body I had was valuable, worthy of appreciation.
When I left Judaism, I replaced my pencil skirts and baggy blouses with floor sweeping skirts and baggy T-shirts. I didn’t buy my first pair of pants for a long time. At the beach, I couldn’t bring myself to wear a bathing suit.
It took years for me to develop a healthy relationship with my physicality as a woman – as a free woman. Eventually, I grew comfortable with the body I had. I accepted its flaws and appreciated its strengths. I flaunted it when I felt like it. I bared it when I wanted to. It was mine. I became proud of it.
But now, there’s an extra person tucked inside of my skin and my body has changed. My skin has stretched, my stomach has ballooned, my breasts have bloated, my hips have spread.
I’m OK with it.
I do close my eyes when the nurses weigh me at my check ups, but it’s because I want to maintain my serene equilibrium regarding the changes, and not get fixated on numbers. There’s a baby in there. I’m pregnant. It’s all good.
But in these last few days, as I slather anti-stretchmark oil over my swollen flesh, my calm is cracking.
What will happen when the pregnancy ends? Once the baby leaves my body, am I going to turn into a “mamme” – a shapeless bulky woman with dimpled rolling flesh? Will my right to “my” body have been given over to pregnancy and never come back to me? Am I going to permanently lose the pride in my body that I worked so hard to own? Will I turn into my mother – in body, if not in spirit?
Who will I be if I lose the physicality and its related sexuality that took years to make a part of me?
I reassure myself that pregnancy has been kind to me and whatever changes need to be reversed aren’t that dramatic. That I am not my sisters or my mother – there is no impending pregnancy (and pregnancy and pregnancy) waiting around the corner, claiming my body for the next twenty years. That my eating habits that lean more macrobiotic and less kukush cake will work in my favor. That I will go back to working out and be the same as I was.
But as I hobble through the end days of my pregnancy, I find myself staring at the women in the street who carry children and push strollers. My eyes are drawn to the lines of their post-baby bellies and hips, and the aura these women exude – their eyes, their hair, the way they carry themselves. I watch. And I wonder. And I fear.Printable Version