Biology, it seems, is inescapable. As my stomach grows, my Husband can only watch and wonder what it must feel like. As I struggle to gather the right words, trying to translate this physical morphology into a string of relatable nouns and verbs, I wonder how connected he can feel to something that is biologically related to him, yet is happening outside of his own body.
We pick around the words, his fingers exploring my growing abdomen now made taut by size, as opposed to the combination that’s kept it that way thus far: lucky genes and a bit of effort. I’ve never had a stomach of size (at least, not since I was 10 and my swimming coach pointedly told my mother that maybe she should watch what I eat) (hey, I had a growth spurt coming on!), and this new entity is enthralling to both of us.
So what does it feel like to have two children – no, two humans, two one-day-adults – growing inside you? Very, very strange. I can’t feel anything yet apart from the very occasional butterfly flutter. Which is probably gas. In the mornings, my stomach looks fairly normal, but by evening, as my tummy muscles get more sore through the day and start the inevitable slouch into laziness, I look like the above photo. It’s pretty hilarious, visually. I find myself in front of the mirror, acting like my stomach is conducting an ingenious disappearing trick: Tummy in – Normal! Tummy out – WOAH! Tummy back in – PHEW!
Physically, it’s just weird. My stomach muscles are tight, and feel strangely thick to my touch, as if there’s a a layer of thick cardboard inserted between my fingers and myself. I get short of breath much easier, have to concentrate on maintaining my posture, and have now packed away almost all of my normal clothes (quietly pining for them already, and wondering if we’ll ever be the same carefree duo we were in the past).
My breasts are now deep into E-cup territory, which is a looong way from the distant C-cup shores of my native size. Pants no longer fit the same, and I’m having to ditch my knee-high boots because of my thickening calves. (That’s no surprise. My legs are sturdy at the best of times, as pointed out by my Grade 2 Bestie, who used that word specifically.) That whole ‘thicker hair during pregnancy’ thing appears to be true, and I’ve been able to avoid illness unusually well. My nails still break at the mere mention of a clothing snag, though, so no magic cure there.
In general, I feel like myself but with more frequent bathroom breaks, and a constant awareness of what’s happening. Even when I’m concentrating most on my work, somewhere in the back of my mind I’m calculating how much protein I’ve had that day, whether it’s too cold to go for my exercise walk, what kind of pre-baby-date we should organize, and whether now is the time to go hunting for attractive maternity wear or not. It’s basically inescapable.
Which leads to my question to the Husband: What does it feel like for him? He can see it, but it’s not happening to him. He’s quite unashamedly smitten with the belly, and every now and then will bend down and coo at the beings inside. For him, though, the concerns are more elemental: How will we pay for everything? How much paternity leave can we feasibly afford? Will we get all of the house renovations done in time?
Two sides of the same coin, fundamentally divided by gender. It’s enthralling and beautiful, and I suspect will remain a puzzle throughout this whole process and beyond. It seems some things are just unknowable. And that is the beauty of life.