I feel like a teenager sometimes. Every week, I look at myself in the mirror, and I don’t recognize my body. Every week, something changes. Something feels different. Something shifts.
My breasts, already massive, have grown. They’re fuller, heavier, denser. Sometimes they seem pointy. Sometimes they ache. Sometimes they’re incredibly itchy. And my bras don’t fit. I need extenders, because if I try to wear my bras, they cut into my flesh and leave welts.
My areolas change in size and shape every week. Sometimes they look warped, distended. Sometimes they look disproportionately large. Sometimes they seem darker. The following week, they’re a different shade of brown.
Is my face wider? My OB says pregnant women’s faces change, and their noses get wider. Frantically I look in the mirror each morning, wondering if my face has changed, if my nose is bigger.
It took me so long to like how I look. Was I going to have to learn to do that all over again?
My food preferences have changed. I keep looking for chocolate, fruit juice, sweet things. I always want cake, even if I’ve never been a chocoholic.
I go to the bathroom every hour or two. If I don’t, it feels like my belly will burst. And why does gas hurt so much? I feel like there’s a weight on my insides, but as soon as I go to the bathroom, I feel light as a feather, or at least as light as a feather carrying a one-pound passenger.
My balance is shit. When I go down the stairs, when I get out of the car, when I get out of bed, I brace myself, hanging on to whatever I can. In the shower, I have to sit on a stool so I can soap my feet, otherwise I worry I’ll fall over. When I get dressed, I have to sit down, because I don’t know if I can manage standing on one foot while putting on socks or pants.
My feet began swelling recently. I noticed it nearly a week ago, when I was going down the stairs, and my ankles felt tight. I tried on some shoes, and I kept wondering, why are all these flats so unflattering? Finally, last night, there it was: the dreaded water retention, and its close companion, swollen feet. I pressed a finger into the flesh, and as the pregnancy apps warned, the flesh did not immediately bounce back. Like a footprint in wet cement, the depression left by my yet-to-swell finger remained, as if signaling the start of my internal turmoil.
Oh gods, I’m going to be a giant pregnant woman who waddles. My worst nightmare. What am I going to do when my fingers start swelling?
My skin is changing. Sometimes I have spots of dry skin: on my face, on my breasts, under my breasts, on my belly.
In my first trimester, I had a really bad breakout. I had pimples around my face and neck, even on my back. And once, my lips were so dry that the skin at the corner of my mouth broke and bled. Another time, I had spots of dry skin on my eyelids, so when I applied makeup, there was weird flaking! Then all of a sudden, my skin looked better, clearer.
Now, in my second trimester, I still get pimples, but they seem to disappear so quickly! I feel like I have amazing skin tone, but a little voice in my head wonders, how long will it last?
Just today, I looked in the mirror. I thought, is the skin around my underarms getting darker? I looked again, and wondered, is that a line on my belly?
Then I look at my belly, rounding out, protruding from my torso. Every week my belly is a little rounder, a little bigger. No amount of sucking in my breath or creative dressing will disguise my bump, and soon people won’t see me anymore. All they’ll see is the bump.
There’s a little human in there, and I can’t wait to meet my little passenger. But right now I can barely recognize myself, and it’s pretty scary.
People are going to say, it’s all right, it’s all for the baby, you’re going to be fine, it’ll pass. And I’m going to say, it’s not fine to be confused and bewildered by all this change. It’s not fine for anyone to dismiss my distress, and to think my feelings are less important than the child I carry.
Anxiety, body dysmorphia, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, these things happen to pregnant women, and far too many people dismiss them as hormones and temporary mood swings. That’s got to stop.