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Why Did I Underplay the Big Deal That Is Pregnancy?

Photograph by Twenty20

I was never one of those women who loved being pregnant. First trimester? Full of queasiness and fatigue. The second? Full of relief to no longer be a nauseous zombie, but knowing there was so long yet to go. The third? Enormous and uncomfortable, with heartburn and swollen extremities.

There was a point in each of my pregnancies (I've had three) when I could not imagine I would ever not know the feeling of having a giant, seemingly cement ball in my midsection, which altered the way I moved, slept and sat still. I didn't keep a journal, because I assumed it'd be carved in my memory forever. I didn't take photos, because I thought I looked awful.

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And during my first pregnancy, I was stubbornly trying to keep my being pregnant from interfering with anything else in my life at the time. My strategy was to pretend nothing was really any different about me. I didn't bother my colleagues or friends much about it, as none of them was pregnant at the time and I felt like it would just be so dull for them to hear about.

I didn't want my pregnancy to dominate all the conversations I had or limit what I still had the energy to do. I didn't want to bore everyone around me or be perceived differently. I avoided maternity clothes for as long as I could. I took pride in still having the energy to stay out late, even when I might have preferred a night in bed with a book.

It wasn't until late in my third trimester that I really started to embrace it. I couldn't help it: it was all anyone could notice about me. People, strangers, reacted to me solely as someone who was pregnant. I told a friend once that I noticed people smiling at me more, granting me the right of way in supermarket aisles and approaching me more frequently for directions on the street—as though they felt safer around me for being pregnant.

My friend said that's because they didn't know my belly was actually filled with the wallets of unsuspecting strangers.

The night before my first child was born, I was awakened by a strong tightening of my uterus. Here's the thought that came to mind: Toni Braxton Hicks. I love a good band name pun—Daisy Chainsaw, Kathleen Turner Overdrive, JFKFC—and, at the time, I thought I was a comedic genius. Who was, I realized, playing to a very select audience: heavily pregnant women roaming the house in the middle of the night, exhausted but too uncomfortable to sleep, loopy with expectation.

Pregnancy, on my last day, had finally taken over my psyche. And I was completely OK with it.

It's surprisingly easy to forget the sensation of having a baby growing inside you. The idea for me—my youngest just turned two—is already as vague as it was before I started having children.

Pregnancy seems to go on forever while you're experiencing it. But looking back, I feel like no time at all passed between my first and third/last child.

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It's cliché to tell a very pregnant woman to enjoy the time—even when you're uncomfortable, anxious, fed up—when the baby is pushing both your bladder and your lungs. But now that's it's behind me, I understand why people say it. I don't miss it, but I do wish I'd been more appreciative of what a wonder it was.

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Photo by Frank De Klein

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