Mother Muse: In Praise of the Pregnant Body...

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beautiful pregnant womanMy body is not pregnant. I enjoy the ease of shopping entire department stores rather than cramped maternity sections and my shoes feel roomy on my feet. I feel fine as I get out of bed each day and there are no cracker crumbs lingering in our sheets from my middle of the night attempts to ward off morning sickness.

Though I feel thankful for each of these reclaimed attributes, I often find myself looking back fondly on the period of gestation. I was reminded of those days when my friend Becky, in her second trimester, revealed that her typically curly hair is stick straight, no hot iron or blow dryer required.

What an amazing being is the pregnant body! While experiencing it myself I was, for better or worse, more concerned with choosing the right stroller than the science of my body. Having gone back to do a bit of post post-partum investigation, I am left breathless and impressed. I went no farther than this very website to brush up on some of the wonders that the pregnant body is capable of. Just reading about it is exhausting -- no wonder I spent nearly two years pregnant and coveting an afternoon nap more than most women covet my friend Justine's new pair of pumpkin Wellies!

It is an understatement to say that the pregnant body is something special. For starters, it houses huge amounts of bold and gallant blood. When a woman is pregnant her body produces up to 50 percent more blood. It circulates throughout the body and fortifies the placenta (a phenomenon itself). Nutrients and oxygen from the mother's blood are transferred (traveling the small blood vessels that run through the placenta) to the fetal blood, while waste products are transferred from the fetal blood to the maternal blood, without the blood supplies ever mixing. How do we do that?

And the gumption of the umbilical cord! This lifeline from mother to child appears out of nowhere, grows to be nearly 2 feet long, and provides constantly. Some bodies (those pregnant with twins) grow two!

It's stored in the amniotic sac, which, by the way, constantly maintains a temperature just slightly higher than the mother's body so that the baby is perfectly comfortable in the womb and later spends its life on earth wishing it lived in San Diego or Ecuador or somewhere with an equally perfect climate.

And the courage of those hormones! The pregnant body produces an abundance of these fickle geniuses that cause everything from oil glands operating in overdrive to pigmentation gone wacko to tears over a good batch of mashed potatoes.

The nerve of the skin! Think of the miraculous stretch it performs over nine months. And the magnificence of the metabolism! The brilliance of the breasts!

But then, trying to spoil it all is the sour scowl of society on waist lines. In the wake of celebrity obsession and unhealthy views of acceptable body image, it's too easy to confuse being pregnant with being fat or ugly or unnatural -- especially on our most uncomfortable days.

What a shame that a pregnant woman looks at her reflection in the mirror and is unable to see past the lina negra to appreciate the protective placenta or the blood vessels working extra hard. What a shame that a woman, upon giving birth, is disgusted with herself for having to wear maternity clothes on the way home from the hospital. What a shame that a kind and generous mother, health aside, obsesses over her weight, depriving herself and feeling shamed.

Women are equipped to create and house our infants in utero, produce milk to nourish them as babies, and work tirelessly to nurture them as they grow into children. Women are also susceptible to societal pressure and to forgetting how precious -- how truly remarkable and utterly amazing -- our bodies really are.

So, in case you have forgotten, please be reminded that your body is a beautiful thing. You were beautiful at seventeen, you are beautiful today and you will be beautiful years from now when you find yourself rocking your grandbabies and obsessing about your neck.

If you are reading this while pregnant and therefore reaching numbers on the scale you have never seen before, congratulations and do not be alarmed. Please know this: You are not fat. You are pregnant. Your body is working like a retailer before Christmas readying itself to deliver. And to be pregnant is to be beautiful.

If you had a baby last month or last year and are still wearing maternity underpants (see previous "Mother Muse" column and know that you are not alone), do not fret. And please know this: You are not fat. You are post-partum. Your body just created a stunning being. And to be creative is to be beautiful.

Copyright © Leslie Klipsch. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.