What Does Being Pregnant Feel Like? Part IV

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Illustration: Elizabeth, age 5

NEW MOM explores the brilliant, terrible, wonderful, confusing realities of first-time motherhood. It’s for anybody who wants to be a new mom, is a new mom, was a new mom, or wants really good reasons to never be a new mom. To get started, we asked writers what it feels like to be pregnant. The fourth response, by the writer Maya Pindyck, is below. Here are the first, the second, and the third.

I’ve been pregnant four times. I’ve had one abortion, one miscarriage, and two births resulting in two magical daughters. Each pregnancy felt different for reasons I can and can’t explain. My first pregnancy at 26 felt like a raging siren. I wanted out of that pregnancy ASAP. My body felt sick, tired, and panicked in the days leading up to my abortion. I had no intention of having a kid at that time with the guy I was sleeping with — a man I could barely call my boyfriend. Little did I know I would end up falling in love with that very man, marrying him, and making a family with him.

The second pregnancy, ten years later, was intentional, and I felt elated. I could feel my body beginning to swell, but I also remember feeling surprised that I didn’t really “feel” pregnant. I felt like my usual self, just with a secret knowledge that I had a baby inside. Around three months into the pregnancy I noticed blood on my underwear. I was miscarrying. It was painful. We learned that the embryo had been dead inside me for over a month. Devastation. Soon after, I became pregnant with my first daughter.

I felt cautious about growing too joyful — what if — but once I crossed some sort of medical threshold of birth security, I felt expansive and powerful. My daughter appeared in my dreams in inaccurate and strong flashes. I felt hungry and obliged to satiate my hunger, sometimes with three servings of ice cream a night. I felt a deep bond with Noa without knowing her or what her name would be. And I could feel her head in the wrong place: by my heart.

My second daughter was born three years later, five months ago. During that pregnancy, I felt sexy, like some kind of powerhouse goddess bursting with exploding breasts, an enormous, gorgeous ass, and oceanic hips. I loved the public attention and conversations my ballooned body prompted: Do you need a seat? Someone please let this woman sit down! Wow — look at you. You’re having a boy, right? I liked it when strangers touched my belly. I knew right away she was Alma. I felt stretched beyond myself, into some mysterious constellation of horse gallop, elephant sway, potato skin, and human longing. When Alma arrived, I realized it was my saba’s spirit I had been feeling, too — the way his eyes would twinkle and fill with water when he laughed — the same spirit that cocooned Noa after her birth.

To be pregnant can feel like anything, across a spectrum too wide to ever know. To be pregnant feels — not like — another star, dead, alive, you decide.

Maya Pindyck is a poet and the author of Emoticoncert.

What Does Being Pregnant Feel Like? Part IV