new mom

What Does Being Pregnant Feel Like?

Drawing by Judy, 7 years old. Photo: f

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 five writers what it feels like to be pregnant. The first response, by the novelist Lydia Kiesling, is below. Check back for a new one each Wednesday of this month. 

Sometimes being pregnant felt like having a rock in my shoe, where the fetus was the rock and I was the shoe. Sometimes being pregnant felt like being with a new friend in a cozy cottage, where I was both inside the cottage and, somehow, the cottage itself. Sometimes I felt so tired and so stupid and so ill that it seemed extraordinarily unfair that women had been enrolled in this program.

It felt Abrahamic; I felt like Eve and Mary, but really more like Job, or Jesus in Gethsemane (only sorrier for myself). Sometimes it felt like if my husband died that day at least I’d still have his baby, and that it would be a gift from God, and sometimes it felt like if he died I’d have to get an abortion and I just hoped the timing would work. I’m afraid of flying and when I flew I would feel the fetus knocking in a friendly way from the inside, patting me like I was a frightened horse and it was the groom. It felt like I had the nicest, smallest, most delightful travel companion imaginable, like everyone else could fuck off forever.

Sometimes I felt enormously beautiful, like Venus herself arising from the sea, and sometimes I felt just enormous, and old and feeble and short of breath, and when I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror I would cry. With my second baby I felt my pelvic floor dragging around like a demoralized housewife. At one point I felt my bowel muscle give up, like it just lay down on the couch in a patterned housecoat. But in spite of this I sometimes felt so lustful that I felt embarrassed for myself; I felt like Madame Bovary, or someone in a porn. But mostly I felt like I would never allow a man to touch me again.

What else? I felt hungry. I mean, attend Burger King three times in one week hungry. I mean buy one bagel with cream cheese and then go ahead and buy a second one and eat it standing up. I felt like if I didn’t eat pancakes for dinner the fetus would shrivel up and die. Sometimes I felt a lot of creaking and grinding and pulling, like I was an old whaling ship. But I also felt like the whale, because whales are full of milk and oil and follow the moon and sing to their sweet calves in the dark water. I felt like a miracle. I felt like a city being built. I hated it a lot of the time, but it’s so hard to think that I might never feel that way again.

Lydia Kiesling’s novel, The Golden State, will be published in September by MCD/FSG.

What Does Being Pregnant Feel Like? Part I