The skin had stretched like an inflated balloon over the rapidly rising bulge between the lower ribs and the hips. I marvelled at how quickly all this had happened – before stepping off the scales, loosening my belt another notch and telling myself that I really had to cut down on my chocolate consumption.
But I wasn’t the only one in our fledging family to be changing shape – although I was the only one with no excuse! Rachel’s body had begun the ‘countdown to baby’ in earnest, and was diligently making preparations for launch.
We watched with fascination as her outwards appearance was altered in accordance with what was also happening inside her. It was strange to think that she was overseeing a major construction project, and yet she didn’t even have to think about it! The unconscious part of her brain was just controlling everything that was happening, in the same way that it controls breathing, heartbeat, healing and all the other amazing bodily functions.
In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I got a feeling of inadequacy – women have the capacity to build and accommodate an unbelievably complex and mysterious thing: life. Sure, we both supply the raw materials of baby making, but I find it amazing that a female can act – forgive me for putting this in a slightly unromantic way – the ‘workshop’. Men have no such magical abilities. The fact that we’re generally a bit taller and have quite a lot more body hair just doesn’t quite evoke the same sense of wonder.
Before the pregnancy, I just hadn’t been able to imagine what Rachel would look like with a bump, but now she was growing a full-on ‘baby mountain’ it seemed like the most natural thing in the world. But, being with her every day, I didn’t notice her physical changes as much as the people that only saw her every couple of weeks. It was only on these occasions, upon hearing excited comments from friends and family that I would realise that actually yes, the bump had grown by another few inches!
Still, over time there were changes that I simply couldn’t ignore. At first, there was just a small rise in Rachel’s lower stomach, where a low-slung belt buckle would rest. Gradually this began to gather momentum until it looked like she was carrying a honeydew melon in her belly, the weight of which was beginning to stretch the skin from under her ribs. Then, rapidly it seemed, the ‘melon’ became a dome that completely dominated her lower abdomen, and a curious brown line appeared (the linea nigra, which occurs in most pregnancies), running down the middle of her belly – the function of which I still have no idea!
Watching these incredible changes, I felt that what was happening to Rachel was the ultimate expression of femininity, and this in itself was extremely sexy. Add to this the fact that she seemed to be upping her bra size on a fortnightly basis – heralding the arrival of a joyful pregnancy cleavage – it’s needless to say that I found myself in a permanent state of randyness!
Big is beautiful?
Rachel, however, did not. She was feeling more and more cumbersome and uncomfortable as the bump grew ever larger, and certainly wasn’t feeling like the feminine beauty I was seeing. And with the hormones that were running amok through her system, she found that she would be up in the clouds one minute and then crying into her camomile tea the next. So while I felt it was important to keep telling Rachel how thrilled I felt about the way she looked, I knew I would have to suppress my selfish manly urges for the time being.
As she was used to being pretty trim, Rachel was also quite worried about her post-pregnancy figure. Hearing the tales of women doubling their clothes size after their first child made her understandably nervous, and I was worried that she might hold back on eating as much as she needed. Thankfully, though, what the baby demanded, the baby got! Being conscious to maintain a balanced diet, Rachel’s rapid increase in food consumption just seemed to quicken the pace of the bump growth. And while she did put on weight elsewhere, to me she looked the picture of health. I felt that I now fully understood what people meant when they talked about a ‘pregnancy glow’.