ETCETERA / Home Thoughts

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The Independent Culture
THE THING that you are told about pregnancy is that you bloom - your hair shines, your skin glows, you bounce along with a merry little smile. One moment you're Mrs Ordinary, and then the next you look like Demi Moore. This may happen to some people, but not me. I spent the first three months throwing up, looking an unattractive greenish colour. And this wasn't just in the privacy of my own home. I would lurch along the street, occasionally stopping to be sick in the gutter, while passers-by sidestepped me with understandable distaste. Only my four year old son didn't care. 'My mum's sick,' he would announce in a loud voice. 'It's because she's got a baby in her tummy.'

Now I've stopped being sick, and I'm overwhelmed by a compulsive desire to eat. It's somehow difficult to be taken seriously at work when your mouth is always full of food. Then there's the spots. I never had spots before, and now I have. And cellulite. And breasts. Obviously, breasts are quite nice, but I'm not used to them. I don't know where to put them.

The other thing about pregnancy is that people feel able to tell you exactly what you look like. I dropped my son off at nursery last week, and one of the slender 18-year- old girls who work there looked at me and said with distaste: 'God, your face is getting round.' OK, so she didn't say fat, but I felt suitably crushed. And this morning, as I was standing by the fax machine minding my own business, a colleague patted me on the stomach and boomed: 'My, you're stout.'

There are other bad things, like never going out in the evening because you fall asleep at 8 o'clock; and your tights falling down as you run for the bus because they don't fit round your waist any more and you can't be bothered to go to Mothercare to buy some attractive beige-coloured maternity ones.

Some women, of course, look gorgeous when they're pregnant. They blossom, they twinkle, they bloom. They have neat little bumps and wear elegant silk shirts and never spill food down their clothes. They don't get piles or stretch marks or varicose veins. They're the ones who give birth in less than an hour, with no pain relief ('Oh, I just breathed the baby out'), and their babies are never sick anywhere. Never ever.

And it is these women who look knowingly at you and say, the reason you feel sick, look tired, grow spots, is because you don't really want to be pregnant. You cannot embrace your womanly ripening, and your bad negative thoughts just take on a bodily form.

This is not true. I'm all for having babies. I just don't like the undesirable side-effects of pregnancy (and yes, being boring about it is one of them). I know pregnancy isn't an illness, so why does it make you feel sick? What possible natural purpose can there be for this physical misery? What about evolution, anyway? I think we should be told.