I was walking back to our apartment from the communal mailboxes on a particularly sunny day and I just felt good. I felt so good, in fact, that when I passed by the pool and saw a woman my age who was thin, tan, and sporting a bikini, I thought, “I would look amazing in a bikini right now.”
However, I was pregnant — and that gave me pause.
During my first pregnancy, I never did end up buying or wearing a bikini. It was mostly a practical decision; I already had a bathing suit that fit, and I didn’t need another one. This summer, however, I once again found myself pregnant, now with two small children who love water and the outdoors. And, I was in need of a bathing suit.
I generally don’t have hang-ups about being pregnant. Pregnancy and motherhood have made me more able. I am more creative and write more now than I have in years. I can better see the heart of matters and deal with what is necessary rather than wasting time on unimportant things. I take better care of myself and my family, knowing that we all need certain things to be holistically healthy. I have more fortitude, and I don’t give up as easily on issues or projects, no matter how frustrating they are. All in all, I am a better person because of pregnancy and motherhood.
All in all, I am a better person because of pregnancy and motherhood.
Pregnancy is often viewed as a time in life that we just deal with or trudge through. However, I believe it to be a wholly transformative act. It is not passive but, rather, supremely active. “May it be done to me according to your word,” Mary said to the angel Gabriel (Lk 1:38), deciding that she would allow herself to become pregnant with the Son of God.
My body is no longer what it was during that first pregnancy, but I still find that pregnancy fosters confidence. So much of pregnancy involves putting yourself out there, subjecting yourself to public opinion, and realizing that your body is no longer yours alone. Strangers want to touch my belly (and often do so without asking), and a child kicks me from within.
Pregnancy fosters confidence.
Beyond the physicality of pregnancy, even my intelligence is up for public commentary. It takes me more time to write and speak, because my thoughts derail without my permission. I can’t remember words from one second to the next, and aphasia is just a drag. Due to this, I am often perceived as flighty, forgetful, and even an airhead. Especially as a writer, I want people to take me seriously, and that can be difficult with “mommy brain.”
In the midst of pregnancy, I look to Mary. She allowed people to think the worst of her as she embraced the call to nurture the Son of God, bringing His human body into the physical realm. Though the others’ perceptions may have hurt her (and St. Joseph, who stood by her), she knew she was participating in something vastly more important. This past summer, it was time to shed my fears and embrace the humility my situation afforded me: it was time to wear a bikini to the pool.
Why a bikini? Why not?! It is freedom from the unnecessary burdens of life and delight in the way we are made. Besides that, it’s much easier to wear a bikini than a one-piece. Chasing kids is easier, staying cool is easier, and going to the bathroom is easier (no small matter for a pregnant woman).
The pregnant body, though large and round, exposes persons and bodies as they truly are: wonderfully, complexly, and beautifully made. It says what we so often try to hide: that there is more to us than meets the eye — and that new life is a miracle.
The pregnant body says what we so often try to hide: that there is more to us than meets the eye — and that new life is a miracle.
St. Felicity reminds us that the sacrifices of motherhood are gifts that make us stronger and ready to face anything, and they prepare us to be united fully with Christ. Before she and her companions were taken to be executed, she prayed that she would give birth to her baby, as it was unlawful to kill a pregnant woman, and she didn’t want to be left behind. Her prayer was answered.
This summer, I received an email invitation to a back-to-school bash hosted by the parents of my daughter’s classmate. This party was water-centric, so my children put on their rash guards and swim bottoms, and I donned a two-piece swimsuit with my 25-week pregnant belly on full display.
By the time we arrived, most of the other kids and moms were already there. Though no other adult wore swim attire (causing me to be immediately on edge), I was greeted with a chorus of, “Your belly is so perfect!”, “You look great!”, and, “Pregnancy looks so good on you!” Those phrases were the only mentions of my appearance the entire party.
These women looked at me like we should all look at each other: with dignity, love, and admiration. That’s an authentic Catholic view of the person. That’s authentic Catholic community. And that’s exactly what this world, so obsessed with appearance, needs.