About a month before I found out I was pregnant my friend Carol mentioned that her gym was running a deal where two people could share a personal trainer once a week for a significant discount. Since then we’ve been spending an hour every Friday morning together with a trainer named Laura, and then lying in bed for the subsequent two days plotting ways to bomb Laura’s house. Our text messages in the hours following the workout look like this:
“Feeling it in my butt. Want to die. Is homicide a crime?”
“Not if we make it look like an accident.”
“She doesn’t have any kids. No one will miss her.”
“But she does have a dog.”
“Then let’s leave a bowl of food behind.”
Our workouts are brutal, filled with squats and lunges and exercises I’ve never heard of, and last Friday morning as Carol and I were walking from the car toward the building she stopped short, dropped her lower jaw and pointed directly toward my lower extremities. “You’re waddling,” she said, as plainly as if she were pointing out that I had a piece of spinach lodged in my teeth, the way friends warn each other of potentially embarrassing situations. Heather, you look like you were screwing a watermelon and it got stuck in your wee waw. Just a heads up. NOT AWKWARD AT ALL.
Turns out I’ve gained all my weight in such a way that it is already affecting the way I walk, the way I stand up out of a chair, the way I roll off the bed. I can barely go up a flight of stairs without falling on the floor, clutching at my heart, and calling out to my dead wife Ethel. I’m carrying the baby in my back more than I ever did Leta, and already it’s hindering almost every movement of my body. And so when people ask me how I’m feeling now that I’m halfway through, I have to hold up a finger and ask them to wait a second while I shift my weight to the other foot. And by then I’m usually too out of breath to summon an answer.
There was a part of me that wanted to keep my pregnancy a secret from Laura so that every week as we warmed up on the treadmill she’d think to herself, hmmmm… weird. Should I talk to her about her diet? Maybe ask her to lay off the Twinkies? And I’m sure it must be strange for her to watch one of her clients return each week a bit rounder than before, because it’s certainly strange for me. Yes, I know I am naturally thin, and because I am so tall my weight gain does not show on my body like it would if I were several inches shorter. But this isn’t really about the way I look as it is about the way I feel, and I think pregnancy is such an equalizing experience this way for most women. We have little control over what’s going with our bodies, and I am no different than anyone else in feeling at times surprised, sometimes helpless, sometimes frightened. My body feels heavier, more sluggish, less agile, and while I know it’s only temporary that doesn’t mean it is any less disorienting.
And I think that’s the best description I can give for what its feel like in this stage of my second pregnancy: this body does not feel like my own. Sometimes when I’m trying to roll out of bed in the morning I’m like, whose boobs are these? I do not recognize these legs. And because this is my second pregnancy I am well aware that things only get more uncomfortable from here, no need to give me a warning that begins with the detestable phrase, “Just wait…” I can guarantee that every time you use that phrase in conversation with a pregnant woman you are earning cosmic points that when added up one day will result in a piano falling on your head.