Pregnancy is a time of anticipation – kicks, test results, and of course, babies. From the moment my Clearblue Easy test gave me a thumbs up, I waited for something else: the face of pregnancy. The beaming. The illumination that foretells that beautiful knowing of motherhood (background choirs of angelic singing optional).
The Glow. It was one of my earliest cravings, along with spicy noodles and unfettered access to all bathrooms within a two mile radius.
I eagerly waited for The Glow to arrive. I was a newly minted member of Motherhood, and that luster was to be my early membership badge.
Finally, in my ninth week, after I had: (a) learned I was having twins (b) joined every online pregnancy and motherhood group I could find and (c) busied myself figuring out how to announce the pregnancy (because “we’re having two babies” didn’t seem dramatic enough at the time) it happened.
Oh, not the Glow. The Reckoning.
On that morning, I woke with a snort in a puddle of my own drool. When I wiped my mouth and chin, I felt tiny hard bumps on my face. Acne. Everywhere. Not the cute kind that can be easily covered up with bangs or makeup, these were angry, volcanic cysts that could only be hidden by a ski-mask. I hopped out of bed to check the mirror, tottering on ankles and feet that had in the last eight hours become Fred Flintstone-esque.
Hopping out of bed was a tactical error, as my chest had morphed overnight from reasonable to comically oversized. I was now the owner of two painfully heavy thoracic sandbags that threatened to make cartoonish “clonking” noises as they bounced merrily and painful against my ribs and each other.
I dragged myself to the bathroom, careful not to cause unnecessary mammary movement by tripping over my own elephant feet. The unforgiving florescent lights highlighted the topographical map which was now my face, as well as all the other swells and bulges took me past “looking pregnant” straight to “balloon animal.” Ultimately, I focused on my nose and face. I had, of course, anticipated some bodily changes, but no one told me that my face would get pregnant, and certainly I hadn’t planned on factoring in “nose and face size maintenance” in my gentle prenatal fitness routine.
This was not beatific glowing. This was a disaster.
I heard my husband rummaging through the fridge and another shockwave ran through me.
Eventually I’d have to leave the bathroom and face him looking like colorful lumps of clay and stone topped off with some unintentionally New Wave morning hair. He was about to realize he was now married to the hormonal personification of a bad elementary school art project.
I slunk out of the bedroom, hiding my lumpiness under a shapeless fuzzy pink bathrobe. In an instinctive move meant to both support and immobilize my chest, my elbows drew up close to my body while my wrists crossed at chest level, allowing my forearms to act as load bearing supports for my bust.
“Morning, T-Rex,” my husband greeted me. His glance then went from to feet to my face. He quickly flashed a smile, but not after a not-so-micro expression of horror at the Thing that Was Once His Wife.
“Oh…” he said.
I burst into tears. “Stop looking at me!”
To his credit, he did not utter the word “hormonal” as he made me some tea. I continued to wail about my painful body, then about how dumb it was to be wailing because this was supposed to be such a special time, then wailed again because it wasn’t feeling special all. I went to wipe my nose and felt how big it was, and the whole crying cycle started again.
When I was done, my husband hugged me and stroked my hair, which managed to be both greasy and straw-dry (another pregnancy gift with purchase) and told me he was off to work.
“Call me if you need anything, or even if you don’t.”
I nodded pathetically while trumpeting my nose into a tissue.
I spent the rest of the day doing internet searches for “weird early pregnancy symptoms” and talking with my online mommy groups, all of which did a fine job of making me feel guilty, worried, and foolish. By 3:00 I was convinced I was headed for another 31 weeks of feeling and looking like a gaseous Picasso sculpture, and that I should be grateful for that.
When husband’s key turned in the lock that evening, I was curled up in the fetal position, decidedly not radiant.
“Hey hon! I got you something!” He waved one of the two bags he was holding. I took the bag wincing at the unmistakable pink-on-pink stripes that heralded the lingerie inside.
“What do you think?” he asked, beaming with…dear God, was that pride?
What do I think? I think you don’t get it. Which came out as “Ummm…”
I took the bag to the bedroom, careful to close the door behind me gently, rather than slamming it out of rage. I’d had many feelings that day and “sexy” was not one of them.
I peeked in the bag and moved aside the fuchsia tissue paper, unearthing an impressive amount of lace, satin, and enough underwire to interfere with our wifi. I pulled out the bra, which had a band size that gave me vertigo, and felt completely miserable. That misery that quickly took a sharp turn for the worse once I tried it on.
Despite its circus-tent proportions, the bra was too small.
With the bra clutched in my fist, I stormed out of the room, prepared to unload on my husband about his insensitivity, about his buying a gift that was really for himself, and also about how he should leave the shopping to Animal Planet because obviously at this point I was so gross that they were going to call at any moment to offer me a series.
The rant caught mid-throat. In the other bag my husband had brought home was dinner from my favorite restaurant. Container after container of all the spicy foods I’d been craving for weeks sat on trays he’d set up in the family room. He had cued up a movie we’d both been waiting to see. He patted the couch, inviting me to sit where he’d set up pillows in a way to support my ever-aching back.
There was, needless to say, a stay of execution.
“Do you like it?” he asked, tilting his chin toward the bra. “I told the sales lady you were feeling bad about this part of your pregnancy…I wanted to find you something to make you feel better. We had to guess at the size–” he saw my smirk. “—well, ok, yeah, I guess I won’t be working too many carnivals anytime soon. We can take it back.”
“No, thank you, I’d like to keep it, actually.” And not just for the inevitable pup tent jokes, although those would come eventually.
He held out his hand and I took it, as we’d done every day we’d been in the same room since our second date. We sat down to spicy noodles and a movie whose title and plot I would quickly forget.
In the middle of the film, he looked over at me after I shoved another pillow behind my back and struggled to put a pair of warm socks over my giant walrus feet.
“You’re glowing, you know.”
“Yes,” I said, feeling the pimples on my face stretch as I smiled, “I have every reason to.”