A friend once compared pregnancy to having a small planet strapped to your body, complete with its own tides, rhythms and movements — small and ferocious. A few months into my pregnancy I realised just how apt her analogy was.
Pregnancy is not a ‘delicate condition’. It is not a mysterious, intangible miracle that shrouds a woman like some sort of diaphanous golden halo. It is not embarrassing despite the fact that many Pakistani men even seem to think it’s alright to stare unabashedly at a woman’s pregnant belly if it’s not been camouflaged (yes, that’s right, this is what your mother looked like with you inside her and yes, that means she had sex too and no, I am not ashamed).
Pregnancy is strong and violent and powerful and feral. It irks me beyond belief that many consider a pregnant woman to be anything less than a force of nature, like an earthquake, or a volcano. There are tremors involved; things move and shift and ooze with little or no warning. It’s a tiring, long and messy business that makes you marvel, even in moments of complete exhaustion.
Whether it be by accident, or after months of prescription sex, or even, for some, years of attempts involving scientists and laboratories, the conception of a child immediately changes the life of a woman in so many more ways than the obvious. For one, it seems to give everyone the right to tell a pregnant woman how to handle herself and her pregnancy. As a culture we seem to think its okay to give advice when it’s not asked for (Beta you’re due in four months? Acha, then quickly have another right after). My khala said, eat white bread, eat a piece as soon as you wake up each morning and you’ll see just how fair your baby’s skin will be — like milk! Scientific odds aside, I told her I’m dark and my husband is dark, don’t you think it will be strange if we have a white as milk baby? The number of times I was told to eat something, not eat something, move slower, move faster, hide indoors from a solar eclipse (seriously?) — if you’ve ever been pregnant you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t then take it from me – it’s no fun being treated like you have a disease, when in fact, your ‘condition’ has pretty much made you bionic.
Of course no two pregnancies can be alike. I was fortunate enough to get through mine with relative ease, but many women are not. Having said that, I still believe pregnancy to be vitally an empowering experience — even if you are limited to a bed for months at a time, your body continues to do something incredible. Besides the ubiquitous improvements in hair and skin, I for one, could smell better, see clearer. My hormones didn’t cloud my vision, whether it be physical or internal — they in fact honed it magnificently. Once you realise that yours is a body of power, of a creative force so huge it can not be understood by anyone else. Your body isn’t going to ask you nicely. It’s not going to cajole or nag or make suggestions like those around you. You’ll have no choice but to listen, so you may as well drown out everyone else in the meantime.
Published in the Express Tribune, June 13th, 2010.