My husband and I have a friend who is a great photographer (and a really good singer and a very nice person). She has done all of my OLL photographs and so we naturally wanted her to take our pregnancy pictures and pictures of our newborn when we found out that we were expecting.
When I hit the 35 week mark we figured we'd better get those pictures done! Who really knows when a kid is going to be born? They seem to embrace their own sense of timing from the start.
So we made a plan to meet up and do the pregnancy shoot one Friday evening after work.
I was excited about the pictures . . . and I also was not excited about the pictures.
35 weeks is a magical time.
It's that special time when many women find themselves unable to fit into the maternity clothes they've been living in for the past 8 months.
For me it was also the special week of suddenly high blood pressure, swollen ankles, stress at work, and a feeling that we'd never get the baby room ready.
And the whole time that a woman is feeling all of that stuff (and more - always more), there are people surrounding her with their own stories about how "perfect" or how "terrible" it was when they were pregnant.
So much advice.
Some of it very helpful and some of it downright scary.
Then there is the cultural pressure - Have a "fit" pregnancy! and Embrace every moment - it will be over too fast!
Honesty check: I did not "embrace" the moments when I was hugging the toilet bowl with morning sickness. Or the moments when I was struggling through a work day with two concerts at the end and swollen ankles. Or that wonderful time when I was a little bit overemotional and just couldn't handle that one person asking me about my weight gain.
I have, like most pregnant women, been poked and prodded by people I barely know. I've been asked extremely personal questions by folks who are almost complete strangers. I've received some of the strangest bits of advice I've ever received in my life. And while all of this has been going on, I've given myself completely over to a physical experience that is surreal at best.
Don't get me wrong - I love the baby kicking. I love the expectation. And I have always loved children.
But pregnancy is an awkward experience. And many of us walk around feeling like we're not allowed to say that it's awkward. Well - I'll go ahead and say it: PREGNANCY CAN BE SO AWKWARD!
So about these pictures . . .
I was nervous that they'd come back and I would be this blob of a person standing next to my beautiful husband. Don't judge. Please. This is not a cue for anybody to say, "but you're so beautiful!" or "Pregnancy is always a beautiful thing!"
Of course - growing human life is a beautiful thing! It is. That's a fact.
But a girl is allowed to feel awkward and strange when her body has been taken over by a completely separate being for the better part of a year.
We took the pictures and they came back beautiful. Arlyne always takes beautiful photographs - the photographs themselves are beautiful. They always have a lot of depth and color. She has a very good eye. And I knew that all of this would be true with these pictures.
But I still didn't know about me. You know? And I should be allowed to feel some trepidation about this. I've put on about 50 pounds and the week of the photo shoot was a super rough week, anyway.
My least favorite view of my pregnant self in the whole collection of photographs came with this sequence of "dance" shots. I instantly felt ridiculous seeing myself like that. And for several days I haven't wanted to look at those particular pictures. But today I changed my mind . . .
I changed my mind because they are such a true look at what this whole pregnancy thing is like.
It invites a person's whole community about 10 steps too close for comfort.
It makes a person vulnerable to everybody all the time.
It takes away all semblance of physical control that a person may have felt beforehand.
It is empowering one day, but can leave a person feeling powerless the next.
And this sequence of pictures is me being awkward.
I've always been good at being awkward.
But pregnant me? This is a whole new level . . .
I have no clue who has just read all of this. You could be someone who hasn't had kids yet or never will. Or you might be someone who has had 6 kids and loved every moment of every pregnancy.
Or maybe you're a little bit like me. And you're totally on board with the whole thing, but you are feeling the awkwardness.
Embrace the awkwardness.
Joke about it.
Be honest about it.
Don't let anybody guilt you about it - it's alright. You're allowed to feel a little bit off kilter. As a wise young philosopher has recently reminded us, "Haters gonna hate (hate hate hate hate hate hate...)"
Here's what I feel is important at this point: our ability to keep a sense of humor even when other folks don't have one.
Pregnancy is a funny thing.
There's an awful lot to laugh about (and cry about, rage about, and sit in silence about).
We're better off when we're honest.
Pregnancy is an awkward dance. God has a sense of humor, I'm sure. And for the next 3 weeks or so I'll be embracing the last part of one awkward dance before trading it for another - one that will be equally awkward in brand new ways.
Don't be too worried about what everybody's telling you to feel like, pregnant friends. You were made to handle this. And your honest feelings are part of how you handle it as an individual, uniquely created by God. Work through it with some laughter, tears, and truthful conversation.
And let somebody take pictures of you dancing around like an awkward hippo. It's good fun.