When a pregnant woman becomes an objet d'art
The New Straits Times - 02/18/1991
by Anusha Anantha

The need to fall in love, marry and have kids must come from those days in campus.

That Mills and Boon, the Cosby Show or at a more sophisticated level the poetry and philosophy courses most of my clique religiously sat through.

Or maybe it was Ivor's little ditty (scratched for posterity on the desk in the biology lab of Taylor's College): "Mary had a little lamb and the midwife died of shock."

Sold on motherhood, through poetry (not sex, mind you), I now struggle to maintain equanimity in the face of a bawling bambino.

I faltered, muttered, said something about only liking the poem, the idea, the intimate picture of motherhood. But it's too late. It's your baby now, hon! And God has handed you the charts and rolled away.

Resigned, I hang up the mini skirts, kick off the high heels and for the next nine months I learn to flourish where life has firmly planted me - in maternity wear and baby care.

It's not just the birth of the baby. Or its new life that takes its place among the elements. It's THE new life; becoming parents, a family and  well ... cow-heavy.

One learns that there is nothing subtle about being pregnant for a woman.

A man? Ipso facto, in the words of my husband, things go on as normal.

"Like that Tamil proverb," he says, "you can't hide the whole pumpkin in rice. Why try?"

Why try?! He has the temerity to ask. He's not the one struggling with his buttons and the zipper (that he did months ago) or running around the pharmacy for preventive medicine for varicose veins, stretch marks and falling hair.

Nor does he have to contend with the new genre of jokes immediately after the post-wedding ribbing has died down. Eating mangoes yet? No, just feeling like one.

I busy myself reading Dr Benjamin Spock's Baby and Child Care, while my husband and his sidekick (my brother) horse around.

I can't quite appreciate it now but the "love" that sets these two going is something else! They provide a comic twist to the song that goes, He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother by sprawling in front of the television, eating for two, for me, thank you and generally taking it easy ad nauseam.

A typical vignette during the early months - "Hey, Andy baby, my sister wants to know if that skirt makes her look like she's expecting. Expecting what?" he hoots. My husband chortles along, oblivious of his impending doom in the doghouse.

A lot of pregnant women, I know, bloom during the term and look cute, rather like stuffed penguins.

I vacillate between feeling like a disgruntled pig and the Blessed Mother. Ten years ago, I needed the increased bust line - to make the cheerleaders team, to catch Peter's eye, to stop capitalising on personality.

It could be a dream come true but pregnancy makes of the woman's body a changing landscape.

The stomach is no longer flat and the figure, obvious as an "O", merits that proverbial pregnant pause. The long coveted wolf whistles die out as the eyes travel downward to that paunch.

I look like I have been guzzling beer on the house and that is not fair because I never touch the stuff.

Still, as the saying goes, in life you learn. I learned not to be too surprised when more changes occurred.

Like the time our comfortable but brusque father-daughter relationship cut a sharp turn from the usual, "I should have raised a dog instead of you", to dulcet tones.

Of late, I am greeted in the morning. Greeted! People actually take the time to ask me how I am feeling and urge me to "take care".

Take care? Take care of myself? Hell, no! He doesn't want his soon-to-be-born grandson to catch cold because of me!

As time, like the waves of nausea, passes by, you stop bellyaching. Maternity wear fits about your more ample frame and you begin to enjoy being in vogue.

Pregnancy is definitely an incomparable fashion statement.

It is not the silhouette that matters any more. It's the stomach. Like a picture, or objet d'art in the living room, it invites comments and conversation.

People, you realise, like your centre-piece.

They like it more than the rest of you. No longer do I resent the lack of eye contact with me, the mother-to-be, the wife, the woman.

I have come to terms with being on the catwalk for all the wrong reasons and make up for being in (and on) the broadway by playing up Make Way For The Pregnant.

Bring me mint chocolate chip ice-cream at midnight. And pillows for my varicose veins.

I do all this knowingly, like that Knowing Woman promotion at Mun Loong's. Because once the baby is born people will stop "taking care" of me.

The celebrity status due to pregnancy is shortlived but fun. You get to meet all kinds of people.

Ordinarily, it's a handshake, a peck on the cheek or a hug. Now they stop you at the supermarket and feel you over like they would a melon.

Most people are surprised that the stomach is that firm and hard.

It gives you an opportunity to bold court and show off your reading ... "well, you see, ladies and genuemen, it's my third trimester (twenty-seventh to thirty-eighth week) and the uterus, a strong muscular container, is becoming large and ... blah, blah."

Some women, who have been through it before, urge you to get the husband involved.

I did. That's how come I am bent over the bathroom sink. And he's walking tall, hands in the pocket with a broad grin which says, "Yes, yes, congragulate us. We'll be handing out cigars if it's a boy and candy if it's a girl."

Anushka Anastasia Solomon was known as Anusha Anantha before coming to Jesus Christ.