Natal to Not

There is no greater change that the human body makes in such a short time than going from pregnant to not.

Because this time has Birth in the middle of it, we tend not to think about the bits either side. Birth is a Big Event and is life changing on its own, even without what happens after.
But if you put birth to one side for a minute (which is hard for me to do as I near the end of pregnancy; I can definitely feel it looming), there is another Big Change coming up. A quieter change, but no less life-altering. The change from my body being a shared, sacred vessel, to being empty and different than it ever was before.
Once my baby is no longer inside me, all my organs will have to settle into place, my bowels will have to reloop back down, coiling in new ways. My muscles will mesh with new weakness from having to be so strong for so long. No longer stretched out to contain another life.

J empty belly.jpeg
Image description: White-skinned postnatal person pressing into their newly empty abdomen
And I will get my body back, by which I don’t mean back as it was before – that can never happen – but back to being mine. Back to having only me in here. One spine, one set of teeth, one soul.

And that change is wonderfully liberating, because suddenly I can treat my body as badly as I’d like, and it’s also devastating because so can everyone else.
I will no longer be sacred. All the preciousness that is currently aimed towards me will be aimed at the baby. Really, it will continue to be aimed at the baby just as it has been during pregnancy, it’s just that I won’t be involved any more. My body will stop being central and start being peripheral. And that’s right, that’s how it should be. And it’s also scary because my new, changed body and I will never have co-existed in this new post-birth configuration and it’s terrifying and lonely trying to navigate that change.
And of course, there will be a baby. While all of this is happening there will be a new beautiful body out in the world. The purpose of all this will be there, crying and breathing and needing. And me and my new body will be exhausted in the relentlessness of caring for them. And in that, my relationship with my husband will be forever different as we parent this new human together and manage that complicated balance of being lovers, parents and individuals.
And through all this beautiful, terrifying change, my body will be flooding me with more hormones than at any other time. Healing, emptying, generating milk. All very practical when written down but oh-so-turbulent to live through.
And then we bring birth back into the picture. In those postnatal days I’ll be reeling from whatever birth has thrown at me. And right now that’s a big unknown. Will I feel empowered and strong? Full of joy at the miracle of my birthing body? Or will I feel broken and used, made to feel like just a vessel that needs to have something precious extracted?
I’m lucky enough to have experienced the former, but the risk of the latter feels very real right now, no matter how well I plan my perfect birth. And honestly, even with a powerful, perfect birthing experience, I was still reeling afterwards.
It really is a Big Event and it’s hard to look past that.

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The Queer Parenting Partnership was launched in 2020, in response to the shocking lack of birth and parenting support services for LGBTQ+ people in the UK.

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