When I was expecting each of my two sons, I felt ripe as a berry, round, and luscious. I bought soft clothes in rich purples and deep blues. I wore jazzy stockings with jagged patterns running down my legs. I hennaed my hair like a pampered Egyptian queen. I was pregnant, and I was sexy.
Far from feeling fat and sluggish, I had never felt so alive -- or so alluring. I sidled up to my husband like a cat. And although he sometimes found my abandon amusing -- my belly, after all, was clearly in the way and only growing more so -- he couldn't help but respond to my desire. What better aphrodisiac is there than feeling good?
Of course, this may sound like heresy. The notion of being pregnant and sexy clashes with most American images of impending motherhood. On television, expectant women are portrayed either as klutzes or as immaculate conceivers whose only rising appetite is for pickles and ice cream. There's a sort of confusion of mother with child; until the baby comes, we're the ones dressed in pink or blue. It's the rare pregnant woman who's portrayed as sensual: When a pregnant Demi Moore posed naked on the cover of Vanity Fair, she never looked sexier, but in some stores the issue was yanked off the shelves.
The reality is that most pregnant women, if they're not nauseated or exhausted, feel like sowing some oats. "I didn't just feel sexier, I was sexier," says Allison Stiles, mother of a 13-month-old in South Portland, Maine. Stiles isn't alone: During pregnancy, levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone surge, increasing the blood flow to the breasts and the pelvic area. Biologically, at least, pregnant women are in a nine-month state of arousal.
Dorothy Foltz-Gray is a freelance writer in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Hugging The Curves
Feeling sexy has its roots in more than physiology. It comes in part from a sense of freedom to revel in a new, curvaceous femininity. Being pregnant allows women the chance to accept their lush bodies in a society that likes its women angular. (One friend envies any woman married to a sculptor: They prefer soft curves, she says.) "I love the pregnancy shape," says Traci Wolfe-Hood, a mother of three in Philadelphia. "When I got that little belly, I thought, 'Oh, look at me. I'm a pregnant woman.'"
"Pregnancy made me feel like a healthy country wife, strong and full of life," recalls Katie Ripple, a mother of four in Madison, Wisconsin. "Your body is about more than youth and tautness. Pregnant, I was free to appreciate being round and able to create -- and all of that is very sexy," she says. In my own case, I'd never felt so fond of my body as I did during my pregnancies. As a child, I'd been overweight, and although I was now a tall, thin adult, the emotional residue of my chubby years stuck. I was particularly sensitive about my stomach. When I was pregnant, though, I finally had an excuse for this rotundity. I paraded my belly proudly, like the percussionist of a marching band, patting my human drum.
Stiles describes her own physical transformation this way: "I could glide and be graceful like a big sea animal, a manatee, and be big and slow, and that was okay."
Clothing this new body can be pleasurable too. During her third pregnancy, Wolfe-Hood was especially thrilled to find that maternity clothes were no longer the gunnysacks she'd endured during her first two. "Women used to wear lace-collar dresses with flowers, supposedly angelic, looking like they hadn't really had sex. During my last pregnancy, having the freedom to show my shape felt great," she says.
My friend Barbara bucked convention by deciding not to wear maternity clothes at all. When she threw a dinner party, she wore a form-fitting black dress and bounced down the hallway to greet her guests, looking like a fleshier version of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's, her melon-shaped tummy more passion than purity.
More practical freedoms surface during pregnancy as well. Making love without birth control, for example, convinces you that (for the moment, anyway) your life is still one of abandon. "Not having to worry about getting pregnant definitely adds to the fun of lovemaking," says Ripple.
For many women, this time in their lives also serves to connect them to a kind of primordial power they've never experienced before. As Stiles puts it, "I got to be part of the tribe." As a pregnant woman, I too felt connected to humankind in a new way. I felt part of a much bigger picture, and I relished my new role as earth mother and creator.
Father-To-Be Knows Best Of course, a husband's increased attention doesn't hurt. In the mornings, mine would put his head on my stomach, straining to hear his child. When the baby started kicking, I'd slide his palm across the wake of our child's limbs. Or we'd just watch my belly ripple and try to guess which arm or leg our baby was moving.
"After my husband felt Sadie kick, he paid closer attention to my body, and we were much more affectionate with each other," Stiles says. "I know he found me more alluring, and I never stopped to think I might not be."
When Wolfe-Hood was feeling sexy, she would put on a miniskirt. "My husband would say, 'Ooooh, you look good,'" she says. "That made me feel even sexier." But it wasn't just his wife's body that Rodney Hood found alluring; it was her attitude. "There was an aura of anticipation around her, and I could sense the love she felt for the baby," he says. "I found that very sexy."
While pregnant, I learned that sensuality resides as much in the flesh of our lives as in the flesh of our bodies. My husband and I were poised to become parents. We had agreed that together we were strong enough to raise a child, and as we watched the baby inside me grow, we understood for the first time what love is all about. What's sexier than that?