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.