Saturday, August 9, 2014

The seventh month itch

I had heard my friends, who were in the dreaded third trimester or had already had one or a few tikes, roll their eyes and shake their heads, warning me abjectly about the Big Itch. I insouciantly did not take heed to immerse myself in a coco butter bath daily, not having any issues with my skin. Curse the caprice of the cosmos! With one slap of fate, I am battling an imperious itch through a policy of attrition and am submerged in my own Verdun.

While no women wants stretch marks, I had determined that there was no panacea for pregnancy's ills and no prophylactic for any of its symptoms, so that the use of coca butter, which I do not deny is quite nourishing for the skin in any case, would not withstand the conquest of stretch marks. Admittedly, the heat and humidity of NYC in the summer did much to sway me away from adding layers of butter onto my skin, particularly as my A/C, as if harboring animus for me all these years, decided to dramatically end its days in a burst of spite in the middle of July.

One other factor in my shrewd calculation was that I already had pre-pregnancy stretch marks from puberty and concluded that if puberty caused me stretch marks, which is not common (but then again nor is being 14 with a stick boy figure and not wearing any bra as there was nothing for such bra to hold, to in a matter of months gain 9 kilograms and wear a C cup - with my breasts displaying what appeared as the frayed wings of a rising Phoenix from thereon), then the marks of pregnancy already had my fate in their clutches, so that my choice was merely to go with the flow or follow in Oedipus's footsteps. I chose the former.

I did have some concern for my tattoo, a souvenir from a spontaneous stroll down Portobello road to its market when I was 23 and immersed in the "moment" (save for the day of July 7, 2005, which brought us to heel). I had chosen to have a small star on my right hip, to the the distress of the artist who complained that it would be too small. I retorted that the tattoo was for me and not for display (although I can't even see it anymore!). I chose a star for two reasons. One, I was born and lived till the age of 7 in a Communist country that later ended its days in self-mutilation and disembowelment, in a much less elegant way than performing seppuku, and I remember the time, before the cloud descended and the storm unleashed its fury, growing up with my extended family there as a haven, and two, I understood that I had spent the smallest part of my existence as me - that I came from stardust and would return to the stars. Every time I was embroiled in my own concerns and cursing why the cosmos had determined to foil me at every step, I had my souvenir to remind me that none of this mattered and I was part of the whole. And now my little souvenir has been lost underneath the conquest of my rising belly and I dare not think what shape my star may have turned into once my little boy arrives and my belly packs its bags and leaves for an extended and well deserved sojourn.

The first thing I noticed apart from my darkened and expanding nipples, was the descent of the linea nigra, as if an incision had been made down my tummy. For months it has been darkening and is now quite noticeable (a Chinese lady remarked to me that I was having a boy because it was so dark - she was right, although I am not sure whether having a darkened linea nigra is a good measure of sex) with a swirl around my belly button (or more accurately the area where my belly button used to be since it has since disappeared into the depths of my belly and something utterly different has taken its place). I have read that hormones affect pigmentation and hence we receive this line, however, that answer seems highly inadequate to me. For while it can account for the darkened pigmentation, how does it account for the actual line and circle that it produces? I must admit I haven't thoroughly investigated, but then again, I enjoy the mystery of it - the magical mark of pregnancy displaying the miracle that it truly is.

But back to my battle with the Big Itch. Once it came, it came with fury. At first I couldn't help but scratch, which caused red rashes on my stomach and quite a few raised eyebrows from surrounding company and a meek explanation from me that I was not carrying lice. I was quickly humbled and became a faithful user of coca butter. I also avidly use coconut oil and kukui oil. They may not conquer the march of the marks, but they certainly quell the fury of the Big Itch, at least for a time and any time without the need to madly scratch the surface which houses your baby is good enough for me...

I am embarrassed to admit, but tis true, the unseasonal temperate weather we have been enjoying in NYC the past couple of weeks, due to another polar vortex - a symptom of the destruction of our earth's current environment caused by our myopia- has only put a smile of relief on my face. I know it's selfish, but walking around immersed in butter and oil and carrying a lot more weight in a seasonal August - and without an A/C!- is a horror I am thankful, at at least in this limited time, I am living without.

There are times when the Big Itch rises and I do not have butter nor oil at the ready. I have decided to try to take this in stride - some yogis intentionally go through manufactured torture - so I am (trying) to utilise the Big Itch as a chance for me to let go even in maddening circumstances. Last night, during my prenatal yoga class, as the Big Itch descended, I was proud of myself for letting go and breathing through it. Then the fan decided to clank every two seconds. I couldn't help but laugh. The clank would either bring me down back to the beginning when I gave into the scratching or make me stronger in my practice. I breathed through it and wondered what the third would be, challenging the universe to slap me with another annoyance. And yet, none came as if I had passed some test, at least for that day.






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