Pregnant on Zoom

Written on May 2020

I am 37 weeks pregnant–or is it 38, or 39? The point is that I am so pregnant that people stare at me during our once-a-day walk as if they're scared I'll deliver right there on the sidewalk. So pregnant that I announce when I am rolling over in bed or getting up from the couch, and then declare it a victory.

This week is my last week “at work” before I take off for maternity leave. And up until this week, I am pretty sure most of my colleagues had no idea. They may have known vaguely that I am pregnant, that I’m due relatively soon, but they have not seen me in months so why would it be at the top of their minds?

That’s the strange thing about being pregnant on Zoom, pregnant during a pandemic where you see no one and no one sees you. I am seeing no one, of course, because I am fortunate enough to stay home and hang out on a computer all day. Trust me, now, more than ever, I am counting my blessings.

Still, it’s bizarre. To exist to others in a two-dimensional space that consists of your head and shoulders, when the rest of your body is expanding and hurting and making itself known to you at all times of the day. And yet it’s a time, for those of us lucky enough to stay home, where our bodies have all but disappeared for others.

But I’ve never been more aware of my body: as the baby juts out his leg to one side and creates a bump in my shirt. Or a new stretch mark appears every morning, bright red as its peers fade to a shiny white. And now more than ever, my changing body affects the way I feel: anxious, excited, vulnerable.

Sometimes when I get up on camera and momentarily expose my belly, I feel like I am giving something away, revealing a secret. Like any good secret, I find myself both wanting to keep it hidden and to make it known, to send a message to everyone: “Look at me. This is happening to me now. This is real.”

I imagined my last trimester at work differently. I imagined wobbling around and giving people shit if they ever once doubted my work ethic because of my pregnancy. So on one hand, I am grateful to mostly have this body to myself. To avoid the awkward questions from colleagues. Relieved that it’s not chit-chat at the beginning of meetings. I probably come across as much more professional, collected and competent than I might if I were still coming into the office in my maternity dresses and leggings.

But ultimately, I don’t feel fully perceived. It feels like I am playing a trick on my colleagues, and only me and my baby are in on it.

Recently there was a cartoon in the New Yorker where there’s a man sitting in front of a perfectly placed background while his house falls apart outside of the screen. My version of that is this giant body I now have, this baby moving a couple of inches below the edge of my screen. But my sense is that everyone working from home has their own version of that right now, a little girl asking for help with her homework, a grandmother who needs taking care of, or at the very least a giant pile of dishes.

It’s funny how we can literally be looking into our colleague's homes, their most personal space, and still be missing out on so much.