I doubt that very many women can say that they got their old body back during pregnancy. Certainly nothing of the kind happened to me the first time around; by this point in my last pregnancy I’d gained something close to forty pounds and chopped off all my hair. Although I was ten years younger, I can’t pretend I looked terribly good while with child. This time, oddly, I’m kind of pleased by how I look.

I wasn’t expecting much. I got pregnant shortly after stopping a major course of prednisone, which had put an alarming amount of weight on me. I didn’t really recognize the person I saw in the mirror, and it was frightening. I fully expected an enormous pregnancy weight gain that would never really come off, followed by a post-partum and MS-related inability to do any real working out to leave me moaning over pictures of my former self. Instead, over the past month, I’ve somehow gone back to looking much like I always used to, except of course I look like I’m carrying a pillow under my dress.

Apparently, the steroid weight will drop off, pregnant or not. I’ve actually only gained about four or five pounds this pregnancy, something that worried me until my doctor explained that a twenty-five-pound chemically-induced weight gain in the months before conception probably had to be taken into account.

All this is a very roundabout way of saying that when I finally let my husband take some of the dreaded “belly shots” of late pregnancy, I was actually pleasantly surprised.

Of course, lest we get too full of ourselves while the growing child is nicely covered with a scarf, a straight-on view might tell a different story–may I remind you that there is an entire child in there (who, I just discovered today, already has fingernails).

I literally have not allowed pictures of me to be taken for nearly a year, other than the few full-face closeups I’ve taken with my new camera this past week. Can I be a girl for a moment, please? It’s awfully nice to have cheekbones again.

From what I’ve discussed with the doctor, some form of physical therapy will begin about six months after I give birth, once I get through the early phase of heightened risk of relapse. Since I plan on nursing, I’m going to be more or less limited to gamma globulin infusions to lower that risk, and anything that raises core temperature would be a bad idea. Still, as I come up on a year post-diagnosis, I suddenly find myself thinking about the things I can do rather than those I can’t. And so swimming will probably replace running and I may be able to start iaido or another solitary weapon form. It’s just a matter of getting over a certain amount of wounded pride. I spent most of my early twenties being attractively frail, and the discovery of strength a few years ago was fairly life-altering. Of course, so was the panic, when that strength inexplicably disappeared along with balance and energy.

In a strange way, I think pregnancy has been a good body-reclaiming tool. It’s given me a sort of languidness instead of a bone-deep lassitude, and a shape that makes sense (Pregnant Woman rather than Steroid Balloon). I’ve also regained a sex drive, which helps. They say that each pregnancy irrevocably changes your body; I’m just hoping that this change might take me more easily through the transition of figuring out what, exactly, my body can and can’t do.

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