By Amy Buringrud
I'm just about to cross over into the third trimester of my first pregnancy, and I'm not sure where the first two went. Juggling the demands of a home-based business, an active social calendar, volunteer obligations, and nearly every childbirth class under the sun, has left me in a tailspin without much time to really appreciate my changing body and the last few months before handing my independence over to a brand new soul.
A wonderfully hedonistic friend offered the perfect solution to slow down the clock just enough to ensure at least one opportunity to revel in this fleeting frame that supports both me and the baby for a short nine months - a day of body worship.
Although I'm all for expensive spas and the very best the world of cuisine has to offer, I'm rarely flush with cash, so I improvised by asking friends if they would be willing to assist in my day of hedonism, and everyone enthusiastically agreed. They saw it as an opportunity to show their love and support of this transition in my life. Some offered gifts: bath oil, particularly delightful body lotion, a favorite maternity dress that magically transforms the wearer into a body-worshiping goddess. Others offered to clean a portion of my house ahead of time so that my day would start and end without a single thought about laundry, eddies of dog hair around the heating registers, dishes, or bathtub grime (not very conducive to a relaxing bath!). A couple of friends offered to bring me food (rule #1 of purely hedonistic days: you need to have lots of delicious, healthy food at your fingertips, but you should try not to cook any of it yourself), so I was stocked up with fruits, granola, yogurt, breakfast pastries, a lunch stew, fresh bread, vegetable lasagna, and a few normally forbidden delights like tiramisu gelato. And, although I had planned to spend this sacred time solo to allow for a day without a schedule, I couldn't pass up two offers that needed to be set by the clock: the first was an hour and a half body massage offered by a very dear friend who is a professional massage therapist, and the other was an opportunity for guided visualization in which I planned to choreograph my perfect labor and birth scenario to visit again and again in the coming months.
Without an alarm, I am still in bed at 9:30. A delicious dream hovers in the haze around my bed, so before I even put my feet to the floor, I sketch a few doodles in a dream journal, while drawing the details of the dream back to me. Once I am more or less fully awake, I wrap a favorite handmade sweater around myself and gently stretch out the kinks of a pregnant body. After breakfast, a freshly baked ginger cream scone, fruit and whole milk yogurt (with cream on top), and fresh squeezed orange juice, I get ready for a long walk in the wooded park near my house. I had planned to take music with me, but opt instead for a time to take in the clear blue sky, ponder the purpose of pain in labor, and allow for spontaneous conversations with other weekday walkers.
On the trail, my belly poking out between my most comfortable pregnancy pants and a slightly too-short top, I revel in the smell of pine on such a beautiful morning as other walkers pass me with sweet, encouraging smiles at seeing a pregnant belly exposed to sun and fall air. Lulled to sleep by my sway through the park, the baby gives the sides of my uterus, my bladder, and the ring of my pelvis a break from its tiny fists and feet. I dawdle through our list of potential names to see if any one resonates more than the others this morning, but none do. I settle on naming the baby either Isabella Sophia Fiona Elisabeth Emma Wagner or Elliot Ian Eli Oliver Richard Wagner. On a day like this, it seems reasonable.
Back at home, I take my time in the shower laden with gifted sweet smelling soaps, shampoos, and body lotions. Clean and smelling very slightly of milk and honey, I put on the silky, red (and borrowed) maternity dress that wouldn't think of constricting any of my new curves and yet still manages to make me feel fabulous, slinky and gorgeous.
Adequately decked out, I stroll into the Barefoot Sage for the one act of hedonism that hasn't been donated today: a foot massage. I am met in the cushion-rich, tapestry draped, and lightly perfumed lobby by a lovely woman who promises to transform not just my feet, but my whole body. I start with hot stone therapy in which heated, smooth black stones warm and relax the muscles in my feet. When the massage begins I think my feet are already relaxed from the warm stones, but as the therapy progresses and my toes, arches, ankles, and calves become slack and heavy, I begin to truly understand the meaning of relaxation. Pressure on different points of my feet allows even my neck, back and shoulders to release tension, and I feel like crying when I'm told that my thirty minutes are up.
Preparing for guided visualization is really easy after nearly an hour at a spa. My friend has pulled out large floor pillows dressed in silks, which she uses to prop me up in a comfortable seated position. Daylight is diffused by airy curtains and gives the room a slightly pink glow. A rhythmic chanting set to music plays very quietly in the background, setting the mood for visualizing a peaceful, (relatively) painless, and perfect birth. We had discussed my ideal birth before getting started, so using the cues I had provided, we wind through the scenario beginning with the first contraction and ending with the baby in my arms. The images come more easily than I expect and I am happily surprised to find a well of courage and strength easily accessible within. I leave with hugs and kisses and a renewed belief that this body is the perfect vehicle for giving birth.
With a little time to spare between appointments, I wander through a hip maternity clothing store before realizing that shopping is not working itself into my concept of body worship as it should, and give up. Instead I stop into a serene Japanese tearoom to try white tea before making my way over to the massage studio. My tea is served in a traditional tea bowl, designed to warm chilled hands and fingers. The steam drifting off the liquid is lightly fragrant and almost as delicious as the tea itself.
Two massages in one day must be breaking some kind of record, but I feel up to it. The room is dimly lit and smells sweet and musky from previously burned incense. The walls are a deep blue, there are flickering candles creating a very sensuous mood, and the massage table awaits. It is set up with a pregnancy body pillow that will let me lay on my front without putting any pressure on my swelling belly. My friend has explained that I'll start out lying on my front, and then half way through the massage she'll remove parts of the pillow so I can switch to my back but leave my knees supported. When the massage begins I am still very aware of my body. I think about my aching hips, my sore back, and the fact that my friend will know where all, and I mean all, of my stretch marks are. But before even ten minutes lapse, I am a completely changed person. I feel much like a large, deep pool of love and well-being; I've lost track of where my body starts and ends; I realize that I had no idea that a person could feel this good. Keeping her word, she works her way down from my shoulders to my back and legs and then has me turn over to my back where she works my arms, legs, head and neck. By this time I am no longer human, simply great potential, stardust, pure love.
Not to be outdone by my friends, my husband has offered to clean up whatever messes I had managed to make during the day, as well as answer to any whim I might conjure this evening. Completely in love with my body after a day of pampering, I can think of a few whims we might both enjoy, starting with dinner, of course.
We are both riding high on my body-love and decide to record this version of my frame to film. A digital camera lets me relax (no photo lab workers to share our images with) and weigh in on the outcome of the prints. He sets the camera to sepia, so the images are all in warm shades of brown. It gives me a golden glow and softens the contrast between my pale skin and the dark walls of our bedroom. I surprise myself with how much I enjoy this; my body really is beautiful right now - all the soft, luscious curves of an obviously fertile woman - and it is so apparent when viewed from my husband's perspective.
No day of hedonism would be complete without letting a loving partner indulge in a little body worship with you. I'm not going to share the details, except that a very insightful friend loaned me a cd she calls the Candlelight Mix, no doubt anticipating how the day might close. The rich, diva voices drifted over us that evening until it seemed that everyone was exhausted from so much love, reverence, and worship and the house was quiet expect for a softly snoring goddess of hedonism.
Amy Buringrud, owner of Media Savvy Communications, is a writer, editor and public relations consultant. She and her husband live in Portland, Oregon and are expecting their first baby in March.