Liz Fraser is a mum to three teens and has a baby on the way. Documenting her journey as a pregnant woman at the age of 42, here she reveals her desire to maintain a body she likes but finds herself being judged for it.
Week 19 and things are starting to take shape. Or rather, change shape. Mainly, me. I am really starting to show now and, for the first time, I love it.
During my previous three pregnancies, in my twenties, the hardest thing was losing the body shape and size that I knew and liked - and felt comfortable and myself in - as I morphed reluctantly into a blanc-mangey hippopotamus. This time, to my huge surprise, I find I can't get enough of my curves.
I mould my fingers around the tight little bump growing under my skin, and can't wait for it to get bigger. Hiding in there is my child, and the more pronounced my bump gets, the closer I feel to her.
I want to touch her already, look at her and talk to her. Hurry up! Grow!
The reason this is all so surprising to me - and I am ready to be attacked on all sides for saying this, so here goes – is because I like being slim. I don't like feeling heavy, full, or losing my waist. Pregnancy, helpfully, pretty much causes of all of the above to happen, and as much as we are told we should 'bloom' - like balloons being filled with water and human limbs - I admit that I have always found the physical changes of pregnancy very difficult to deal with. I don't so much bloom and grow, as bloat and cry.
I suspect that age has something to do with it. When we are younger, we fight things more. We fear a lack of control. Or we've not 'come into ourselves yet, and can't just let go and go with the amniotic flow - I'm not sure.
As I get older, I actually feel far more fearful and anxious about a lot of things that I once breezed through. But there's also a laissez-faire that makes us older mums a little more accepting of things. And enormously grateful to be able to have all the pregnancy discomforts at all. Everything about it feels so much more precious and 'possibly the last time', so however unpleasant it may be, I know I won't feel it again. Ever. I want to hold on to every second; every bout of sickness, backache, heartburn and feel every movement.
That said, I don't want to let go completely. Not just for my physical shape, but for my mental wellbeing as well. And what makes me feel better than just about anything else, is running.
I've been a runner for 25 years, and I love it. I ran through all of my previous pregnancies, until it became uncomfortable, and then I stopped. And my babies were big, healthy, and just FINE, thank you.
But oh, the looks I got! The scowling. The tutting. 'What is she doing to her poor child?' I am hoping, in the intervening 15 years, that things have changed, and we understand that physical activity is actually quite good for the 'poor baby'.
So off for a run in the park I go, visible bump now carefully supported and strapped up by a spectacularly unattractive but effective combination of Rock Tape and something called a Belly Bandit (basically a giant cummerbund) for a bit of endorphin-releasing exercise.
I feel great. My bump feels great. I smile. My baby probably smiles too. But nobody else does. There they are again: the scowls, the eyebrows rising, the tut-tutting.
Even now, even with our understanding of fitness, and the 'do what works for you' movement, it seems that in pregnancy what actually matters is what works for everyone else. Or rather, what everyone else seems to feel they have the right to tell you to do.
This free-for-all criticism extends to every single part of parenting, in my experience, and I just don't understand it.
Nothing seems to change it. But what has changed, is me.
I know what works for me, what feels right for me and for my children. And I fully intend to carry on doing things that way. And yes, that includes running around the park with my bump.
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