I sit on my bed & I smell of coffee grinds. I ache, particularly my feet, though not in a painful way & I feel fulfilled yet tired.
I finish writing Saturday’s blog & I do as I wrote I would & move from my bed into the bathroom to have a bath. I turn on the hot & the cold taps – the former is on slightly faster than the latter. I need to wash my clothes for tomorrow because pregnancy doesn’t allow a huge wardrobe, particularly not in regards to work uniform, & my laziness combined with the chaos of my house has prevented me from doing much washing lately. As I leave the bath running in a satisfactory manner I go to the washing machine & stick some white tops in the drum. I undress down to my knickers &, crouching beneath the window so as not to startle any unwitting passers-by, I put in the rest of my clothes. It's less than half a load – I select a rapid wash & dry. I know I should do a proper load, but not tonight.
I return to the bathroom. I am looking forward to my bath & I urge the water to fill the deep tub quicker. As I do so I pour shower gel carefully into the flow of the hot tap so as to give bubbles & aroma though I know that bubbles will soon disappear.
I close the door. Usually I would not do so when showering, I’d keep it open in case Daughter needed the loo & to allow the steam to escape through a larger space than the constantly open window. Today I close the door. I am alone in the flat so it does not keep anybody out & there is no need for it to be open nor for it to be shut but today I need it closed.
I take off my knickers & I get into the bath before it is full. I can’t wait. It isn’t warm enough so I spin the hot tap to full & reduce the flow of the cold tap. I swish the water with my hands & feet so the temperature is even. I try to lean back against the plastic but it is cold. Usually I would just force myself onto it until my body warmed it but today I soak the sponge with the warm water & then squeeze it out over the surface until it too is warm.
I relax & lay back. My glasses still on my face & my hair still tied up from work. I sit a while &, occasionally adjusting the taps with my toes, wait for the water to reach an adequate level. After a little while it does.
I sit, contemplatively. Though what I am contemplating is not yet clear. I know that I will not feel fully at ease until the hot water has saturated every part of my body. I take off my glasses & take the bobble from my hair. I soak myself with the sponge, ensuring every tress of hair is reached by the water & I wipe my face hard. I do feel satisfied now.
I sit back again.
I look down & I become suddenly aware of my body. I realise that this is the first time I have had a bath since my bump started to show. I remember how, during my last pregnancy, we didn’t have a shower so I always had to take baths. I remember how the bath in that dingy bathroom was metal & harsh, somehow grating to touch. I remember that I did not take baths as often as I should, but I remember so very clearly how much more familiar I was with my body in my previous pregnancy. How, when my bump was big, I would stare down at it but I would not think very much. I remember how my then partner would sit with me in the bathroom & mainly watch me, occasionally chatting. I remember how I never much liked being watched. I prefer it now, being completely alone. With the heavy door shut.
I look at my body again & think how beautiful my bump looks. I do not have my glasses on & the assorted bottles which gather around the bathtub edge are out of focus but I can see my body clearly. My stomach is perfectly round, like a smooth planet surface with a crater exactly in the middle. The crater fills with water from the bath. This pleases me.
I am suddenly thankful that, unlike before, baths are a luxury. I prefer showers but when I do bathe it’s usually by way of loosening tension from my muscles or allowing the notions in my brain to find their place – not through necessity to wash.
I stare at length at my body. My breasts are full, though from them you can tell that this is not my first pregnancy. They part quite widely so that I can see between them almost the full curve of my tummy. My left hand is in its natural resting place: flat; just underneath my bump; only just visible. Beyond this my legs stretch long & slender, one knee raised slightly & resting comfortably on the other. Past my knees I see my toes, playfully & happily poking upwards, slightly turned in, paying their attention to the overflow plug.
I feel proud at just how much of myself I notice & how much I enjoy seeing what I see. Usually my body is a source of anguish & insecurity for me but not today. I turn my gaze back to my bump & a wisp of thought wondering ‘what will be?’ enters, then swiftly leaves my consciousness. I see my tummy rise & fall slowly, keeping a reassuringly even pace as I breathe, interrupted only by small, sporadic twitches & intermittent sweeps caused by my baby kicking & moving. It’s truly incomparable to anything & I could not feel more at one with my unborn.
I decide I shall write about this. I decide I must take a photograph of myself as I see me right now & I must capture this on canvas. I must not forget this moment.
I try to think & to absorb as much as possible but Bob Dylan is singing his song too loudly from the tinny confines of my iPhone. I turn Bob Down & feel better.
I feel the cool air from the window on the parts of my body that are not submerged – my breasts, my stomach & my thighs. It feels wonderful. I am not too cold nor am I too hot, as is often the way when I have previously tried to enjoy a bath. I squeeze the sponge over my bump & watch the water gather, forming a deeper pool over the crater. I squeeze the water over my breasts & smile as the water runs off my body as a stream would rapidly course down a hillside.
I lay & think of nothing much except how still & calm I feel until I know that I am done. I haven’t taken too long. Just long enough.
I decide that I need to be clean so I scrub myself all over with a stiff brush. I could leave the bath now & feel satisfied but I know that I must shampoo my hair so I do so to the soulful tones of James Brown singing 'This is a Man's World'. But it would be nothing - not one little thing - without a woman or a girl. I smile.
Now that I am clean my thoughts are aligned; my muscles do not ache – though I had not noticed any particular point they had stopped aching –; I am complete. I get out of the bath; I struggle to find a towel, until eventually, after leaving a dripping trail around the house I find one in the hallway. I dry myself off in the perfect space of the bathroom – the rest of the house is too cold – & put on a clean t-shirt & clean pyjama bottoms. I cross the hallway to my bedroom & pull back the duvet. I sit on my bed, pull my laptop onto my knee & I write. It’s been too long since I last did so.