A polymer network can imbibe water from environment and swell to an equilibrium state. If the equilibrium is reached when the network is subject to external mechanical constraint, the deformation of the network is typically anisotropic and the concentration of water inhomogeneous. Such an equilibrium state in a network constrained by a hard core is modeled here with a nonlinear differential equation. The presence of the hard core markedly reduces the concentration of water near the interface and causes high stresses. © 2008 American Institute of Physics.