All of the pregnancy books I bought from the bookstore when I was pregnant for the first time droned on and on about swollen feet, linea nigra, and episiotomies, but none of them them talked about the huge body mass changes that come from gestating and birthing another human being.
Each of my pregnancies changed my body in progressively severe ways. When I was in my early twenties, pre-pregnancy, I was always worried about my little belly pouch. While I’ve always been within a normal BMI, I was never been completely comfortable wearing a two-piece bathing suit or a form-fitting top because of my belly.
What if someone is looking at my chubby tummy? What is wrong with my body, that I have a few belly rolls when I sit?
Granted, I was never really into exercising, dieting, or “flaunting my assets” (or lack thereof). So while my love for my body was lukewarm, it wasn’t ever important to me and never stopped me from being happy.
When I found out at 23 that I was pregnant for the first time, I was absolutely over the moon with joy. Even then I had already yearned for a baby for years, and now it was really happening. I started taking belly pics when my jeans wouldn’t button any more, but I wouldn’t ever hand them out because of The Pouch.
The baby grew higher and higher and higher until about 20 weeks along, when it had no more room to go up. So it grew out. And out and out and out. I am a short woman, so this was inevitable.
I didn’t inherit my mother’s elastic skin, and bright red stretch marks blazed trails around my belly. I used to have a chicken pox scar somewhere to the right of my belly button. I haven’t seen it since 2006.
To add insult to injury (literally), I was deemed to have “cephalopelvic disproportion” by the on-call OB in the delivery room and was unceremoniously whisked away for a c-section that left me with The Shelf. You c-section gals know what I’m sayin’. And now I had The Pouch sitting on The Shelf.
By the time my oldest was about a year old, I had lost all the baby weight (something that has happened all three times and I KNOW that’s a huge gift in and of itself, but stay with me here). And the whole belly thing, while seriously scarred, didn’t look all that bad as long as it was clothed. I wore most of my pre-pregnancy shirts with no problem.
But then I got pregnant with my son.
He was a full pound heavier than my oldest, and while I don’t remember the pregnancy being all that different, there was definitely a difference after the weight was gone. Because now not only did I have The Pouch on The Shelf, but now the whole thing was accompanied by The Lump. What I didn’t know then was that I had developed a separation of my rectus abdominus muscles. My six-pack, however small and weak and hidden in a fat blanket, was now two three-packs. And my other abdominal muscles were too weak to hold my insides properly inside.
We always knew we wanted at least three kids, and so I didn’t really worry about rehabilitating my belly too much since I was going to wreck it again anyway. I still did pilates, which I now know is a no-no with a separation like that. But still, The Lump and its accouterments remained.
On to pregnancy number three. I barfed, I slept, I waddled, I birthed. And then the baby turned one year old, then two. And while I actually weigh less now than I ever have as an adult, my body has just dramatically rearranged itself. Before I was pretty proportional, and now my arms and legs are a bit skinnier. Where did it go? THE LUMP UNDER THE POUCH ON THE SHELF.
(For a good six months my nursling thought that my big squashy belly was a third, giant, nipple-less boob. I am not exaggerating; she would look at my belly with a hungry look in her eyes, and then lean forward and actually root around on it before I could stop her. Aaakwaaard.)
Nowadays I look like I am perpetually four-and-a-half months pregnant, even to the point of eliciting raised eyebrows and questions about non-existent baby number four.
This may be the part of the blog post where you expect me to explain how I’m going to get serious someday about losing this gut and “stop making excuses.” Well, I’m not. Because for right now, this weird mama gut thing isn’t bothering me–pregnancy questions and all. So it’s taking a backseat to running a household, doing things I actually want to do (which does not include spending time explicitly exercising) and, most importantly, being present with my family.
It’s ok to me to be a little lumpy, since I’m otherwise maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle. Maybe someday I’ll care more, but for now, it comes in handy for my five-year-old who has a proclivity for unexpectedly head-butting my midsection. And maybe, loving my weird, lumpy body is this housewife’s rebellion of societal pressures to be perpetually youthful and svelte: I won’t be ashamed of being me.