Wednesday, September 30, 2015

All Belly

I didn't even realize that I was staring at the two young girls in bikinis on Ventura Beach until Marcos' voice broke me from my trance.

"Stop staring at those girls, you're gonna make me jealous."

"I can't help it," I whimpered.  "I know I'll never wear another bikini again."

I guess I was spoiled.  During my pregnancy with Gabriel I only gained 13 pounds.  After he was born, and then died, the differences in my body were subtle and undetectable to anyone but me.  At the time, I figured it was the least God could do for me - My heart was irreparably broken when I lost my son, but at least the rest of my body stayed relatively in tact, giving me a fighting chance at roping another husband someday.

True to ironic form, the defining characteristic of my relationship with God, my second-worst fear, that I would never have another child after Gabriel, was put to rest on May 3, 2014, when my beautiful Eden was born a healthy 9 pounds, 11 ounces.  Through the duration of my pregnancy I received unwelcome comments about my size, questions about how many babies I was carrying and whether I was sure and inquiries about whether I was going to "pop" any day.  When Eden was born the doctor immediately asked whether I was diabetic during the pregnancy, and she was pricked to have her blood sugar levels checked three times before they would discharge us from the hospital.  She was healthy as could be.  She was perfect.

I knew that being "all belly" while carrying a nearly 10 pound baby would take it's toll on my body.  I just didn't know people would be so forthright in pointing it out.  When, at about 7 months postpartum someone told me that I was "too pretty to not do something about that baby weight," I was crushed.  I could probably lose the weight, but the shape of my body would never be the same.  That's just life for many women after having a baby.

I'd finally made a decision to buckle down.  One night, or perhaps I should say early morning, at the Grenadier, drowning in shots of tequila and a bag of Cheetos, I decided the combination self-loathing/inaction would end that night.  The next day I started a change in my food habits that would change my life.  Then three days after that, I learned I was pregnant again.

I was able to keep up with the food changes for a time but it wasn't long before my fourth pregnancy began to show itself, as fourth pregnancies tend to do.  Of course, people had already been asking me for months if I was pregnant again, so at least when I actually was, I had an excuse.

Just two days ago the nurse practitioner congratulated me on my very moderate weight gain this pregnancy - only 20 pounds overall.  "You've done a great job."

"I don't feel like I've done a great job."

"The numbers say otherwise."

I know I haven't handled the visibility of pregnancy very well.  I'm short or non-responsive to the people who dare to comment - There's a surprising number of people, a surprising number of strangers, who will dare to comment.  I avoid the mirror after a shower until I've had a chance to get dressed.  I marvel at the distinctive presentation of limbs, hands, and feet that I am able to see with this baby's activity, and know that I couldn't see with such definition if I hadn't maitained a fairly healthy body fat contact.  But I'm quickly saddened by the knowledge that when the baby is born, I'll be left with the deflated abdomen that was troubling me.

"You'll have a healthy body that was able to give life to two healthy babies," people will say.  "Your belly, your body, every mark, is something to take pride in."  But I don't, and I'm not ever going to be that mom that does.   My body still failed two babies.  If something were to happen to Eden, or Rocco, or if Marcos were to leave, I'd be left an older, more stretched out, more emotionally damaged version of the woman I was when I first set out to re-build my life in the aftermath of Gabriel's death and the divorce. I'd be completely unmarketable.  And I'm not yet certain enough to believe I won't ever have to market myself again.  

Maybe Marcos will be disgusted with me, realizing I look nothing like the woman he started dating.  Or maybe Eden will be ashamed by my appearance, asking me not to attend events with her so her friends won't see me and prospective boyfriends won't think she's going to end up like me.  Maybe - definitely - I worry too much about these things, but vanity doesn't die easily, any more than the simple remedy, "Just work out a little," provides an answer as easily as it is spoken.

A pregnant woman's body goes through very significant changes in a very short amount of time, in a presentation that is very public and apparent and seemingly interpreted as a pass for anyone to say any number of things about our bodies.  We're just supposed to roll with it, or endure accusations that we are just ungracious or hormonal, overly sensitive.

I love my children, and I love that I was blessed with the opportunity to carry them and grow them for the time that I did and have.  I wouldn't give back the experience, but it's come with its own price.

$6,000.00 for a tummy tuck and belly button reconstruction.  

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