“Anna, you have a belly!” My neighbor said jubilantly, pointing at my midsection. I’d just gotten out of my car and was going up the stairs to my door. My neighbor, Pat, is one of the cutest little old ladies you’ll ever meet and she had stopped on her way out to greet me.
“Oh yeah,” I tried smiling, “Almost twenty weeks now.”
We made small talk for a few more minutes before she left and I went inside. I shut the door and leaned against it, rubbing my hands over where my stomach bulged in my fitted workout tank. I swallowed the unease that rose in my throat and told myself, again, that it was perfectly normal for someone to point out a belly during pregnancy. It’s been happening a lot lately.
I don’t have a good relationship with my stomach. I remember when I was ten or so, standing in the shower and looking down at my tummy. I was caught by its curve and the way it stuck out more than I thought it should. It bothered me even back then. Growing up, any time I tried on clothes in a dressing room, I’d examine how my stomach looked. Did it stick out too far? Did the clothes accentuate that I had a big stomach or did they hide it? By the time I hit college, my weight tended to fluctuate, and it always happened in my waistline. It’s the only place that I would put on weight.
Once—I think it was when I was a junior in college—when I was checking out at the grocery store, the clerk asked me when my baby was due. Shocked, I mumbled that I wasn’t pregnant and avoided her embarrassed look. When I got home, I tore off my shirt and vowed to never wear it again. That memory sticks with me like hot glue. I became even more careful with what I wore, hoping that no one’s eyes would travel to my stomach again. Until recently, whenever I was feeling self-conscious, I’d throw on a big t-shirt and let myself swim in it, hiding my shape from myself.
But now I’m pregnant and I’ve been putting on a lot of weight, all right in the middle. So how does pregnancy change things?
In pregnancy, the stomach is celebrated. Maternity clothes tend to be fitted, accentuating the bump. Putting on weight for once is a good thing—it’s natural and it’s supposed to happen. The belly is the home of the baby, so it becomes sacred.
It’s strange to “celebrate” the one part of my body that I have hated for so long. It seems absolutely foreign to me. I am supposed to do a complete 180 degree turn, from hatred to love. How do I do this?? I can’t keep hiding my shape. My belly has popped and it’s only going to get bigger from here. No more hiding.
When someone comments on my bump (which people are surprisingly prone to do), I want to be able to handle it with grace. I don’t want to be embarrassed—I want to be proud! I’m supposed to look pregnant right now. It’s a complete shift in mindset, and it’s one I need to do.
I think pregnancy may change the relationship I have with my stomach. Maybe it doesn’t have to be the enemy anymore. Maybe after I have the baby, I can still love that part of myself. Wouldn’t that be revolutionary? It seems impossible, but my life would be so much sweeter if I could be at peace with my stomach.
What about you? Is there a part of your body that you need to make peace with? You don’t have to be pregnant to begin self-love. I wish I’d started a long time ago.