this belly

When I’m pregnant, I love my belly. I love the soft, gentle roll of it, how it perfectly comes to resemble a watermelon, Big A’s favorite food, complete with the stretch marks that look like the rind. I love the ligna negra that extends from the public bone, a dark reminder of being connected to all other women, especially Cocoa women, who have traveled this road before me. I love how the extended curve in my lower back accentuates the swell, making what is usually a malformation of my spine that yoga teachers seek to “correct” a beautifully natural and perfect “S.”

I marvel at how the body can stand the imbalance by perfectly balancing it all, how other matter shifts to accommodate the growing miracle inside. When I’m pregnant, I love my body. Every single piece of it, and especially my belly.

But…

In the entire rest of my life, the 28+ years that comprise the 30 years less the 18 months I’ve been pregnant, I’ve come to hate this belly. I hate the way it looks, with stretch marks that used to be stretched now just emaciated and weak, shriveled and wrinkly. It’s a potbelly – bloated and big, with people often asking if I’m pregnant. It sucks to have that happen almost three-and-a-half years after your last baby. And with small breasts and hips, and that curvy lower back, the belly just sticks out all that much more. I hate to touch it, a handful of skin and flesh that rolls through my hand like cookie dough.

Mostly, I hate the way it feels, on the inside. My belly holds all of my stress, and it’s been this way since I was a little girl. When the cops raided the drug dealer’s house next door, I couldn’t eat for days afterward, the indigestion was so bad. When there was tension in my house, the first thing to go was my ability to pass my bowels – I was forever constipated. When I worked as an investment banker, I was in constant pain due to gas. Today, things are much the same. My stress is manifested in my belly – gas, bloating, constipation, nausea, indigestion, and even my bladder is now involved due to chronic inflammation in the entire abdominal region. My head is starting to hold some stress too, now; although I think I like my forehead 🙂

It seems to only make sense that the part of my body that I hate the most is the part that gives me the most trouble; it’s hard to know which came first – the hate or the hurt. Either way, I deal by covering it up – the hate with my flowing scarves, tied artfully around my neck, the ends covering the shame of my big, non-pregnant belly and the hurt in whatever way I can – I’ve developed a unconscious fear of eating, one that few people know about. Shame and pain – it seems they are always inextricably linked.

4 thoughts on “this belly

  1. The director of the Chicago’s children choir has talked about how singing teaches children to love their own bodies, and the sounds their bodies can make. I know you’re a singer, and probably love the part of your body that produces your voice. It’s amazing how we can compartmentalize our bodies, liking or loving this part, but hating other parts.

    At times when I’ve hated parts of my body (I often feel rather “let down” by parts of my body when I become injured, especially the repetitive ankle injuries I experience when playing sports without braces), I try to feel compassion, both for the body part being hated, and for my psyche that feels so let down by that body part. In any event, the hate and the hurt can certainly be difficult to manage.

    Like

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