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.