Monday, October 19, 2009


     A woman's belly is an amazing thing.    In our teens when we are boy crazy, we want our belly's to be flat and firm and our waists to be small.   We compare ourselves to every other girl we see to whether  they are smaller or larger than our own.   We long to have that special boy wrap his arm around us to feel that gentle curve that begins below our ribs to the beginnings of our hips.   Well, at least I did.   For me that is what I had going for me.  I had zip for breasts as they were small and rather flat.   My legs were short and not shapely as those of my friends.  But my waist could be worked with.
     I had weight issues growing up and there were times I was definitely chubby.   At those times my mom would put me on a diet which I found humiliating.   Take going to my Girl Scout meetings.  While my friends would have some cupcakes for snack time, I would be eating an apple.   Yum.  As a young teen I tried to squeeze into girlfriends size 25 Lee Jeans, not easy and not happening.  I was curvy before they made curvy jeans.   During my up and down weight days in the good times I did have a lovely flat belly.   Laying at the beach my belly lay flat if not dipping lower, my hip bones rising up on either side.  One had to be careful who viewed you if they were next to you as they could see what they were not suppose to see!   Those naughty little bikini's.

     How many movies have we watched that made us wonder what we might be doing wrong to not have that itty bitty waist?  In Gone With The Wind, Scarlett is having her corset tightened  to where she can barely breathe.   She wants to know what her waist measures to.  It is 19 inches and she is not happy.  I was happy at 22 inches, and that was sucking it in as much as possible.  I certainly wouldn't be able to hold that very long. 

      What surprised me was when I became pregnant at 22 and I was waiting for my belly to grow it didn't.  Not till I was in my fourth month did I have the beginnings of a round belly.  All the time I carried my first born I loved watching the transformation that took place before my eyes.   When my belly began to move in strange ways from kicks, elbows, and feet I was in awe of the show going on.  Tim and I would lay there in bed watching and wondering what this child was doing.   I who prided herself at having that flat belly had all but forgotten those days.   To feel the ripe roundness of this belly even in those last few weeks where I felt the need to hold it as my body reminded me with contractions in preparation of the birth to come.  My belly tightened with amazing strength and all I could do was breath.   I had this cute little stripe from my belly button to my pubic area exotically called Linea Nigra and not a stretch mark in sight.  

      After the birth I was so overcome with shock at taking care of my first babe that I forgot about my belly.  Two days later while getting out of the shower I looked in the mirror and saw this foreign belly that couldn't possibly be mine!   Jelly belly was there.   Soft, toneless and not flat.  It was like a deflated water filled balloon that went where it wanted.  I was forced to continue to wear maternity pants for a month.   My hips and waist had changed forever.   But my breasts who had been unimaginative had become full in ways I could never believe they would do.  They were beautiful and they honored me by giving my child free food.  Never a bottle to her lips except when we did leave her and then only breast milk did she drink.  Slowly I was able to wear normal clothes.   I somehow managed to actually lose all the weight I had gained with the pregnancy.    In time the buxom look deflated back to its former days.

     Having two more babies I was able to relive the dreamy days of the growing belly and the growing breasts.  After each birth I was able to get back to an acceptable size but after my third my belly began to decide to not firm up as in years gone by.   I had this unwanted gift of a soft roundness that did not want to lie flat and firm.  It was what I called the "Mommy Bellie".  After my third child bikini's were not an option.  Those bikini's went to the back of the drawer and at some point were put in the Goodwill bag.   Only a one-piece would be worn.  One with "Tummy Control".   I found that you could get panty hose with "Panty Control" so at least if I wore a skirt or dress that belly would behave.  

     When I had baby number four at 38 my whole body changed.  Losing that jelly belly was harder, the hips fought my plans of slimming down, and though I loved the cleavage I kept working on firming up my belly.  Lost cause.   Acceptance that my body loved being pregnant as it never failed me on carrying to term or in the process of birth (Though I carried every baby posterior which means that I had back labor.  I would never know what it would feel like to deliver the way most women do, and I bravely forfeited using drugs by choice except with the first birth).  

      Now at 51 I am still trying to understand my body.  The belly remains soft.  Sometimes it is flat, as in days following an illness.  I am reminded in my head of my Nan telling me to hold my stomach in and stand up straight and tall.   Yes, I do look better when I do that.  To the sides of my waist some strange lumpy bumps are starting to appear and disappear.  What is that?!   I can't do my normal crunches or ab exercises due to a neck problem this past year.  I can't wait till I am given the clear and can resume them.  I am still curvy but I am happy with that as I still have that definition of bust, waist and hip.  Larger than at age 22 but I really should have known that I couldn't go back to that size after four kids.   Those celebrity women pay others to create there svelte bodies.   The rest of us make choices of workouts or playtime and playtime with my kids while they were at home was first choice for me.  

     I will always be in awe of what my belly has done and I forgive it for not making it easy on me.   Through cramps, pregnancy, and beyond I still love feeling it and remembering the kicks, and undulating waves that entertained us.  I feel blessed that I still don't have stretch marks but if I did I would call them "War Wounds" and touch them with lotion as I would massage them.   It is a right of passage in a woman's life.   Our bodies a vessel that only we truly learn to know.  


Shannon Marie Pace said...

I like your celebration of the belly -- and the body, itself. Something every woman can relate to.

Ana said...

My belly is wounded, I had a C section when I gave birth to Marco and it was then when I got stretch marks but Andy showed me to love it, once he told me that it was an sculpture to motherhood.......I liked that!!
Thank you for writing all this Ellen. Hugs and kisses


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