My third child was born in July. You know how “they” tell you each pregnancy is different? Well, I’ve found that to be true. With my third pregnancy, my belly seemed to grow larger than with my other two children. I didn’t necessarily gain any more weight with this pregnancy, but my belly was definitely larger somehow. I don’t know…maybe my body was already a bit, uh, stretched out from carrying two other babies.
After Baby Caroline was born, my body didn’t bounce back like it did with the other two. Still, three months later, I feel like I look a little pregnant. I have a pooch. And quite a few new stretch marks. I hate to say it, but I admit it bothers me.
About a month ago, I was getting dressed for the day, and my 4yo daughter, Campbell, was hanging out with me as I got ready (as she often does). I was in my skivvies. Campbell reached up to touch my belly and said something to the effect of, “Mama, look at how your belly is still round.”
I was devastated. I was angry. I was hurt. I snapped at Campbell and told her she shouldn’t say things like that to people…that it hurt my feelings. I could tell by the bewildered look on her face that she didn’t understand what she’d done wrong. She apologized sincerely (my girl thought she’d really hurt my feelings and felt bad about it).
I couldn’t stop thinking about the look on her face after I snapped at her. In fact, I laid in bed that night going over and over the scenario in my head. Here’s what I realized:
While I was pregnant with Caroline, Campbell and I would marvel over my growing belly. We talked about it constantly. How it was so awesome to watch my belly grow and know that meant the baby was growing. How we couldn’t wait to meet Baby Caroline. She would rub my belly at night when I put her to bed. When she hugged me, her head was at the perfect height to place it right in the middle of my belly, and she would snuggle right up against it. Pregnancy is amazing, and it was such a wonderful experience to share it with Campbell this time around since she is now old enough to comprehend it in its broadest sense (as opposed to when I was pregnant with Thomas when Campbell was only 2yo).
I’m sure she was shocked when all of a sudden I didn’t want her talking about my belly, especially commenting on the size of it. Why not? We talked about it for months and months. Why was it suddenly not OK to discuss it? Baby Caroline was still very little, somewhere between six and eight weeks old at the time, and she had grown in my belly. Why was it bad that I still had some remnants of that?
Of course, after I had time to let all this sink in, I hated myself for reacting the way I did with Campbell.
The next day, as I was getting dressed, I apologized to her for snapping. I acknowledged that my belly was still a little round, and that was because I had grown Caroline in my body until she was ready to be born. She hugged me and told me she thought it was neat that my belly was still round from growing Baby Caroline. It brought tears to my eyes to think that, while she was still in awe of the fact that I had GROWN a baby in my body, I was frustrated over a tiny tummy pooch that had not gone away a mere six weeks after the baby’s birth.
I hate that society makes women feel like they shouldn’t look like they’ve had children when that’s what our bodies are made to do. Just look at the recent stories about the mom who posted a picture on Facebook of her super fit post-baby body with the headline “What’s Your Excuse?” Or, all the stories I’m seeing about Kate Middleton’s post-baby flat tummy.
I am very proud (understatement of the century) of the fact that I have used my body to grow three beautiful children and then nourished them after their births via breastfeeding. You know what “society,” you should listen to the wisdom of my 4yo who totally gets the beauty of the scars motherhood leaves on a body.
A few days ago, Campbell asked me what all the “marks” were on my belly. I told her they were stretch marks from when my belly grew when Baby Caroline was in there.
Campbell: “That’s cool, Mama.”
Me: “Yes. Yes, it is.”