I Think I’m Doing Anti-Body-Shaming Wrong

Greg doesn’t like it when I tell him I can feel the baby kicking, and he totally refuses to put his hand on my belly so he can feel it, too.

We sit on the sticky couch late at night or we lay in bed with the kids’ cereal crumbs and cracker shrapnel, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the way these things usually happen, I feel the baby kicking, so I interrupt his show or his book or his game of phone solitaire, and I ask if he wants to feel the baby, too, but no. He never does. Not ever.

Greg also refuses to call it “the baby” just because it’s actually gas, but I don’t think that’s a very good reason not to participate in the joy, do you?

Greg hurts my feelings a lot. We can all pray for him.

I went clothes shopping last night, which, as my girlfriends can tell you, I detest and avoid at every possible turn. I think my Love of Shopping is hanging out on a tropical beach somewhere with my Dignity and my Sense of Decorum, part of a witness protection program because I’m a ongoing danger to them and the only way to survive is to never return.

I went clothes shopping last night, though, because I love my job and I think I might get fired if I show up naked. I’ve been running out of clothes for quite some time, and I hit critical mass (or critical lack of mass) this week, so it was time to buck up and get ‘er done.

I was like a child facing standardized testing or Saturday chores or bedtime, all whiny and reluctant, sighing and dragging my feet, and saying a lot of Do I Have To’s and Please Don’t Make Me’s. I went anyway, though, because I am a grown-up, and I can overcome.

This time I went shopping, though, I had a little more fun than usual.

You guys. You guys! Did you know they have full length mirrors in dressing rooms these days?

It’s TRUE. They DO.

They never send me a full length mirror when I order my clothes online — probably because they know I can’t use one responsibly — but, apparently, when you go to a store, they let you into a private room with ALL THE MIRRORS no matter who you are. No Responsibility Test or anything. And then you can do whatever you want in front of those things! WHATEVER YOU WANT.

IMG_4212As for me, I tried on clothes and took baby selfies. After all, today’s modern woman does not want to buy clothes in which the baby doesn’t look good.

Yes, I had to work at it to get my belly to really pop, you know? And, yes, I had to angle the camera correctly to make sure the bulge was as bulgy as possible. But I think we can agree it was worth it, yes? Because how ELSE will I commemorate this season of life — the season when I don’t have a technical baby in my belly but I do have both gas and the surplus belly material to make a really great fake baby. I mean, they always say, FOCUS ON WHAT YOU HAVE and DON’T FOCUS ON WHAT YOU DO NOT HAVE, and I’ve decided to take that advice to heart.

I showed my baby belly selfies to a friend today, and I don’t want to be critical of her or anything, but she was kind of a killjoy like Greg.

“I don’t think you’re supposed to push your belly out, Beth,” she said. “Pretty sure you’re supposed to suck it in.”

I asked her if she wanted to feel the baby kick.

She didn’t.

And then she said people — especially modern, American women — don’t take pleasure in having a baby belly when there’s, you know, no real baby inside it. I disagreed, and I mentioned all of the beautiful projects out there like the 4th Trimester where women proudly show their bellies because those bellies MADE PEOPLE. Stretch marks are tiger stripes and all that! “I’m in good company,” I told her. And she said, “Yeah, but they’re talking about deep-seated images of beauty in our culture and changing how we view women and honoring all people well. You’re just sticking your belly out because you think your big belly and having gas are hilarious.”

In conclusion, I think I’m doing anti-body-shaming wrong. On the other hand, if anyone wants to feel the baby kick, I’m your girl.

With love,

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P.S. Kudos to all of you growing actual babies on your belly selfies. Getting a shot of me and not the dressing room wall was really hard. No one took belly selfies 9 years ago, the last time I was pregnant. We had it easy, man. EASY.

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P.P.S. I bought the pink dress.

P.P.P.S. I also bought Spanx, because Both/And, friends. Both/And.

P.P.P.P.S. On a note unrelated to my belly, I run a writing retreat with some incredibly rad writing professor friends of mine. It’s called the Magic in the Mess Writing Retreat, and we just released dates for 2016. You can find all the info here if you’re interested!

P.P.P.P.P.S. I once wrote something a little more poignant about my belly. It’s called This is My Body, Sacred and Scarred. Just in case you need to purge your mind after this one.

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
22 comments
  1. Tell your friend that, no, actually your are not supposed to suck in. My physical therapist encourages me to belly breathe for muscle relaxation and to draw your spine into a more healthful alignment. Sucking in is counter to this.

  2. You, my friend, are THE BEST. !!! You have a new fervent fan.

  3. This is fantastic; Beth, congrats on your baby. I have one of those too! I am so glad I’m not the only one. 🙂

  4. I used to worry I was pregnant and was feeling a baby kick. Paranoia would kick in and I’d wonder how I could not have known that I was pregnant for so long and omg I’ve been drinking wine and I’m going to give birth to some sort of mutated alcohol baby. Turns out to be poop. Every time. True story.

  5. I said this exact same thing to Joseph after my surgery! I was so proud of my gas and I’m going to need maternity clothes for a while here. How long do you think I can get away with the inflammation story?

  6. HYSTERICAL!!! I wish I would have thought of this! I’m too old at this point to pull it off. Kudos to you!!!

  7. OMG, I hate clothes shopping too! And being a teenager, I get an extra weirdness point! 🙂
    And I probably get a few teenage weirdness points for reading your blog. No, I am not a parent, and I am certainly not planning on becoming one anytime soon. I just like parenting blogs. Yes, my parents know I read this. -_-

  8. See, I’ve never actually been pregnant, being a mom by adoption. And I’ve put on a whopping 55 pounds in the last two years. So yeah, I totally do the “baby on board” pose in the mirror ALL THE TIME. Partly because it’s funny, and partly because I just find it kind of interesting to see what I might have looked like pregnant.

  9. I’m not the only one who thinks gas feels JUST LIKE the baby kicking? Every once in a while I think, Oh My Gosh, I Feel The Baby! … Wait…. I’m Not Pregnant. At Least, I HOPE I’m Not… What If I am? And I never realized until just now when I felt it kick?!

    Yeah, my brain is a strange place.

  10. Someday, I will make it to your writing retreat. Someday, when I am neither pregnant, nor nursing, I will. Please keep having them!

  11. Dang it! I fell for it again! “Writing retreat with one of my favorite writers? Where do I sign up!?” Oh wait, women only. Sad day. Oh well, I guess women have been left out of stuff for however many thousands of years so I guess fair is fair. But if yall decide you need a GBF with you, let me know.

    1. So, to be perfectly honest, Matthew, the whole “You Must Have a Vagina” criterion for retreat attendance is dumb. It’s sort of an easy cop-out way of saying I don’t want to have to do too much hard work when it comes to roommate assignments and figuring out who’s most comfortable with whom. (Although I actually do quite a bit of work in that arena.) It’s like I think, “Retreat full of women? GREAT — they’re all interchangeable and perfectly comfortable with each other.” < --That's, of course, silly and untrue. Which is a long way of saying I'm certainly willing to have a conversation with you about retreat attendance if that's something you'd like to do. I even have some ideas about how that might work. Feel free to contact me if you like. I'm at fivekidsisalotofkids@gmail.com.

  12. Hey… I often think, OH, there’s the baby kicking! (it’s not) and also, my youngest is 4…and I’m not nearly a svelte as before I had her…(or for that matter…WHEN I had her…) and I still buy Maternity shirts…I do this for 2 reasons…One I’m fat, But I am also tall, and so when I wear “normal” fat people shirts they are 99% of the time too short after one washing, and maternity shirts are always longer. And two, because really, I’d rather someone think I’m pregnant, than fat… I Mean I AM Fat…and I own that, but still, if I need to have one or the other… I’ll take Pregnant.. 🙂 Just to keep things interesting..

  13. In the Dominican Republic pregnant women get priority in lines. I haven’t actually taken advantage of my gut at the bank yet, but I’m psyching myself up for it. I have been assumed pregnant at least three times in the last year, so I think I can pull it off.

  14. LOVE the pink dress Beth. You should fly out for Katy’s baby shower and wear it. Wait…It will be cold by then. You should come anyway, and bring your beautiful daughter.

    1. CONGRATS on becoming a GRANDMA, Sheri! I’m so (SO) excited for you!

  15. One time after a particularly indulgent meal, I asked my husband if he wanted to feel my food baby. He was not amused.

    Beth, you are my people.

    P.S. I really really REALLY want to come to that writing retreat. Are they still frowning upon leaving kids in a cage for the entire weekend? (Kidding!!!)

    1. Surely if you put food, water, and a receptacle for waste in the cage, it’ll be fine. ALSO, if you add unlimited screens, the kids are unlikely to notice they’re caged. 😉

  16. In some dark moments, you sure know how to bring a smile to my face. And about your writing retreat, I’ve never really written anything, except for school essays and in my journal, but my therapist insists that I write a book about my life and my experiences. She seems to think I would strike it rich. If only I could put what’s in my heart onto paper, I do believe she may have a point. Thanks for being, Beth, thanks for being….. ❤️

    1. I never wrote anything besides musing in a journal (very short ones that were mostly quotes from other people) and I went to Beth’s writing retreat this past spring. It was an amazing experience. I felt a bond with all the women there, and normally, I don’t even like women! (ask Beth…I might have mentioned it a few times lol). LOVED the writing exercises, and flinging myself off of the cliff of self-doubt. I figured out there very well could be a writer in me. If you want to go….GO!

    2. We welcomed writers of all different levels at the last retreat, Alia, and, truly, EVERYONE brought something important to the table. Loved what Sheri said!

  17. Omigosh. I thought I was the only one who did this. I mean, if it’s halfway out there anyway, why not just throw it all out there like in the good ol’ preggo days? But then I remind myself that my last “baby” is 17 years old, and um, well, I don’t like to mislead folks….so I go back to sucking it in. Sigh.

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