The other day I was running an errand when I ran into a mom friend that I hadn’t seen in a while. It was great to see her and, frankly, great to chat with an actual adult for a few minutes. There we were, chit chatting, when I turned to pick something up behind me that one of my kids had dropped – and when I turned back around, realized it was happening.
The Stomach Stare.
I’m no stranger to the Stomach Stare. Look – I’ve had six kids. Things are a little stretched out. And I’m carrying a lot more weight than I normally do, thanks to a metabolism that seems to have screeched to a grinding halt. I know these things. I know what it looks like. This combination does not work in my favor. But it still never quite prepares me for the good long look people take at my stomach when they think I’m not looking.
And I don’t really blame them, either. I know they are working it out – I have a big family. My youngest is two and a half. They are trying to see if the stomach is just stomach or if there is another human baking away in there. This particular friend is a super kind person. I love her. She had not seen me in quite a while. My body has changed a lot. And she is a noticer. She would never risk embarrassing me by asking me straight up if I’m pregnant, so she was just trying to do a little sneaky reconnaissance. I totally get it. I have done the Sneaky Stomach Stare myself.
It’s just – it hits you, you know? When I realize I’m getting the Stare, I have this moment where I realize that in my current state of affairs, I do kind of look pregnant. And my reflex is to suck my stomach in a little. (A very little. My stomach does not go in. My abs have given up; they have raised the white flag of surrender.) There’s the familiar twinge of embarrassment. I feel almost apologetic that my stomach does not make things clear. And I realize that I am probably always going to look like this, and I will probably always have friends staring at me to see if I am Continuing to Breed.
I have this love-hate relationship with my stomach. On the one hand, it’s big and jiggly and really, really hard to fit into clothes, and it elicits stares from both friends and strangers. I can feel the Stomach Stares at church and in restaurants as our large family draws attention and people count our kids and then land on my stomach, trying to figure out if we’ve ended this or if we’re currently signed up for more.
On the other hand, my stomach is amazing. It was once CUT OPEN WHILE I WAS AWAKE and two humans were pulled out of it. This fact alone astounds me to this day. It has nourished and grown six people. It deserves medals and awards and commendations. It deserves plaques on the wall and letters from Congress. My huge, jiggly, sticky-out belly is my badge of honor. It reminds me every day that I brought six gorgeous human beings into this world, and that they are becoming six thoughtful, generous, compassionate people. It did good. It really did. And it deserves my love.
And so I let my stomach out a little, and I breathe. And I thank it for carrying my babies and being their first home, the first place they felt safe and warm and loved. I forgive it for hanging over the top of my jeans and getting in the way of my shoe-tying and confusing friends and strangers.
And I promise it yoga pants. Always and forever.