No one bump is like any other. A small bump does not mean a small baby. All bumps are unique. The internet abounds with reassurances that every bump is beautiful in its own way.
But if that’s the case, why do I find myself looking up the hashtag of every week I am on and seeing how much bigger my fellow mamas are? What is it about human nature that we feel the constant need to look over our neighbor’s proverbial fence to see how we compare?
Every single morning, I wake up and poke and prod at my belly wondering if there is still a baby in there and when he plans to make his debut. Sure, I have gained weight and literally nothing I own fits around the middle or chest, but where is that perfect little bump I see so many other pregnant women of the same week sporting? I am 23 weeks today. Officially 5.5 months and, according to most of my mama girlfriends, one month past when I should have started showing. But other than my post-dinner burrito belly, I don’t see an official bump poking through any time soon. And then the doctor tells me it could take another month, and honestly, I feel a little cheated. Does this mean I’m only going to look pregnant for the last 1/3 of my pregnancy?
Of course, the grass is always greener and when I complain or talk to women who showed much sooner, they remind me to be thankful. But of course, we never appreciate what we have. Like a little kid playing with her toy thinking, “I want that one” and grabbing at her friend’s identical toy. Isn’t it interesting how things look better when other people have them? Some of the reasons my tummy seems to be more bloat and less bump right now are positive, too. I am of taller stature, so there is more vertical space. I am a yoga instructor and while I definitely do not have a six-pack, apparently my abdominal muscles are hanging on a little longer than some.
My physical therapist keeps begging to keep those intact as long as possible, to save my lower back, but there is something very freeing about not holding my stomach in for the first time in 37 years. So, I continue to push out my stomach at every mirror I pass, wondering if this is what I will look like.
Is all this bump envy really pregnancy vanity? Jealousy? Where does the desire to make “bumparisons” come from? When I look more deeply, I realize that this is so much more than just having wanted to look like I was on an actual babymoon last month in Hawaii versus overly full from lunch. This about reassurance from my body that the baby is healthy.
Seven months ago, we had a miscarriage. It was our first try and our first loss. We found out somewhat early, but the news was no less devastating. Miscarriages are so much more than losing a baby; they are losing the hope that could have been that life. They are losing the possibilities and dreams. Though the loss was discovered at the 7.5-week scan, the ovum (an empty sac, really) was measuring at 5 weeks. These are known as “missed miscarriages.” It was incredibly hard to process that my body did not know right away. That it continued producing symptoms as if I were pregnant, though the baby had stopped developing weeks before.
Just one cycle later, we got pregnant again. We did our homework and followed all the rules from obsessive temperature taking every morning to ovulation kits to every-other-day’ing. Boom, we hit the bullseye. It still seems surreal. It has been a roller coaster from the first positive pregnancy test, and besides a trip to the ER for severe pains (discovered to be a common ovarian cyst), most of the ups and downs were caused entirely by my own anxieties. I cling to every symptom as proof that this baby is okay, even though I know that the symptoms can continue well past a baby’s loss. In the first trimester, my doctor blessedly allowed me to come in for a few more scans and I would feel better for the few minutes we would see the baby on the screen, but the moment it turned off, I was back in total fear counting down the weeks and days to the next appointment.
I am of advanced maternal age (by medical standards, not by choice or feeling!) and we are running the battery of genetic testing and prenatal screenings. So far, everything is coming back quite positive. Yet still I wonder. As I get further into the second trimester and my nausea abates and my exhaustion lifts, instead of feeling better, I suddenly feel like I am falling further down into a huge chasm of my own anxiety, desperately grasping at any branch or ledge along the way. And then one day, I look down and there it is! Is that a bump? It feels hard. It appears shaped and bulbous, could it be? And for an entire day I feel reassured and free. “It’s really happening!” I celebrate silently. “All is healthy!” Until the very next day where I wake up and the bump is gone again and I think, “Fuck.”
So, no, this bumparison business is not about looking cute in a maternity swimsuit or getting a seat on the bus. This is about wanting a tangible sign that everything is, and will be, okay. Something to hang onto and control. Unfortunately, that is just not how life works and from what I see with all my nieces and nephew and friends’ children, definitely not what raising kids will be like. Perhaps the smaller, slower to rise bumps are less about having tight abs and more about holding onto control too tightly. Perhaps that is the lesson here. That the path is never as we imagine it will be or as it is for others. That we cannot control the timing of this little being, and all we can do is have faith that it will all be exactly as it is meant to be.
I pull down the waistband of my yoga pants and rest my weary hands on my belly. “Take your time, little one,” I whisper, “I am here when you are ready.”