Please don’t ask me if I am pregnant.
My belly is empty. My babe in arms.
And that question, though well meaning, makes me feel like I’m failing. Even though deep down, I know that I am not.
Please don’t ask me if I am expecting.
That question rattles my confidence, the confidence I have fought long and hard to regain after my world and body were changed forever by pregnancy, birth and motherhood.
Please don’t ask me if I am pregnant.
Because that belly you are looking at so quizzically is not nurturing new life. It is just recovering from it’s last nine month assignment. And when you look at me that way, I momentarily forget that it’s ok to be a work in progress. And instead I beat myself up for not hitting a target I had never set myself in the first place.
But since you’ve asked, there was a baby inside my belly six short months ago. And twice before that in four short years, just 20 months apart. And that baby and toddler and preschooler are growing and thriving in my arms and home, and moving on in all sorts of glorious ways big and small.
But my body has not moved on. Not yet. My bump, my wobbly belly, my persistent mummy tummy, that remains.
And in case you’re interested, my wobbly belly is a daily reminder of the incredibly thing my precious body did. It gave life. It nurtured a whole new person. Three times. And in doing so, bits of it stretched, other bits sagged, and other bits still hang in ways that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to remedy or rectify.
But is remedy the right word?
Should I be trying to fix something that isn’t fundamentally broken, just different to what it once was?
I look around and I feel alone in my wrestle, my part proud part bewildered relationship with my mothering body. Because I haven’t bounced back to any semblance of a pre-baby shape. I’m too busy bouncing my baby on my knee, or rocking her to sleep, or playing with my not so little ones any more. But it feels like so many other mums have. Their bellies don’t wobble so much. Or wriggle as much. They don’t seem to be asked the question I seem to get asked weekly – oh, so you’re expecting another I see? At least, I don’t think they are.
And then I stumble upon a picture or post of one brave mum and her own incredible mummy tummy online someplace, someone whose tummy looks like mine, and is looking to normalise looking like me. And I remember, I am not alone. I do not need remedying or fixing. I need to love myself, be grateful for a body that has done what it designed to do. I need to remind myself that my body is a tool to be used, not a statue to be preserved (as Rachel Jankovic put it in this brilliant little book). A tool that is meant to bend and flex and stretch as it births and nurtures and parents and mothers and does all the things it needs to do to look after my three precious daughters.
So before you ask that question, please pause and look at me. All of me. And maybe in that moment, notice the children I am carrying, the job I am doing, the way my hands are so full of good things that I sometimes leave the house with carrot mush down my front, clothes on inside out, or my hair looking like an abandoned bird’s nest. Because I am still getting used to the new, saggier skin I find myself in. And that’s ok. There’s grace and space for all the adjustments I need to make. Because motherhood is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
I am not pregnant thank you. Not right now.
But I am a mummy, and as such my tummy will forever tell the story of the miracles that were knit together inside me, fearfully and wonderfully. And (thankfully!) there is more to me than my tummy, and my self-worth is not tied to the way I look today or the way I did yesteryear.
Because I know that I too am fearfully and wonderfully put together, that I am worth more than rubies, and that I was made for such a time as this. Most of all, I know that I am loved – truly, madly and outrageously. And that love, that raging, all abounding LOVE, is my safe place, my refuge, the strong foundation that my identity is built on.
So thank you for asking me if I am pregnant. Thank you for causing me to dig deep and look at what really sits behind the emotions that that question brings to the surface in my heart. Thank you for helping me to remember and celebrate who I am, the job I’ve been tasked with, and the epic adventures that my body and I have been on together. Now onwards and upwards I go, wobbly rounded tummy and all.
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