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Stop Assuming I’m Pregnant…

mummy tummy

It’s happened to me twice already. Some random person assumes I’m pregnant just because my tummy isn’t perfectly flat.

The first time, I was at a yoga training. I was unpacking my bags on arrival day in my dorm room at a well-known yoga center, when a woman I had just met cupped her hand on my stomach and said, “Oh, sweetie, I didn’t know you were pregnant.

I recoiled physically. “I’m not,” I replied, more politely than I wanted to. Perhaps I should have just left it at that, but for some reason, I felt the need to follow up. “I mean, I have two kids,” I added. “I must have a mama belly.” Then I fake laughed to make her feel better – I suppose – and concentrated intently on which of the two small drawers should hold socks and underwear.

“Ohhhh,” she said, giving me an up and down glance. “How wonderful.”

Admittedly, I was wearing one of those super long yoga tanks that could conceivably be mistaken for maternity wear. And, as I mentioned, my belly has that gently rounded – let’s call it “feminine” – quality that often comes from having been pregnant, twice, and having gained and then lost a lot of weight with said pregnancies. Plus, now I bear the everyday responsibility for two beings other than myself who require all of the time I could otherwise put into crunches.

The second time I was called out for being pregnant I was at my kids’ school. An acquaintance was chatting with me while we watched our kids on the jungle gym. As she talked, I heard her breath catch in her throat, and she squealed, “You didn’t tell me you were having another baby!”

And once again I was in the awkward position of disappointing a near-stranger by telling them that I was not, in fact, with child. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” she blubbered. “I didn’t know – I thought – You’re just so – I didn’t mean to – you’re a yoga teacher!”

Yes, this is true: I am a yoga teacher. And it’s also true that I have a mama belly. These things are not, in fact, mutually exclusive. I’ve come to accept this. Can’t everyone else?

If I’m being honest, I have gone through phases of actively trying to minimize and tone my mama belly. With my first pregnancy, I gained 60 pounds. But after a year and a half of breastfeeding and teaching yoga, I lost 70 pounds. I was skinny and fit, and perhaps stronger than before I had a kid. But the pooch remained.

Then, with my second pregnancy, I gained a ton of weight again. (When literally every food sounds revolting except apple pie à la mode, you eat apple pie à la mode.) I fell a bit short of losing it all. Weighing 10 or 15 pounds more than my pre-pregnancy self — or “maiden body,” as my midwife so eloquently put it — didn’t, and doesn’t, seem like too much of a sacrifice. I mean, have you seen the beautiful creatures my body conceived, gestated, and nourished?

So please, quit asking me if I’m pregnant. And no, I’m not interested in another flat-tummy fitness routine. I’m not going to click on a banner ad that proclaims, “Moms, you can get your pre-pregnancy body back!”

Here’s why: I’m nearly 40 and my last pregnancy was six years ago. That pre-kids, 20-something, teaching 17-yoga-classes-a-week body? It’s not coming back. Ever. That ship has added a few pounds and sailed off.

And yet, life goes on. I’m strong and flexible. I can walk, hike, dance, and garden. I meet all the physical requirements of my jobs as parent, yoga teacher, and writer. Even though my kids are now 8 and 5, I still care for many of their physical needs, and I often run around with them at the park. And bonus: The more voluminous version of me turns my husband on.

If there’s one thing I wish that all the mamas out there scrolling through Instagram’s sensational fitness pics (and possibly feeling bad about themselves while doing it) knew, it’s this: A body is a place to live. It’s the medium through which we experience the full gamut of what life offers – joy and beauty; pain and suffering; love and healing. It’s something to respect and care for, but not something that needs to be perfect in order to be perfectly wonderful.

Long live the mummy tummy.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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