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.