Like every mother I know, harboring a small life and pushing it out has made some changes to my body. I’ve always been petite, 5’3″ and between 115 and 125 pounds depending on the season and the Oreo stockpile in my household. Pre-baby, I was one of those chicks who could consume twice my body mass in sugar and alcohol, go to bed with a bloat, deflate overnight and wake up with a flat stomach again. This was my blessing and curse for my first 25 years.
I didn’t expect my body to “bounce back” (what are we, basketballs?) immediately after pregnancy. I felt like I looked pretty good when baby was about three months old, and when one of my aunts empathized, “people say six weeks, but I believe it really takes a year for our bodies to go back to normal,” I thought, I have this in the bag. I even thought I might be sexier post-baby now that I can fill out a bra.
I don’t like to use colloquialisms from Exerciseland, but it seems I have plateaued. Arms are somewhat toned, legs are back to normal, butt is lovely as before, even those dark red stretch marks have faded to nearly invisible silver dashes. But if I’m not actively sucking in, my stomach looks four months pregnant.
This pot belly I’m carrying in front of me wasn’t something I noticed much until I went back to work full-time. Awhile ago, I had a weird interruption in my cycle where I had some spotting exactly two weeks before my period. This has never happened to me — my cycle has been like clockwork for the longest time. I even had my baby on her due date, which I think is the first time that’s happened in the history of the world. So this sudden spotting thing, well, it had me worried because my husband and I don’t want another child, but I was also a little excited because babies!
So for two weeks, two whole weeks, I held off on taking a pregnancy test. Meanwhile, I was having nausea issues, food aversions, and I was super emotional. I also appeared to be gaining weight, but only in my midsection. And then, get this, every once in awhile I would feel something moving in my lower abdomen. Sometimes it was a little flutter, other times it was like something turning slowly. I texted one of my mom friends about it and she replied, “OMG I thought I was losing my mind, this keeps happening to me too but I’m not pregnant!”
Despite my friend’s reassurance, I still wasn’t about to write this all off. Because the one thing I didn’t want to take responsibility for was this weird stupid weight gain isolated in my stomach area. My weight has fluctuated in the past, but it always seems to spread out, targeting my arms first and just filling out evenly everywhere else. So this was bizarre. No, this was proof that I was pregnant. I had to be!
So when that two weeks passed and I should have had a real period, I bought a three pack of pregnancy tests. I took the first one that day, negative. Aside: does anybody else take a test that comes out negative, toss it in the garbage and walk away, and then imagine a camera panning in to the garbage to reveal the test changing to positive like dramatic irony in some terrible Lifetime movie? No? Moving on.
My husband told me to wait another week before taking my second test, so naturally I took it two days later. Negative again. At this point, I’m getting seriously pissed off, because I’m still fat and appear to be getting fatter. I think this is when I also came to realize that maybe I’m just looking for justification for my bad habits, because people don’t judge as much when you’re a pregnant lady eating brown sugar by the spoonful because you ran out of actual dessert yesterday.
I held off another week on that third test, because I still didn’t have a period, and I was still feeling bizarre flutters in my uterus. I used my first morning’s urine like a good girl, certain that this time the test would be positive and I could stop stressing about my bulge (although I never actually stop stressing about anything, I just find other equally incredulous explanations, like maybe I have a tumor, or I swallowed a whole watermelon in my sleep). My final test was negative.
Since then, I have had another period, seemingly regular. Even though all signs indicate that my uterus is indeed empty, I still play out my imagined segment on “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant,” in which I’m choking out a “toldja so!” to my baffled husband through weepy mom tears.