Belly of the beast

This week, someone asked me how far along I am. Up until Christmastime, people were afraid to ask because my baby belly could be mistaken for Krispy Kreme belly or a bad case of PMS bloat. Now, when I tell people I’m six and a half months pregnant, they look at me incredulously and say helpful, ego-boosting things such as “Oh my! You look much bigger.”

Now, people say stupid stuff to pregnant women all the time, and I’m sure a lot of them have forgotten how truly huge you can get when you are carrying a family of large, rabid badgers in your abdomen. But every time I look in the mirror, I am reminded that my belly is, indeed, very very very big. It doesn’t help when I try on maternity tops and a size small gapes between the buttons, even while being entirely too long and having sleeve holes that expose my ribs. “If you were a size 6 before, you will be a size 6 in our maternity clothing,” my butt!

As if this were not bad enough, one afternoon a while back, I was watching one of those birth specials on TV. A full-term preggo was having her baby, and I realized with horror that I was already huger than she.

Yes, I have an enormous belly. You would think I was smuggling Shamu out of Sea World rather than incubating a teensy three-pound, 16-inch fetus.

The giant belly and increasingly big baby have changed the way I do things these days — everyday things, such as getting out of bed and rising from a sitting position. Now, I don’t leap out of bed — I roll. More embarrassing still, assistance has occasionally been required. Rising from the couch almost always requires a hand. If no one is there to help me, you can expect me to flail about for five minutes before I find something to use as leverage to hoist myself up. Heaven forbid I should inspect something on a bottom shelf at Wal-Mart and have to get up from a squatting position!

A few months ago, I had also vowed that I would never waddle like a duck. Lately, however, I have come to the realization that I must either waddle gracelessly about or be conveyed everywhere on a litter. Since I do not have indentured servants, I can now be mistaken for a very fat penguin wandering the aisles of the local grocery store.

We can just forget about me bending over, by the way. If it was merely an issue of fat, it would be different, but my fluid-filled uterus and sizable baby do not exactly bend with me. This makes for some interesting shoe-tying methods.

Of course, having the world’s biggest belly (and a not-too-small baby) is not all about embarrassment and immobility. As little Pele has gotten bigger and turned head-down, it gets easier every day to tell where all her wee body parts are. And since, no matter where I am looking, my bulging abdomen is always visible out of the corner of my eyes — one benefit of being absolutely massive — I can easily see my belly move when the baby kicks.

Playing with the baby provides me with hours of amusement. Since she never sits still, my hands are permanently affixed to my belly. Most of the time, I can feel her moving about like a busy little carpenter. I imagine she is making constant renovations to her home. It certainly feels like she is using power tools at times! On the rare occasions when she’s not crashing about in there, I can usually find a limb or a baby butt and poke her awake. (I will have to quit doing this when she is born, I suppose!)

Every few weeks since I got pregnant, I have been looking online at pictures of embryos and fetuses at whatever stage ours happens to be. At first, I tracked Pele’s development from a seahorse to a space alien to something that resembled an out-of-proportion baby. Later, I would look to see whether her skin was still translucent, how much hair she might have, how those little fingernails looked. Last month, I noticed that some babies had their eyes open while others’ were closed.

This month, I couldn’t find any pictures of 30-week fetuses, so I Googled preemies. Not only were there a lot of them (unlike the preemies I Googled at 24 weeks), they were huge. Chubby faces, healthier outcomes, diapers that actually fit — it dawned on me that our baby most likely would spend only a month or two in hospital if she came today.

Of course, I hope she stays in there for a few more months. After all, I still have to set up that nursery! But it certainly brought home the fact that this baby is not too far at all from making her grand debut. And when you consider that I’m only 5’2″, it explains why I look like I’m going to drop the baby on the floor any minute.

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On the decorating front: I finally made that French memory board. In a mad fit of nesting instinct-fueled activity, I acquired the materials, realized I had forgotten a needle, bought a needle, and whipped that puppy up in no time. It is far too fussy to display in, say, my living room, but baby girls are a great excuse to break out the frills and froufrou. In a stroke of luck, I found pink-and-white gingham ribbon, so the board is lavender satin trimmed in gingham instead of the other way around. I must say it’s adorable! And you wouldn’t believe how one little craft project can make my self-rating as a mom go from zero to 10.

Coming soon: Week 30 belly shots. Yes, you read that right — only 10 weeks to go!

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