ARE YOU WITH CHILD??
"KATE my DARLING! You look RADIANT!
ARE YOU WITH CHILD??"
Upon hearing these words I froze... uncertain of what to do next. Do I scream? Do I melt into the floor in embarrassment? Do I fling my drink at the assailant, or do I run away?
You see... I am not pregnant... I only LOOK pregnant.
I was first inspired to write this blog after reading "No, I'm Not Pregnant," by Breastfeeding Moms Unite. I was somewhat gratified to know I wasn't the only one.
That day had actually started out beautifully. I had woken up in a gorgeous hotel room with downy sheets, my kids next to me, and started the day by staring at the ocean from out balcony. We were attending a wedding in Uclulet, and it is a rare treat for us to stay in a hotel, never mind one with such a view. I was wearing perfume, a dress, even makeup, which is highly unusual for me as the mother of two little kids. I actually had to go out and BUY some makeup especially for the occasion, that's how seldom I wear it anymore. I felt... dare I say it... pretty.
The wedding itself was on the beach. It was a reunion of sorts, since I had known the bride and groom since high school, as well as many of the guests. It was misty and cold by the water, so I put sweatpants under my daughter's dress and sweaters over their fancy clothes. They looked like gypsies on the shore, rag tag and blowing in the wind. It was a Jewish ceremony, complete with Chuppa, or bridal canopy, and the breaking of the glass. The couple both work in film and theatre, and their friends are an eclectic group of beautiful people; not an ounce of fat anywhere to be seen. My husband wasn’t with me, he has been working away from home, so I felt somewhat lonely, and very much the Earth Mother with kids attached to me every which way.
It was later, at the reception, that I was approached by the father of the bride. I was holding a champagne glass, somewhat exhausted from the hike to and from the beach, and glad of the bubbly.
“KATE, my darling! You look RADIANT! ARE YOU WITH CHILD??” First it must be said that the bride’s father is known for being eccentric. He’s a brilliant filmmaker, highly respected, funny, engaging and well loved by all. I am actually very fond of him myself. So what did I do? I laughed. I said, “No, I’m just a bit fat still, that’s all.” I swallowed. I turned red. I waited for him to turn red. He smiled at me warmly, patted me on the shoulder and moved on.
By then I was feeling decidedly fat.
We were seated in a banquet room. I learned that in the time it took for me to give birth to my two gorgeous children a friend of mine had trained to become quite a talented dancer. I should mention he also has two kids. Watching him move through the crowd, loping here and there like a teenage gazelle I have to admit to feeling MORE than a twinge of jealousy for the male condition. To experience the joys and trials of parenthood and yet maintain an unchanged physique must be pretty wonderful. If men are the ball point pens of parenthood then women are the charcoal. We smudge against the paper in the act of creating, changing our bodies and carving a new shape out of ourselves. We grow large, spidery veins appear, stretch marks like frost against the windowpane. We give birth, our bellies grow slack, our breasts engorge. We breastfeed, our breasts bruised and swollen, changed forever from what we remember. We mother with our whole bodies, like charcoal against a page, moving this way and that to create a better line, and in the process find our bodies indelibly altered.
Someone came around to offer wine, and as I lifted my glass I was startled to realize it was the father of the bride. He looked at me and said “None for you! No more wine for you!” I felt redness creep up on my face once again. He smiled, and I realized he must be going deaf. He hadn’t heard me tell him I wasn’t pregnant, and I was permanently assigned the label of Pregnant Guest for the rest of the evening. I was tempted to avoid him for the rest of the night. I was tempted to take a glass of wine to the bathroom so I could enjoy it in peace.
I had my two kids in tow, so of course any avoidance tactics would be quite ridiculous, as well as impossible. My kids were growing tired of the speeches, so I decided to take them outside. My son gathered pine cones and brought them back to me. He climbed a bench and leaped off, holding his arms out like wings. My daughter clung to my skirt, laughing and crowing at her brother. I felt the effects of the champagne, as well as my shame, evaporate into the night air. Soon we were lying together in a heap on the hotel bed. “Oop! Belly!” my daughter said as she pulled up my shirt exposing my mid section. She patted my belly with satisfaction and then pulled up her own shirt, patting her own belly. I felt a kind of joy that was almost tangible, a kind of love that came from my whole body. I realized that motherhood has indeed permanently changed me.
On my facebook site I asked the question: "Have you ever been mistaken for PREGNANT when you're NOT? Tell me about it! What did you do/say?"
I got 29 responses in only 12 hours.
A common retort was "Not pregnant, just fat."
Jaime used the term: "just leftovers from the last one."
Toni Lee said: "I grew eight babies there, I've earned my belly."
Diane said: "An aquaintance mistook my chubby belly for a baby bump and started stroaking it!"
A few people mentioned fertility issues, miscarriage etc, which made the pregnancy comments especially painful.
What are your stories? Have you ever been assumed pregnant when not? Please share in the comments section!
9/3/2010 01:00:57 am
I remember reading that facebook thread, and didn't actually comment.
Kate! Firstly let me say that the father of the bride is SO eccentric, and probably just enjoyed being gauche and making you blush. Secondly, if it can even be said you have a 'belly,' it's no more than a French curve - something that makes all slender women (pregnant and non) even more alluring. I would never look at you and assume you are pregnant, and you certainly aren't fat. This is probably another reason he felt comfortable mentioning it - because he thought he could detect what nobody else would even notice. All this aside, you're so right about how motherhood changes us forever. It seems to render our bodies a different sort of object for scrutiny and debate. I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable making a comment like that, whether I thought someone was 'with child' or not. But then I've seen many, many men make this mistake, and think...well. Bless their hearts.
Kate- I think the reason why the old gentleman seemed unfazed by the "insult" is that your response probably was as out of left field to him as his question had been to you. I think he was entirely focused on your RADIANCE! ("Why is she talking about fat? I was talking about her beautiful life force glowing all around her!?")
9/3/2010 05:54:42 am
Great Blog...I loved your comparison of a women's body "creating" new life to that of a charcoal pen creating art, and in the process forever being changed. What a beautiful visual! Thanks for your insight, it's always a pleasure reading your stuff:)
Thanks for linking to my post Kate. Yes, I believe this is a very common issue among women. Even before I had kids in my early 20's I got asked if I was pregnant. It was mortifying. And I'm not fat nor have I ever considered myself that way, but when I put on weight it goes all to my tummy and gives me a bump. Argh! I also loved your charcoal pen metaphor. Great post. And I'm sorry you had to go through that too. What a hassle to feel like you couldn't even drink without judgment! Ack!
9/3/2010 01:31:27 pm
Ha ha, yes ma'am, I have! ;)
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A blog on art, roller derby and life.
I'm an artist and mother of two in Courtenay, BC. I've completed a project called the "Madonna and Child Project," and I'm now working on a series of roller derby inspired drawings. In my spare time I play roller derby with the Brick House Betties.