Don’t Judge the Expectant Mother by the Belly
By Becki Melchione
“So, I hope you don’t mind if I ask this, but are you jealous?” a new friend asks after I tell her that another woman is pregnant with my twins.
I pause, thinking for a moment, and then respond with the first thing that pops in my mind, “Jealous of who? Of her? No.”
The more I think about it, the more sure I am that I am definitely not jealous of my carrier. Bunny is an amazing person for even doing this. She is open, honest, and quick to laugh. I admire her ability to get pregnant — she likes to say that the only safe time she and her husband can have sex without getting pregnant is when she’s already pregnant — and her skill as a mother, deftly handling three under the age of six almost by herself. She sends me photos of her growing belly and tells me when she feels a flutter that she thinks one of the babies is moving. Although the babies aren’t growing in me, she does her best to make me feel involved. No, I am definitely not jealous of her. I am grateful for her.
But then I go to Babies ‘R Us and see all of the women and their bellies. Big bulbous bellies that command respect and oooohs and aaaahs.
“How far along are you?” I overhear the sales people ask, trying to strike up a conversation in the hopes of increasing their sales. The sales people don’t come up to me. They don’t try to sell me strollers or high chairs. They don’t offer any advice. I don’t look like a balloon about to pop. I don’t look anxious to get everything I need today because I’m counting down the days until the baby arrives.
Then, I feel a twinge of something. Like I want some attention too. So I ask the young sales guy for advice about strollers.
“Excuse me, can you tell me what the difference is between the City Mini and the Britax jogger styles?”
The middle-aged man says, “Well, they’re basically the same. The Britax is basically a copy of the City Mini. The City Mini comes in more colors and the Britax only comes in red and black. There are a few other differences like…”
A young father walks by with an orange Citi Mini and says to me, “You should get the City Mini. We love it and it’s our third stroller. We should have just bought it first.”
I smile at this father, not just for his recommendation, but because he assumed (rightly, if more importantly without judgment or any further thought) that I am an expecting mother. Perhaps he remembers the bewildered feeling he had accompanying his wife for the first time to the baby mega store and how distanced and overwhelmed he felt, how unapart from the process he felt while the baby grew inside his wife.
Later, I watch a pregnant woman try to reach for some diapers on an upper shelf. I imagine her life, her excitement at what is about to happen. I thought about her worries, how to comfort her crying baby, whether the baby will take to breast feeding, whether she will return to work. I have those same worries and then some, the top of the list being, “Will I be around to to watch them grow into teenagers and adults?”
I am incredibly jealous of the relative insignificance of her worries. “It must be nice to have those worries…” but then I realize that this is the moment that she has been waiting for for years. Having a baby is the most important thing in her life. It will define and change everything, if it has not already. She’s probably feeling the same amount of anxiety and fear as I am, for the same reason. We both want to be the best mothers possible.
“Let me get that for you,” I offer, as I reach for the Huggies newborn diapers.
“Thank so much.” she begins, and glances to her belly, “This is getting hard.”
“I understand,” I reply.