Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I'm On A Mummy Tummy Watch

Baby Bump Watch! Is she bloated or pregnant? Or maybe, God forbid, she’s just a bit chubby. Practically every actress under the age of thirty has been examined, and as the celebrity subject has learned, Baby Bump Watches are unforgiving. Since 2006 poor Reese Witherspoon has been on the Baby Bump Watch List. A whole three years – and the woman’s been through a divorce to boot.

To all the gorgeous creatures who forever circle the dreaded Baby Bump Watch list, and that means you Kate Hudson, Reese Witherspoon, and Jennifer Aniston: I could care less if you’re pregnant.

I’m on a different watch: the Mummy Tummy Watch. Yes, that’s right, I’m on the lookout for that jelly belly state of a post-partum mother’s midsection. I want to see a stomach that’s been stretched and pulled. A stomach that’s given up. A stomach that forgot how to be taut. I’m on a quest for squishy and mushy; a rounded belly like a half moon in a permanent state of eclipse.

As a thirty-eight-year-old woman two children – the younger, an 12-week-old baby -- I’ve got the Mummy Tummy. Needless to say, I’ve also got the Mummy Thighs and the Mummy Arms. My arms, which used to be like twigs, are now the size of large branches. Who am I kidding? They’re tree trunks.

But let’s go back to the belly. My belly, never my best attribute, sticks out like a sore thumb and looks like a rounded turtle shell peeping through the crest of the water. Though my daughter is eleven weeks, I look about three months pregnant.

In the bank the other day, the teller gazed at my stomach as I rocked my daughter’s stroller. I quickly sucked in the Mummy Tummy, though my efforts did nothing. Wearing black did nothing. I could see in her cheery face that she was about to toss me the worst question ever:

How many weeks?
Me, or the baby?
No, dear. You.

My mother always taught me never to revel in someone else’s agony, but it’s in that space that I’ve found solace. While pumping at my husband’s desk (I know, it’s wrong, but he really does have a better computer), I click through the gossip sites searching for my favorite post-partum celebs, hoping for a glimpse of midsection imperfection.

Rebecca Romaine was a recent favorite when she admitted to wearing Spanx “underneath almost everything.” Even gym clothes? Isn’t that cheating? No! Rebecca Romaine, like every other new mother on the planet, needed a confidence boost. In return, her lack of confidence pumped mine: if Rebecca Romaine needed to wear Spanx when food shopping, then maybe my Mummy Tummy wasn’t so bad.

Then Rebecca Romaine did something awful. She appeared on the cover of In Style magazine looking... skinny. I know, I know. They airbrush cover models. And of course, there are her genes. Still, I looked for some glimpse of fat peeking out of the back of her gown. Nothing. Zip. Worse, she had the nerve to say she went up a size since having the babies. What size might that be Rebecca Romaine? A two? No, I needed to move on.

I quickly found photos of Jennifer Garner in a baggy orange shirt and big black sweats walking her precious Violet to school. My eyes floated down to the belly, and there it was. A bulge. An ever so slight pouf. No Spanx for Jen Garner! Jen Garner wasn’t even trying to hold it in. Age and pregnancy will always get the best of you, even for a woman who not so long ago played an ass-kicking assassin on television. So her body wasn’t back together right after having a baby. So her arms looked like guns, and I don’t mean Magnums – I mean Uzis. Jen Garner looked like... me!

Satisfied with Jennifer Garner’s Mummy Tummy, I took a break from my search. But while pumping and looking at the gossip sites the next day (what else are you supposed to do while pumping, I ask you?), I hit the jackpot.

Trained for over two decades to look at her smile, not her midsection, I didn’t look down when I first saw a picture of Julia Roberts on the beach in Hawaii. Instead, I thought of an interview she gave a few years back when she admitted to being three months pregnant in “Charlie Wilson’s War.” She told the reporter that she had never worn a bikini in a movie before and there she was, trying to suck it in. “You can’t suck it in when you’re pregnant,” she said, making it seem like a disaster. Well, I saw “Charlie Wilson’s War,” and your body looked pretty fine, Julia Roberts, especially after having twins. There was no inkling of a Mummy Tummy then.

Fast forward a few years and things have changed – namely, her belly. Julia Roberts’s stomach was like a cup of overstirred cream. Lovely and soft, it curdled as she ran, and though the rest of her body was tight – legs looked great, arms faboush, smile, gorgeous – the belly was all over the place. We’re talking about Julia Roberts! One of the biggest stars of all time, gallivanting around with her Mummy Tummy in all its glory.

I kissed the screen, turned off the computer (and my pump), and went into my bathroom get a peek of my own midsection. There was my belly, looking full and expanded. My pregnancy line from my mid-abdomen to below my navel was still dark, and my belly button was three times the size it had been before I had two kids. There I was with my Mummy Tummy. It would go down eventually, or maybe it wouldn’t. Still, I was in pretty good company.

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