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Led by the belly

The first time I used an Expecting Mother parking spot in this current pregnancy was when I was only six weeks along.

Only my husband and I knew I was pregnant at the time. I certainly didn’t look pregnant to the rest of the world. Any witnesses must have thought I was simply being obnoxious by stealing a spot meant for a much more rotund and achy pregnant lady. Maybe I did. There could have been a 43-week-pregnant lady with stretch marks on her scalp, driving to the mall in her slippers to walk the baby out (ha!) and I deprived her of her well-earned spot near the main food court entrance.

Ever notice the most Expecting Mother spots are near the food court entrance? Smart.

Why did I commit such a brazen act of thievery?

My only excuse is that it was an act of audacious optimism and entitlement. I remember seeing the open spot, thinking of my little grain of rice deep inside, and plunging my Suburban deep between the yellow lines without a second thought. But as I walked into the mall, a deeper and more disturbing thought occurred to me:

Good for you. This may be your only overt act of pregnancy you get this time, self. The baby has plenty of time to die…

In other words, I better milk every moment before it was snatched away, again.

When I was about 20 weeks pregnant, I attended a conference at the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver. I rode the light rail several times in two days, sometimes for quite a distance. I was obviously pregnant, but not big by any standards. I looked 20 weeks pregnant, not a second more.

The train was usually crowded. Each time I boarded, I was offered a seat. I felt like a fraud for smiling and sitting. But I sat, making sure to position myself in a manner that best showed my belly to the other passengers. See, strangers? Entitled. Deserving. You stand. I sit.

I’d look out the window at passing abandoned and grafitti-soaked factories, windowless adult book stores, and a shiny new Costco. They helped me consider ruin and rebirth. Not really. I don’t go around having deep thoughts inspired by urban decay anymore. That was high school.

I’d look out the window and wonder if my baby would be born alive.

He was alive on the trains. I’d feel him kickle me. Sitting down was the best position to feel. I didn’t need to sit.

I needed to sit.

Last night, I attended a soccer match between the US National Team and Guatemala. It was a cold, blustery night. My bright red non-maternity peacoat struggled to contain my belly. I couldn’t leap to my feet at the numerous near-goals and only managed to stand for one of the two actual U.S. goals. I gnawed on a big cheesesteak sandwich. I waddled up the stairs with my husband right before halftime to get hot mini donuts and cocoa. My belly protruded into the crowd, parting the sea of cold and crazy soccer fans in my way. I was self-conscious.

I thought it was wise to walk during halftime to promote circulation and stay warm. The crowd thinned at one point and I looked over to see a young couple in their early twenties, obviously laughing at me. I heard the guy say something about my belly. I looked at them in the eye, patted myself, and smiled. As we continued by them, my husband whispered, “They were making fun of you.”

I told him I knew and laughed to show I didn’t care.

I think I did care, a little.

They had no idea how far I have gone during this pregnancy to feel it entirely, in my body, my mind, my soul. I was just a joke in a red coat.

We returned to our seats.

The baby kicked hard.

25 comments to Led by the belly

  • amy

    I have never heard of an expecting mother parking space.

  • I think I know how you feel, a bit. Though I haven’t had the struggles you have. Still, now that I am 34 weeks along, I feel a bit like I can rest a little easier. If the baby comes now, for whatever reason, the likelihood is that everything will be ok. There is a bit of a sigh of relief.

    AND, I totally lead with my belly now. And it is the excuse for EVERYTHING in life right now.

    Kimberly’s last blog post..Doula controversy?

  • This was a lovely piece. I know how you feel. After two years of fertility treatments I finally got pregnant and then almost lost the baby. From five weeks on I tiptoed around, tried to hide myself in too big clothes, and pondered the possibility of losing him for real. I didn’t want to admit it had worked; finally, when I was about five months along my sister recommended I stop wearing regular clothes and trying to hide. I stopped worrying about miscarriage when I was far enough along not to be able to call what might happen a miscarriage; from then on I worried about a premature birth.

    feefifoto’s last blog post..Thursday Thirteen: Things That Are Hard

  • Just recently we went to the mall and my husband pulled right up to the door and parked in the toddler spot – I was appalled… “That is for people with small children!” I gasped. He looked at me and said dryly: “That would be us.” Why have I never ever thought of using those parking spots before – with se7en under 11 four of them under 5 I actually do qualify… Let’s just say it is never to late for a little personal discovery!!!

    se7en’s last blog post..Se7en Easy Science Observation Ideas Activities…

  • Beautifully said, Gretchen.

    Heth’s last blog post..Shattered Expectations

  • I LOVE the word “kickle” – what a perfect word for it!

    Flash that belly and be proud! That young couple doesn’t understand, the fear or the relief. I hope that one day they understand the joy and excitement, and never have to understand the fear and dread.

    Gretchen (the other other one!)’s last blog post..They’re Baaaack!

  • I will admit with some degree of shame that I have parked in the expectant mother’s spot twice in the last few months.

    I bet that baby boy of yours was trying to kick those people in the face for mocking his mama. Good for him!

    Anonymouse’s last blog post..getting carded

  • Good For You!

    Sending strong positive thoughts your way…
    leading up to undisclosed c-section day…

    Okie Sister’s last blog post..Man Gets Panties… In A Bunch

  • Go little boy – keep kickle-ing!

    Bonnie’s last blog post..Letter to Princess Booski

  • Rachel Chip

    Last night I started crying when I looked at myself in the mirror. I couldn’t believe it was really my body. My body getting big(ish) with a baby. I’m 17 weeks along now after a miscarriage and infertility. Your words have been a treasure through it all. (and I got a doppler so I can hear the heartbeat at home, after I read that you had one in a past pregnancy! 🙂 )

    So happy for you and your little boy!

  • Jeanne A

    Your lovely post brought tears to my eyes. I went through many years and numerous procedures to become pregnant (twice)– only to give premature birth to my son at 21 weeks. That was in 1988. And later to loose a heartbeat at about 14 weeks…… The pain never totally goes away.

    Now in 2008 I have 5 kids ages 11-18—-all colors, all abilities, all wonderful and terribly kidlike at the same time.

  • Wiping tears. This got me.


    Adventures In Babywearing’s last blog post..Mother I Hope You Like This Letter

  • Oh, man! I still wax poetic over things like urban decay. Guess I’ve still got some growing up to do. 😉

    Speaking of immature – that’s really the only thing you can say about people poking fun at a pregnant woman. Sort of just a sad reflection of our culture’s disconnect with all things mystical and miraculous.

    Megan@SortaCrunchy’s last blog post..Grateful for Her Tender Heart

  • Very lovely. I am so glad your little guy is kickling! I don’t know the loss you have experienced but I do know the heart break of wanting a baby and not having one. I pray daily for God to bless us again…

    Happy Mommy’s last blog post..Some Answers part 2

  • Rebecca

    You house another human being in your body. What did that other couple accomplish that day?

  • I taught High School when I was pregnant with my first and that was hard. The teens these days make all sorts of comments but at the same time, they were still excited to watch my entire stomach move with the baby’s hiccups. They were immature, but learning and growing.

    I always felt like I looked like a huge lump when I was pregnant… now, I never look at pregnant women that way. I have matured and I see this extreme beauty, this extreme life-ness of this walking miracle. When I was young and immature, I just saw the crazy bodily changes.

    I really enjoyed this post. I have been reading your blog, but I don’t think I had commented here yet. Great post.

    Anna’s last blog post..bloggy bluggy give aways

  • Beautiful post! I just this morning had my 12 week ultrasound (after losing my last baby at 11 weeks) and saw a healthy, growing baby. After so many weeks of wondering if it’s little heart was stil beating, what a relief to see all is well! And still, I feel like it will be a continual struggle to give my fears and worries over to God and try to enjoy this pregnancy. Wear that belly proud! I know that I will when the time comes!

    Lisa’s last blog post..We Elfed Ourselves!

  • Ann

    Yes! I loved that ending! It’s like his kick was saying, “Don’t regard them, Mom, I’M HERE! And that’s all that matters!” Woohoo! (Or maybe he was kicking at them as if to say, “I’ll show you for picking on MY mom!” heehee!) Good boy, Baby Lifenut 🙂

    Ann’s last blog post..I Can’t Put My Arms Down

  • Amen! You deserved that parking spot. And what in the world were they laughing at? Oh well, the joke is on them. You have a very contented, healthy baby getting close to being born. You go! But brrrr…it was too cold to be at a soccer match I don’t care what level.

    Joanne’s last blog post..Thunk Thursday on Friday

  • Wear that belly proud, Mama. You have earned it.

    Jenni’s last blog post..Out of the Mouths of Babes

  • This is beautiful, Gretchen. It’s a great example of why I love your writing — evocative and lyrical.

    THEY may have had no idea. But we do. May that sweet one continue to kick his whole life.

    Kelly @ Love Well’s last blog post..7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 1)

  • I’m pretty sure the young couple assumes they will get pregnant easily, WHEN they want to, and she will give birth to a living, squalling infant.

    Unlike a previous commenter, I in fact DO hope that young couple understands, someday, the fear and the dread.

    Just kidding.

    Kind of.

    Rach’s last blog post..Monochromatic Monday

  • p.s. I dreamt the other night that you named your child Felix Matthew. Beatrix and Felix.

    Rach’s last blog post..Monochromatic Monday

  • I understand this. Totally. Even if I never had to go through that. Never was in your position. I understand your post. Beautifully written

  • ShopKo in Washington used to have those. I wasn’t pregnant when I saw them. I was so excited when I saw them and thought , “hmmm, I’ll use it I’m sure”. THEN, when I was pregnant the next time I pulled up into it. I felt good! I then looked up and read it “For our valued Senior citizen customers”. THEY CHANGED IT! Bye bye mommy to be privalege! Stolen!

    Gretchen, I’m so glad baby boy is doing better. Take it easy and drink LOTS!

    Shelley’s last blog post..Bishop’s quoted video

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