Courtesy Marie Southard Ospina

Seriously, I Wish It Was OK To Love My Fat Belly Even When I'm Not Pregnant

Ad failed to load

I was lying next to my best friend, watching re-runs of Jane The Virgin, when my bestie realized that my left hand was resting on my baby bump. "You do that thing where you constantly touch your belly now," she said, laughing. "Is it instinctual, or is the baby moving?"

At that point, I was seven months pregnant, but I'd only known about my pregnancy for a little more than two months. The baby had been a surprise, and one that I hadn't had any reason to suspect thanks to a symptom-less first and second trimester. But ever since the day I found out, and particularly from the moment when my partner and I decided that we were going to do this, I've noticed my hand gravitating toward my stomach throughout the day — not because my daughter is moving, or making me uncomfortable, but because it's a way for me to connect with the little human in the making.

I touch my stomach all the time these days, whether alone or in public. Now that my pregnancy is more obvious to the naked eye, I imagine most people recognize this action and give me a "pass" in the fatness department because they know I'm growing new life. Suddenly, it's become OK for me to show affection towards my belly. Suddenly, it's OK for me to be "overweight."

Ad failed to load

The sense of shame and stigma I've long felt for having a large stomach — and a large body overall — has reduced somewhat. But it's made me further question why it's usually not OK to love my fat body, most notably my fat belly.

Courtesy Giphy.com

As is the case for a lot of women — and I'd argue fat women, especially — I've had a complex relationship with my tummy since late childhood. At various points in my life, it's caused me to feel ashamed. I've stared down at it while sitting down, noticing that it plops at my mid-thigh, and cried over its lack of flatness. I've covered it in baggy dresses, and hidden it beneath skirted bathing suits. I've gazed upon the images of women whom the world tells me are "aspirational," and chastised myself for being so far removed from them. Like most of us, I've spent a lot of time believing that fatness of any kind is bad; and that I'm a failure for being fat.

Ad failed to load

As an adult, however, I've worked towards actively embracing my fatness. I've fought to deconstruct diet culture, educated myself on the core principles of Health At Every Size, worn a lot of low-rise bikinis, and surrounded myself by many inspiring women, who also understand the importance of body positivity. As a result, my belly has become a body part that I adore — not just when I'm pregnant, but all the time. I love its softness, the way it jiggles and bounces when I move, and the fact that it provides the people I care for with a magnificent pillow.

Normally, I am chastised for all of this: Not by my friends, but by strangers on the street, whose disgust at my rolls beneath a crop top is tangible. I get a lot of hate from internet trolls who wish me dead or Photoshop my body to make it look thinner, and I've been criticized by doctors and medical professionals, who ignore my legitimate medical complaints and offer me a few pamphlets on Nutrisystem instead.

When I'm pregnant, however, much of that stigma goes away. To most people, my pregnancy justifies my fatness. After all, people are supposed to gain weight throughout these nine months. They're supposed to love their stomachs and appreciate the wonders of their own reproductive system. And anyway, they'll probably lose much of their new fatness once the baby is born and they have time to become their "old selves" again.

Ad failed to load

The hitch in this narrative, however. is that my "old self" was still fat.

Courtesy Marie Southard Ospina

There are a few socioculturally ingrained fat biases at play here. When you're pregnant and fat, your weight is given a pass simply because so many people love babies. And to a degree (albeit not quite as intense a degree), many people love pregnant women, too. We are attracted to their bellies so much so that we cannot resist touching them ourselves. Heck, we don't even ask permission to do so, most of the time.

Ad failed to load

If a woman is fat and child-free, however, we aren't taught to think of it as "cute." Instead of cooing over ladies' baby bumps, we look at women's protruding stomachs and think that they signify laziness and a lack of self-control. The stomach, in particular, is the part of the body that we're conditioned to consider a "problem area," because they're the most indisputable evidence of fatness: And overall fatness, as most of us know, is never deemed sexy.

I genuinely prefer the way I look and feel when I'm heavier. It took me a long time and a lot of self-work and self-care to admit that fact. But I got there in the end, and I want to be able to show the same kind of love for my fat, non-pregnant figure as I'm seemingly allowed to for my fat, pregnant one.

Although I do believe my body's natural base line is fat, I genuinely prefer the way I look and feel when I'm heavier. It took me a long time and a lot of self-work and self-care to admit that fact. But I got there in the end, and I want to be able to show the same kind of love for my fat, non-pregnant figure as I'm seemingly allowed to for my fat, pregnant one.

Ad failed to load

Personally, though, I want to embrace my non-pregnant big belly, without being judged for it. I want to be able to tell people that, yes, I genuinely think my fat stomach is beautiful without having to hear about how "weird" or "unhealthy" or "unacceptable" I am for thinking as much. I want to post pictures on the internet that aim to de-stigmatize the myriad ways tummies can look when not-pregnant, without being told that I am disgusting and deplorable.

Although it's nice to not be shamed for my fat, pregnant stomach for a change, I cannot help but feel distressed by the hypocrisy of it all. It's wonderful to talk about the beauty of the pregnant form and to include fat bodies in that conversation, yes. It's not so wonderful to celebrate the fat, pregnant form one moment, and that condemn the fat, not-pregnant one the next.

Ad failed to load
I want to embrace my non-pregnant big belly, without being judged for it.

I know that "moving past" fat shaming isn't something that happens overnight. But I do expect people to have the ability to interrogate their feelings: To ask why a fat, pregnant body is socially acceptable, but a fat body alone is not. And therein lies the solution — which, really, is as simple as tolerating all bodies, in all their potential states, at all times.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Umm, Toys "R" Us Has A BOGO 50 Percent Off Deal So You Better Stock Up

After the holidays, you were probably hoping that your kid's massive toy collection would keep him entertained for a little while, at least. But that was wishful thinking, wasn't it? Because now that a couple of months have passed, all those must-hav…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

A Hot Mess Mom's Guide To Surviving Winter

As I sit here at my home office in Connecticut, it's cold. Damn cold. Winter is a rough season in New England and it's even worse when you're a parent and have to manage cooped up, restless children. It's even worse when you're a hot mess as it is, u…
By Jamie Kenney

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

11 Ways Your Pregnancy Will Be Different If You Have A Boy Vs A Girl

If you've been pregnant before, you might start comparing your previous pregnancies to that of your current pregnancy. A lot of things can change from pregnancy to pregnancy, based on a whole host of different factors (including how well you remember…
By Lauren Schumacker

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

8 Reasons I Let My Toddler Play Outside Unsupervised

I'm not a helicopter mom, but I'm not exactly a free-range parent either. I like to think of myself as safely ensconced somewhere in the middle. I insist on certain safety measures, like car seats and helmets. I prefer to keep my 2-year-old in my sig…
By Kimmie Fink

12 Moms Share How They Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Unfortunately, we're in the middle of the roughest flu seasons in recent memory. And we’re not totally out of the woods, either. People around the country are still getting the flu, and, sadly, some of them are having to be hospitalized due to flu-re…
By Priscilla Blossom

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack