I rub my hand over my stomach as if there is a baby inside.
I often catch myself doing that thing pregnant women do as their hands rest just below the tip of their bosoms and onto their growing human’s head, or feet or ass. Where do babies normally rest in the mother’s womb? I was only in one for four months. And after that, I never arrived on time for anything else.
A gay man asks if I have kids. I tell him no. He yells across the intimate coffee shop to a mutual friend. “Don’t these hips say she’s ready for kids?”
I hate when people do this. Equate the width of my body to an undesired need for children. I am not ready. I am not there. I am not sure if I want to have children anymore. This last statement dawns on me during one of my therapy sessions.
“Why do you want kids?” my therapist asks. We sit across from each other on the off-white sofas. I don’t make eye contact. Instead, I dig my feet in the shag rug, pause and fumble for an audible answer. It does not come right away. I think the question is stupid.
And a damned good one. “Um, because, why not?”
“If that’s your answer, you need to really think about why you want kids.”
I hate when she does this. Forces me to dig deep and wrestle. Hulk Hogan was once my favorite, but I am not one of Vince McMahon’s employees.
“You right.” I look into her eyes. Her dreadlocks are thin, past her shoulders and crinkly today. I fidget and return scanning the room. “I mean, I guess I don’t have an answer because no one’s ever asked me that question. People usually ask ‘do you want children?’”
I sit there still thinking of words suitable for her, so we can go to another topic before our hour is up. She doesn’t budge. “I’ve always envisioned myself getting married and me and my husband having kids,” I continue fighting my way through the ropes.
In months’ time, I will be more confident with the words I swallow. They will go down like an Arnold Palmer on a summer’s day. “I don’t want children,” I now tell folks. My parents will hear what they want. The sound of them spoiling a grandchild with traces of their DNA that resemble a ribbon twirler’s best performance.
I do not repeat myself for the aunties and ancestors in the back. Or grave. They’ll learn soon enough.
That the rolls along my back are not meant to be gripped. Unless I am on top. That my stomach is not meant to be poked. Or talked about as if I do not know it exists. As if I do not look at my body in its birthday suit every day my feet hit the carpet. As if the words of a loved one do not linger. “I know you love going out to eat but you need step away from the table.”
While in bed with the guy I am dating, he randomly asks if I feel safe with him. I tell him yes and ask a question in return. “Do you find me attractive?” He turns around, searches for my pupils in the darkness. We meet. “Yes, of course. Why would you ask me that?” I repeat my father’s words.
And a second time to my therapist. Apparently, he said A, and I heard B. And now I see myself tangled in the ropes again.
I know my arms jiggle when I brush my teeth. Making Michelle Obama proud. I flash a smile in the mirror remembering my presidency term worth of wire, metal brackets and rubber bands that led us here. My face is wide and fully equipped with a multi-layered chin. Not all hairstyles are created equal along my face. My breasts have spread beyond my last known bra size. My calves are thick and solid. The zipper on boots from autumns past no longer reach the top. My butt is unflattering, oddly shaped and dented in all the wrong places. It is not porn worthy. But it sits high and rests well in a pair of Rihanna’s finest lingerie.
And for that I am grateful for the full-length mirrors that confirm what is known. That my stretch marks travel north to freedom. That this is not baby weight the world sees. It is celebrations, rejections, heartbreaks, laziness, failed attempts, restarts, PMS, joy, fears, mourning, birth control, Black mourning, love, depression, self-care, exhaustion, new beginnings, and the truths of a Black woman covered in fat. And it belongs to me.
A childless, chunky, chocolate chip.
Adina Ferguson is the author of the essay collection, I Don’t Want To Be Your Bridesmaid. Her work has been published on Very Smart Brothas, Defenestration, Midnight & Indigo, Slackjaw, and more. You can find her at www.adinathewriter.com or on Instagram at @adinathewriter.
Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/in hiatus
I love the amazingly funny truth! I can honestly resonate with that last phrase (cause I have TRIED AND IM TIRED!).
I loved your story.. Self deprecation tells me the couch and shag carpet is good for you. You see yourself in all it’s, how did you put it, “chunky” glory. Thanks for the chuckles, laughs and reminding us that a critique of one’s self can be therapeutic.
Wow! This is an awesome piece of writing! The imagery jumped off the page and came to life!
Thank you so much for this. I’m so tired of apologizing to myself for my stomach or my rolls. And while I thought this was going to be a story about what happens after the loss of a pregnancy, I am happy that it was none of that but so much more.
I’m so very proud of you my beautiful Goddaughter. Keep up the great work. Love you much !!!
I loved the entire piece. Your discussion of both self awareness and self love is vital, especially in a society that puts so much emphasis on a woman’s body. Thank you for sharing your gift with the world.
Keep Up the Awesome Writing.
So, l really do not have much to inquire about NOW because WE
Just Talked…Great talking w YOU this evening. LMU DEARLY
AMEN 💕 😂 💕 😂
ENJOY, B SAFE. Hope ALL turns out POSITIVELY w UR Health…n JESUS NAME. AMEN
Adina thanks for this wonderful writing! You have infused this essay with introspection, humor and an emotional power that challenges narrow patriarchy and cultural conditioning. This is Not Baby Weight speaks to many audiences because of your skills as a writer and thinker. I’ve read this several times today and once read it aloud for a colleague who kept saying “that part” as I read. I want to be a writer like you when I grow up. Will definitely be sharing.
I loved 🥰 this article thanks for a great read
I enjoyed your narrative of us “Ferguson” women😱! Great work…a chuckle here and there…but mainly reflections! Thank you for sharing! ❤️🥰❤️
Transparent and translatable! Written from the heart and we thank you for keeping it 💯
A dope, eye opening read!
Fierce writing, Adina. Great work!
I loved this piece. It spoke to me and my body. Thank you for this. Also, love the rhythm of your writing.