Thursday, May 13, 2010

Writing Contest: Second Place

I am thrilled to announce the next Writing Contest winner--Amy, author of "Lessons From a Belly Button"!

One of the judges commented about her essay: "I love the irreverence in this, and I can also relate to the fear of being judged as a parent. It was really hard to choose a #1 story, because several of these were my faves. But this one was the most unique to me." I love this story for its honesty, humor and fresh approach.

Amy wins her choice of one of these prizes:
~ handmade hat (up to $40 value) from Paper Raisins
~ handknit wool soaker (up to $35 value) from Monkey Muffin Creations
~ $25 worth of handmade play food from Hooked in Harmony

More about Amy:

Amy is expecting her first child in eight weeks! Due to the nature of her current job (she and her husband teach at an international school in Kigali, Rwanda), she is planning on giving birth in her parents' home in the States. It will be an entirely different take on the home birth experience! Amy looks forward to returning to Rwanda with the baby and, while her husband continues teaching, enjoying the benefits of a breastfeeding-oriented society and further exploring the challenges of cooking in an African country.


Lessons from a Belly Button

I thought that I had prepared for this. My husband and I bought baby books, spent hours talking about getting pregnant, being pregnant, and preparing for a baby. We evaluated our relationship and finances. We prepared ourselves for months of dietary and lifestyle changes to allow our 20-something bodies to be in prime baby-producing form.

Then we got pregnant right away.

So we started doing yoga every morning, he started cooking to accommodate my morning sickness and we tried to focus on keeping positive energy surrounding our interactions. We knew pregnancy was about being flexible and open to anything. We were so ready.

Now, at 22 weeks, I’ve met my Waterloo. I’ve found my point of inflexibility.

I cannot bear to lose my indented belly button.

Every day I check that small anatomical feature in the mirror. I take photographs to document its gradual flattening. I, somewhat obsessively, e-mail a select group of girlfriends about the “belly button saga.” And I mourn the progressive creep outward.

But I have to ask myself, what is it that I mourn? I have waited eagerly for this baby and I feel very little resentment over sharing my body for a few months. I enjoy the hourly kicks and pulses of life.

But I cannot bear the thought of an “outie” belly button.

When my navel protrudes, it will be impossible to hide. I can’t stand large flowing shirts and in my current wardrobe any lumps along my midsection are clearly visible. Is that what I mourn - the uncontrollable, “unsightly” elevator button that will precede me for the next four months?

In Delphi, Greece, there stands the “belly button of the world.” I’m pretty sure that somewhere I have a photograph of myself standing next to the mid-sized monument. The navel points up to the sky in a triumphant way.

I am afraid that my soon-to-be protruding navel will have the same triumphant manner. And it tells me that I have to allow myself to be triumphantly presented to the world through the life of a child that has half my genes and reasoning skills all its own. I will be represented, judged, evaluated and eventually remembered through the life of this child. Can I let go of my identity enough to be presented in such a way? Am I ready to surrender pieces of myself to the impulses of the next generation? What if I don’t like the picture they create with those pieces?

In my current job as an educator, I know too well the tendency to judge a parent based on the behavior of their child. If the child is obsessed with grades, the parent must have unrealistic expectations. If the child is constantly misbehaving, the parent must be lenient. Toddlers throwing a tantrum must indicate a lack of attention at home. Serial dating high school students must be trying to fill a parental void. Reason says that these cause-and-effect patterns are true only some of the time. The personality of a child cannot be dictated by a parent, even if their behavior influences each other. But people find it all too easy to chalk every action up to parental failings.

I am afraid of being judged because of my child. I’m afraid of my parenting being viewed as too permissive or too harsh, my education choices being critiqued for leaning too far toward my own interests. I worry about people telling me to control my child or getting dirty looks when we fly around the world to visit family. I’m afraid that people will think I am too introverted, headstrong, hands-off or opinionated because of things that my child says or does.

So I find myself contemplating my belly button. It is still a small dimple and assures me that my individuality is safe with me. But the shallowness of its curve and the way it stretches toward one side reminds me that I will not be able to hide for much longer. Soon I will be forced to allow myself to follow behind. It is preparing me to follow behind my child, to celebrate their individuality and the aspects of me that they truly represent. It is preparing me to ignore the stares of strangers and graciously accept the comments of anyone who feels compelled to speak. It is preparing me to celebrate my own individuality.

So much for the baby books, the yoga and the high-protein diet…I’m going to take my lessons from my belly button.


  1. Too funny.

    The belly button thing also freaked me out--much more than anything else about pregnancy or birth, actually. I remember a conversation in which I earnestly spoke to a friend about my dread of The Final Event; she thought I meant childbirth; my husband rolled his eyes and said "You know she means her belly button popping out, right?" I just didn't like the idea of a body part becoming inverted. I figured my vagina would grow and stretch just fine--but inside-out? I loved my pregnant body, but I was psyched to see my familiar navel again afterwards ... Funny how important that can feel.

  2. loved her essay but I have to say there is always another perspective.
    I am a big mom, and I always long to look 'more' pregnant, and I mourn that my belly button doesn't change at all. When I see an outtie poking out of another pregnant woman's shirt - I have a pang of jealousy.

    I have good self esteem so I don't let it get to me. I am amazed at how wonderful my body is ...
    but one's womans problem would be another woman's pride huh?


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