Ella and her friend were diving onto me so that we all ended up collapsed in a heap on the grass in the park. Her friend pushed her way up to kneeling, then rested, using my bent legs to support her little body while she faced me.
"Are you going to have babies soon?" she asked.
"Am I going to have babies soon?" I could not possibly have heard the question correctly. It is a question I commonly field from other parents, but not their kids.
"No. I'm not going to have babies soon," I answered.
Ella was kneeling by my side now, looking at me and looking at her friend, as delighted as ever. "No babies!" she laughed and starting repeating it.
"Nope. No babies!" I laughed with Ella. "Why?" I thought for a second about all of our mutual friends, including her mother, who had had babies in the last year. Two babies were born in our circle of friends last month alone. And the other friend we were with was due to have her second child in three months.
"Are you asking because my belly is big?!?!"
Ella's friend looked shy and smiled. "Yeah."
"Hmmm. That's nice. But no, I'm not having any more babies. My tummy's just like that." And we resumed the game of tackle/fall down/tickle.
So, now I know. That shirt does make me look fat. I do look pregnant. People notice.
I do it, too. I check women out as I pass them on the street, trying to determine whether they are pregnant, or new moms, or women who haven't lost the baby weight yet, or just women with bodies that are shaped that way.
The cool thing is, I didn't feel awful. My belly was perfect for the game we were playing, the one where the girls landed on it and then pushed off to start over again. We were all laughing and having fun, and she wasn't judging me, just observing that amongst our friends we have flat-bellied women and pregnant women and me.
I hoped, as I responded to her without saying, "Hey! That isn't very nice! You hurt my feelings! You shouldn't tell people they're fat!" that she just learned that bodies come in lots of different sizes and shapes. I didn't want her, or Ella, who was listening, to learn that bodies were something to be ashamed of if they were a certain shape. I didn't want them to think that I was embarrassed by my body, or that a three-year-old had the power to upset me with that kind of question.
Today, as I walked to my exercise class while Ella was at preschool, I had renewed resolve to keep working out. As I've said before, I want to have a healthy, strong body for my girl. I want to be able to play with her as she grows and becomes stronger. I want to be flexible and pain-free and outgoing.
Also, I wouldn't mind being one of the flat-bellied moms. To be honest.