I remember the first time my mother referred to my ‘baby fat.’ She had picked me up from Portola Junior High School in Tarzana and we had just turned left onto the street I grew up on in Encino, California. I was telling her that I was tired of the little bulge of lower belly fat that I had been carrying around with me since I was, well, a baby. She told me something to the effect that I would loose the baby fat “any time now” and it was just because I was going through puberty and my body was changing.
“You told me when I was eight that I would loose my baby fat when I was ten,” I reminded her.
“You’re just a late bloomer. You’ll appreciate it when you’re my age,” she replied.
I’m pretty sure the main reason for my moment of self-image anxiety was because it was my first year of junior high school and I probably noticed all the cute, perky popular girls who were stick thin. I don’t remember exactly what prompted me to question my baby fat back then but I’m sure it had to do with all the issues a twelve year old girl has to deal with. Braces, glasses, a face ravaged by acne…why not throw stubborn baby fat into the mix?
By the time I made it into my first year of high school my acne went away and my braces had been removed. I still wore glasses and I still had the stubborn lump of baby fat on the front, lower part of my belly. I played volleyball. I rode horses. I even tried to stop eating French fries and no matter what, the ‘baby fat’ stayed attached to my insides in the same way that crazy glue sticks to pretty much anything.
Little did I know that the ‘baby fat’ I had been carrying around with me much like the blanket Linus from Peanuts always carried around with him was a precursor to the real experience I would have with ‘baby fat’ some ten years after I left my high school days behind. When I look back through pictures from my last year in high school and some during my first few years of college it is obvious I carried around my ‘baby fat’ right through high school graduation and into my days tromping around the redwood trees in northern California. However, the real meaning of ‘baby fat’ didn’t come to fruition until approximately April of 1986. That was the month I conceived my first born.
It was almost as if the minute Alexander was more than just a figment of my imagination, all bets were off with respect to my finally reaching the point in my life when all ‘baby fat’ would finally be shed. I had listened to my mom for years telling me I was a late bloomer and I thought 27 was just as good an age as any for the ‘baby fat’ I had been carrying around with me to finally dissipate. Then I got pregnant. As a matter of fact, for the next three years or so I was either pregnant or nursing. During that time I not only continued to carry around the ‘baby fat’ I had been born with but added on even more baby fat as a result from having babies. Two of them. Back to back.
What was I thinking? Wait, never mind. I know what I was thinking. It went something like this: “If I ever have a kid I’m going to have another one right away so I can have them close together and then get my tubes tied and be done with it.” That’s what I was thinking.
Fast forward to eighteen years after my last kid popped onto this planet. I started to notice something odd about the way my body was functioning after my first kid flew the coop and was out on his own for a bit. My pants were not as tight around my waist as they once were. I bought a belt and attributed the loosening of my jeans to a new job which had me bustling around like a madwoman four hours a day, four to five days a week. Then when my youngest moved out of the house I had to do something I don’t like to do: Shop. I had to go shopping for jeans that fit. My old, comfortable jeans were too big and as I was trying on a pair of jeans in a size I have never seen on me, I looked into the mirror and that belly ‘baby fat’ I had been carrying around with me for 40-plus years? It had all but disappeared.
The kids moved out and for two whole years it disappeared.
Then I turned 49.
I thought mother was right. I was almost convinced that I was a late bloomer and that all it took for me to finally lose my baby fat was for me to have a couple of babies and then eventually lose the babies to the big bad world. Turns out, the baby fat never disappeared at all, it just went on holiday. Now it has returned and has been redistributed to the place it knows and loves and recognizes...my mid-section.
Maybe it returned because one of my young adult 'babies' is threatening to move back home and wants to be babied again? Or perhaps there really is some sort of internal switch that ignites when the body is on the planet for 18,566 days or maybe it’s because my granddaughter likes to dance around the room while sitting snuggly against my belly.
Whatever the reason, the baby-fat belly is back and it’s here to stay. I guess I just have to love it like it's my own.