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Pregnancy is a humbling experience. Family, friends, total strangers feel compelled to comment on the size and shape of my body. The rounder I become, the bolder people get. At 28 weeks out of a 40-week pregnancy, I have taken on the dimensions of a big, comfy sofa. My arms and legs and ass are round. My belly protrudes like the nose cone on a 747. Between now and the end of September, when my fifth child is due to arrive, I know I’ll only get bigger.

My children let me know how big I am. Living in a house filled with four children aged seven or younger, I long ago abandoned the concept of privacy. Last Monday morning, I stepped into the shower about 7:30. My husband Jack had left for work a few minutes before 6:00, while the rest of us slept. Rebecca, Angela, Lucy, and John had awakened one at a time and joined me in Jack’s and my giant bed. At 7:30 as I closed the bathroom door behind me, Rebecca read a book to two-year-old Johnny. Angela and Lucy played quietly with some stuffed animals in the corner.

“I really like the way you guys are playing nicely together,” I told the two younger girls. “And Rebecca, thank you for reading to Johnny. I’m going to take my shower. I’ll be out in just a few minutes.”

I ran the shower until the water turned hot then stepped under the steamy spray. I watched rivulets run down the great curve of my belly and disappear over the edge. Above the shower’s hiss, I heard Johnny wail. The doorknob jiggled for about 30 seconds, then the door flew open. Through the shower door’s opaque glass, I could see Johnny’s small outline. “Momma no take a shower,” he cried.

“I’ll be out in just a second,” I called, rinsing the shampoo from my hair.

“Okay, Momma,” Johnny sniffed and disappeared out the door.

When I stepped out of the shower a minute or so later, Johnny’s shape had been replaced by five-year-old Angela’s. Angela gazed at my great naked body. From her perspective, eyes about level with my protruding navel, I must have looked like a super tanker viewed from the deck of a small sailing ship. “Mommy,” Angela said with a tone of wonder in her voice, “your tummy is getting fatter.”

“That’s right,” I told her, toweling water from the fat tummy. “That’s because the baby is getting bigger.”

“Mommy,” Angela continued, “your legs are getting fatter.”

“That’s right,” I answered again. “That’s what happens when I have a baby in my tummy. I get bigger all over.”

“Mommy,” Angela hadn’t finished, “your arms are getting fatter.”

I paused and looked at my upper arms in the mirror. Over the past several weeks, I had taken secret pride in the fact that my arms and shoulders still looked relatively normal. “Okay,” I said. “Out of the bathroom. I need to get dressed.”

Angela wasn’t the only one to notice my expanding outline. During a quick trip to a local maternity shop to pick up some extra-large shorts, I stood at the counter paying for my purchase. The store’s proprietor, a blonde woman in her 40s, stood about ten feet away hanging up new merchandise. “So,” she asked me in a friendly tone of voice, “how far along are you?”

“Six months,” I answered.

“SIX MONTHS?” she asked staring at my belly. “Are you sure you don’t have twins in there?”

“Yes, quite sure,” I told her. When I got to my car, I burst into tears. “This woman looks at pregnant ladies all day long,” I thought. “I must be huge.”

A doctor, not my own, confirmed the maternity-store owner’s assessment just a few days later. Riding up in an elevator in a Hillcrest medical arts building last Thursday, I scooted back when the door opened on the third floor. Two doctors stepped on. One wore a white jacket and looked young, like an intern. The other, wearing a tweed jacket with a stethoscope hung over his shoulders, looked to be in his 50s. As the elevator doors closed, the older doctor looked at me with a solicitous smile. “How are things going?” he asked and nodded in the direction of my belly.

“Very well, thank you,” I answered. I hoped the conversation would end there. It didn’t.

“How much longer do you have?” the older doctor continued.

“About three months.”

“Three months?” he asked as though I’d just told him the baby was due sometime in January. “Whew,” he shook his head.

“It’s my fifth,” I offered hoping that might explain my size. “My fifth in seven years.”

He didn’t seem to have heard. “Three more months, huh? Is there just one in there?”

“Yes.”

The elevator doors opened. The two doctors stepped off. “Well,” the older doc held the door and looked again at my belly, “good luck.”

“Thanks,” I called after him. “Asshole,” I muttered as the elevator doors closed.

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