“I can’t believe that when you stand with your legs together that your knees and thighs don’t even touch!”

This was a remark made by one of my friends while we were still in high school. I believe we were chillin’ in her living room, probably rocking out to NKOTB and trying on a variety of grunge-inspired outfits in preparation for a football game or some Saturday cruisin’ on Green River Road.

I had surmised that this was a compliment, as if coolness were measured by a certain amount of gap between your knees and thighs. I had assumed that most everyone’s body was built like mine and actually never really thought of my short, stumpy legs as thin. That comment stuck with me and years later, when I’d catch a glimpse of my body in a full-length mirror, I’d find myself performing a quick “knee/thigh check” to see if the gap remained.

Years of work in Corporate America, surrounded by greasy potlucks and a sea of cubicles, caused the knee/thigh gap to decrease a bit. I am sure that those daily 12 hours of sleep, combined with my love of chocolate and disdain for exercise, contributed a bit to the closing in of the gap.

Fast forward to two years ago, pregnant with my first child. I wrote: “…a few weeks ago, I stopped mid-stride in horror when I realized that my thighs had started to rub together! Impossible! This was not happening to me! Please, please, make this sensation go away after pregnancy…I am not sure I will be so lucky!”

With a stroke of amazing luck, and an abominable case of weight-loss causing pneumonia, I indeed managed to regain the pre-pregnancy knee/thigh gap. Whew.

As I waddled up some steps on a small hike in S. Dakota last week, totally sumo-style, my Dad was a bit astonished when I told him I gained about 40 pounds with this pregnancy. For me, it’s not a shocker, albeit about 10 more pounds that I’d gained at this point with Kaia. Weight, shmeight. It came off easily after Kaia, between aforementioned pneumonia and nursing a newborn for 17 months.

But for the love of Pete, for all that is holy and sacred in this world, the thigh rubbing must cease. The knees are practically touching, with just enough room for them to cackle at each other: “You can do it! Gimme some of your flab, I’ll pull you over!” When I extend my legs, my knees basically disappear into the abyss of cellulite and fat. I peer down at my hairy, pasty thighs and they remind even this vegetarian of gigantic, raw chicken thighs waiting to be basted and fried and cooked and manhandled.

The thigh rubbing causes my waddle to be even more noticeable and doesn’t allow me to lounge at home in my preferable nude state for long (think: chafing). My body has been hijacked.

For the first time in either of my pregnancies, I’ve admitted that I am really ready to return to the lighter and more nimble body that I am used to. I yearn to feel my muscles actually working instead of giving up to the task of shuffling around pounds of loose fat. I will not miss having to stop in mid-bend just to collect enough energy to pull myself the rest of the way up. Instead, I usually just relent and fall into Downward Dog for a good stretch, noticing the treasures and stains embedded in my carpet.

And while my belly is stretched to the max and heavy, it is the least of my concerns. Its firmness reminds me of the vibrancy of life within me, provides me with a shelf for my hot tea, and actually protects me from too many glimpses of said thighs. But, I ask my fellow thighs: what is your function? Could I have not instead gained more muscle from carrying around this body and this baby?

All I can say is thank the stars for gauchos.

I’ve never been ashamed of my body. Sure, my thick ghetto booty (“my hump, my lovely lady lumps”) – used to leave me self-conscious and constantly in search of minimizing jeans. The booty anthem of my day, “Baby Got Back” (wish I would have also known about “Fat Bottomed Girls”), gave me a bit of a rump-shaking boost but I mostly spent each day checking my rear end in the mirror before I left the house and yearning to be a flat-bottomed girl instead. Overall, I embraced my curves, especially since my Mama engrained in me that “Boys LOVE curvy girls!”

But when you have a firm, smooth, stretchmark-free (knock on wood) belly it just doesn’t seem to compute to have flabby thighs and knees full of cellulite that dwarf my already stubby stems. And my “lovely lady lumps” are more like “lumpy chicken dumps” (what’s with my chicken references?), functioning in a jiggly motion that used to cause my grandma to comment about other gals: “That women MUST have some sort of apparatus in her behind to make it move that way!” I swear the hot, desert dirt whimpers with each fall of my foot upon her soil. I leave imprints for sure; tread lightly I don’t.

Adding to the ensuing girth drama is my rabid, irresistible cravings for chocolate donuts and otherwise fatty foods of goodness. I try in vain to swiftly stuff myself with protein. And then I wait. And wait. And wait for the protein to work its magic and quell my craving. My legs shake nervously. My body twitches in anticipation. I chew (but don’t bite!) my new-found fingernails. My mind races with random thoughts, including one today in which I sat at my kitchen table after munching down a veggie/cheese/tofurkey wrap trying not to answer the beckon call of the Chocolate Drumstick Ice Cream in the fridge: I read the back of the a recently opened can that stated: “Pineapple chunks. In its own juice”. And my first thought was “Well, thank goodness it’s not in someone else’s juice cuz that would be plain rude”.

And now I’m blogging. At a furious pace. And then I remember how Kaia awoke at 2:50 am and how I after putting her down a few minutes later. I tossed and turned in bed for almost an hour. I absolutely despise waking up at the ungodly hour of 3:00am. I mean, I can handle 1:00am because I know I have many hours of darkness left. But 3:00 am is waaaaay too close to 5:00 am which is when the sun starts to peer its sleepy eyes over the desert mountains. It’s sorta like that freakin’ phone call ten minutes before you are scheduled to wake up.

Have you ever experienced how your eye muscles sometimes actually hurt and get worn out from straining to keep them shut? I’d had enough. I got up, maneuvered through the pitch-black across unpacked suitcases and toys strewn about, and got a glass of water. Then, I ate a donut. Then, I read some blogs. Finally, at 4:30am, I stumbled back into bed and stuffed my pregnancy pillow between my no-longer-skinny knees. I drifted into a peaceful slumber and managed to forget about donuts and knee/thigh gaps, and the way those pineapples were lounging in their own juice in that aluminum can as if they had all the time in the world.


11 Comments Add yours

  1. mb says:

    You are toooo funny.

    Oh my goodness. You hardly have the junk in your trunk. I have been blessed to see your beautiful body, filled in perfectly for baby-in-waiting.

    I have always done the flip flop game of beating myself up for imperfections in my body to loving my body in it’s utter curviness. It’s a hard road, this womanhood. We are asked to stay unachievably thin and also to procreate which undoubtedly pads us up to feed and protect baby and make milk. We watch most of Hollywood get pregnant and still seem to squeeze into their skinny Seven jeans, just rocking a little itty belly bump. It’s just not right! We measure ourselves to unhealthy body images, when we should be looking at the figurines of the ancient fertility goddesses found around the world. Granted, they may not have been eating donuts, but have you ever thought that even if you were eating totally differently, that you’d still have gained those exact 40 lbs? Our bodies do what they need to do while pregnant, and that in itself is beautiful. I ate the same, exercised the same for both my pregnancies. with the first I gained 40. With the second around 60. Sula was smaller and I was waaaay bigger. As a matter of fact I am quite sure she must have dwelled in my hips and thighs, and not my belly. it was freakish.

    Because I know you I know that you adore your body and your baby and accept the changes your figure has made, this post is so funny to me. BUT I also know how you feel…enough is enough…no more thigh chaffing, please. I hear ya, sister. Been there.

    And Leigh, pleeeese with the bootie thing. I have had the nick name MaryBootielicious for 20 years for a reason. Puuuulll-eeeeease.

    i love you

  2. Chelsea says:

    “Baby’s Got Back” was my anthem in high school – I have always been proud of my strong, curvy, not thin body – and though I LOVE my round belly – pregnancy definitely makes me want the rest of my “old” body back – to be free from the aches and pains and allow my body to bend and twist like it knows how to do…
    You go ahead and eat those donuts – and just FYI – one Krispy Kreme doughnut has 2 grams of protein – so I justify eating at least 6 in one sitting as getting in 12 good grams of protein for this baby….
    And – whose idea was insomnia during pregnancy???
    great post 🙂

  3. Megan says:

    I have to step in here and say something. Sweetie, you never, ever, ever had a thick ghetto booty. You may have had hips, but that does not a ghetto booty make. And from someone whose thighs rub together when not pregnant, a few months of that won’t hurt you 🙂 I can relate to the comparison to the chicken thighs, though. So.gross. Skirts and shorts are not even an option for me. 😦

  4. leighsteele says:

    Folks, I’m so sorry, but my bootie is BIG. Really. Sticks out and has always been flabby. Don’t care what ya sweet ones think, I KNOW. I’ve lived with it. And if you could see it now…Aye Yie Yie. 🙂
    Thanks for the love, though.

  5. Jeanette says:

    Leigh – nope, I’m with the others….I’ve seen you in every sort of outfit and it two different two-piece swimsuits…you so do NOT have a bit booty. You just don’t. Somebody, somewhere told you this (or you told yourself?) And it just ain’t true. When you’re belly isn’t full of baby, you’re so little, itty, bitty that I worry about you blowing away in a strong wind…tiny butt included (and don’t you think I have not checked it out a time or two….) 🙂

    You made me laugh though

  6. Jeanette says:

    Sam says to send you this link

    and I say that you should sit your tiny butt down and stop being so silly:)

  7. leighsteele says:

    Well, let’s set the record straight. Of the comments coming from my three personal friends, two of them have tiny, no- booties – which, believe me, I was always envious of – so they cannot possibly judge the roundness of my rump. And the other, well, her booty is luciously round and muscular from years of yoga and hiking herself around the country.
    Given the circumference and girth of my butt vs. my waist, I’d have to say it’s official: I have a big booty for my small-ish body.
    That’s it. ‘Nuff said.
    Now go on and shake those healthy rumps. Cuz Baby’s Got Back.

  8. Doulala says:

    Leigh-Leigh my love,
    You do NOT have a ghetto booty!! Even if you did, do you have any idea how many years I have longed for some extra junk in my trunk? Growing up I was always teased for having big boobs and no butt. Finally after having 4 kids (and a reduction) I am a little more balanced. I’ve got some ba-donka-donk (not as much as most in my family) and I love it.
    Embrace your booty, baby!

  9. “All I can say is thank the stars for gauchos.”

    Amen, sister. They are my saving grace, even when I’m not pregnant!

    Pregnancy was such a time of conflicting feelings for me. On the one hand, I knew my body was growing and nourishing another human being, and it was so amazing to me. Of COURSE you get big when you’re pregnant. Duh. But at the same time … sheesh, the cultural messages are so deeply imbedded in us. I couldn’t help but stare at my ever-expanding girth with dismay. My vanity was continually insulted; first with acne, then stretch marks, skin tags, and I can’t even remember the rest (although I did have boobage for the first time in my life). Each time I felt crestfallen, and it took a little while to come to terms with my changing body. I gained 65 pounds with my daughter, but lost all of it and 10 more (thanks in part to an insane elimination diet while trying to figure out her nursing problems). My body doesn’t look like it did pre-pregnancy, though. I’ve got a poochy belly, saggy boobs, the permanent stretch marks, etc. Of course, I haven’t done any exercise to try to rectify things, lol.

    Long story short … I hear your ambivalence!

  10. Megan says:

    I think this makes it 4-1. Leigh does not have a ghetto booty!!

    And you should see my tiny-no booty now! That was about 40 pounds ago!!

  11. Leigh, I thought of you when I read this quote today:

    The beauty of my body is not measured by the size of the clothes it can fit into, but by the stories that it tells. I have a belly and hips that say, “We grew a child in here,” and breasts that say, “We nourished life.” My hands, with bitten nails and a writer’s callus, say, “We create amazing things.”

    Sarah, from I Am Beautiful: A Celebration of Women in Their Own Words

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