After he’s done nursing, my son likes to lay his head down my belly, his little ear pressed against my belly button. Sometimes, he closes his eyes. Mostly, he just stares off into space, cuddling with his mama.
I used to be self conscious of my stomach. I can’t remember if it was ever flat, but it certainly wasn’t as rounded. It has never been the tan, hairless, defined stretch of belly that graces the cover of fitness magazines. Since having a baby, it has only drifted further. There are probably stretch marks somewhere, but honestly, I haven’t even bothered to really look.
But to Teddy, it is the world’s best pillow. He seems to need this time, ear to belly button, to just relax during his stressful baby day. All of his falling down, trying so hard to communicate and figure out how to do the simplest things like how the hell to get the applesauce in that bowl onto the spoon in his hand and then into his mouth.
I imagine him listening to my belly button in the same way that you can put a conch shell to your ear and hear the ocean. It’s probably something about the acoustics of the inward spiral, but one imagines that the years of drifting beneath the ocean’s surface have permanently embedded the sound of the waves within its walls.
I think Teddy hears something similar. An echo of an umbilical cord, no longer active but still present, pulsing life from my own mother to me. And from her belly button, another cord to her own mother, who has passed on but is still connected by the indelible love of mother and child that death cannot put an end to. Back and back and back, these cords stretch, becoming a tangled web of love and biology.
Sometimes, he picks his head up and looks at my belly button quizzically, putting a chubby finger to it for a moment before plopping his head back down with relief.
Did he hear something? I wonder. His grandmothers live far away. His great grandmothers have passed on. But maybe through my belly button, he hears their whispers, of my love and theirs for him.
The echos and whispers of every mother who has held a baby to her chest and told him how her life will never be the same.
Maybe I just made this story up to make myself feel better about my less-than-magazine-worthy belly.
Either way, I’m going with it.