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At not quite four months along, I am now firmly into maternity clothes.

My father-in-law, recently returned from six weeks in Bolivia, asked me how much weight I’d gained so far. “A lot,” was my most honest answer. I didn’t weigh myself before I got pregnant, so I have no idea how much the numbers have gone up since then. “It depends on where you draw the starting line,” added &, helpfully.

Whatever. It’s OK. I’ve given myself a free pass to eat without restraint for the duration of this pregnancy. Last year was a year for privation. This year is not. I know how to lose weight; I still have a pantryful of the sorcerously effective Medifast packets that, if breastfeeding doesn’t do the job, will gladly peel off any remaining baby weight within months of Mayhem’s coming-out party. In the meantime, for as long as I’m growing this baby, she gets to demand what mommy eats.

Honestly, I don’t think my weight gain thus far has been a problem. I wasn’t plus-sized when I got pregnant, and I don’t think I’m there even now. No one at the OB’s office seems alarmed with the rate at which I’m packing on the pounds. My appetite, which demanded at least four meals a day during the first trimester, has thankfully relented since then. And maternity clothes are perhaps the greatest invention ever. Imagine clothes that don’t constrain your waistline like Chinese footbinding. Instead they give you a free pass. Go ahead, breathe. It’s OK. You’re allowed.

Seriously. Back in the days when I actually *was* plus-sized, I carried most of my weight in my torso. Only then it was perceived as a bug, not a feature. Then, people politely averted their gaze and ignored me rather than stare at the fat lady. Now, people glance at my midsection and promptly offer me seats on the metro. For the first time in my life, I can eat normally and not have to fret about sucking in my stomach.

Of course, there’s a difference between ordinary belly fat and a Pregnant Tummeh. And maybe the reason why people are nice to me now is because I’m visibly rocking the latter. Except that I’m not sure I am yet. Or else, if I am, my Pregnant Tummeh comes with its own muffin top. (It’s the dimple at my navel what gives it away.)

Maybe the maternity clothes are the secret. Or maybe there’s more to pregnancy weight gain than just the expanding midsection. Practically all of my maternity wear is on loan from my friend Ana, to whom I had to return a bagful this week because they were (gasp) too tight in the bust.

Is *that* the difference between fecund and fat? Big swingin’ boobs?

In fairness, when I was bigger, so was my bustline. But this time it’s not just weight gain that’s making ’em bigger. They’re changing color and shape as well as size, giving me a definite sense of a mechanism coming online. These girls aren’t just bloating. They’re getting ready to go to work. The effect is almost more akin to muscle than fat.

Whatever the reason, I’ll take it. I love being big without shame. As thrilling as it was to be supermodel-skinny for my wedding, it is no less a delight to look down and admire the evolving landscape of my torso. Because this isn’t just about my appearance. There’s someone else in there. There are two of us who look like this, right now. And there is nothing else on earth like it.