The first time it happened, I wondered if it was maybe a fluke. Maybe I was standing in a certain way, maybe it was because I had just eaten, maybe my sweater put me in an odd frame. The second time, I wondered again if I had been sitting just so, or if the light caught my body and reflected something weird. The third time somebody asked me if I was to be congratulated, I thought, “It’s official. I look pregnant.”
9 years ago I was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), which is a progressive disease that causes cysts to grow in my kidneys and replace the actual kidney matter. As the cysts grow, so do my kidneys, to compensate for the loss of function that occurs as the cysts take over. The result is that my kidneys, which are supposed to be the size of a fist, are the size of footballs. Normal kidneys are tucked under the bottom of the ribcage in the back, and can not be palpated. MY kidneys can be felt from the back, the side, AND the front, and were mistaken for abdominal tumors by my gynecologist, who, after I explained what on earth he was palpating, said that I better keep my uterus healthy, because cutting through kidneys to give me a hysterectomy would be one hell of a mess.
9 years ago, my kidney function was relatively normal and I had a waist. 9 years later, I’m at about 50% function, and 3 people in the last few months have asked me if I’m pregnant.
They all have said, “But you are so thin everywhere else!” Which I guess is a plus. I don’t look fat, I guess, I just look a little deformed.
The third person sidled up to me quietly and said, “Are you due for a congratulations? Are you hiding something under that T-shirt?”
I smiled and rubbed my stomach and said, “Are you talking about my pregnant belly?”
She laughed with me and said, “Yes! I knew it!”
I shook my head and said, “It’s not a pregnancy belly, it’s a PKD belly.”
She is a nurse practitioner, so I didn’t have to explain anything else, and she started asking me medical questions about my kidneys. She did say, though, that maybe I should consider maternity clothes, because as my disease progresses, it might make me a little more comfortable to wear clothes designed for an expanding belly.
She actually does have a point. My jeans tend to fit everywhere else except around my girth, because my butt and thighs have stayed relatively the same size for years. I have a few skirts I can’t button around my waist, and I have long since given up panty hose and tights because the way the top elastic cut across my middle is way too uncomfortable. Maternity clothes, at least maternity jeans, might feel great.
But how would one shop for pregnancy clothes if one isn’t actually pregnant?
Do I make up a story about when I’m due? Do I play along with a charade? Or do I put a damper on everybody’s excitement and explain that I’m not actually expecting a baby, that I have, instead, an incurable progressive life threatening disease?
Because seriously, there are very few conversation killers like “incurable progressive life threatening disease.” And I’m pretty sure that they didn’t cover an appropriate response for that in the training for the customer service reps at Pea in a Pod.
These are the things you contemplate when you are 39 and have PKD and look like you might be 5-6 months pregnant, give or take a few weeks.
Being sick is weird.
I miss my waist.
Although to be honest, the most annoying part of being asked if I am pregnant is my boobs are most definitely not pregnancy boobs. The one bodily perk of pregnancy, and I miss out on that completely.
The world is truly unfair.
How do you deal with body changes that you can’t control? Any tips to come to grips with things I can’t change?
And seriously, if you went shopping for maternity clothes when you weren’t actually pregnant, would you tell the truth about why you were there, or make up a cute little baby girl named Genevieve who is due at the end of the summer?