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I have found it.  No, not the perfect pair of maternity pants, not the perfect pair of maternity leggings, not a limitless supply of dresses, and not a society that doesn’t care if I walk around without pants.  I have found, however, the solution to many of my woes: The Bella Band.

A few weeks ago, Mr. Apron and I were lucky enough to accept a large donation of baby equipment (clothing, bottles, a play mat, a mobile, etc.), and a small box of maternity clothes from a coworker of his who is done making babies.  Unfortunately, she loved and lived in jean her entire pregnancy, and jeans about the least ideal piece of maternity wear there is, not to mention that they are the key violation of my work dress code.  So her entire denim stash was out, but buried among the flowy swaths of XL shirts and clingy tank tops was a small tube of spandex.

I made it through my early pregnancy without a Bella Band; I just unbuttoned the top button of my pants and wore shirt long and loose enough that nothing was obviously amiss.  Pregnancy books say Bella Bands (and their ilk) are best for early pregnancy, to hold up your old, regular clothes, or to hold up the maternity clothes you can’t quite fill out yet.  Personally, I’m quite at the stage where I fill out my maternity duds, but I still can’t hold my pants up unless they’re super stretchy and pulled all the way over my bump.  Which causes sensory ills, and seam lines on my swollen abdomen that draw sympathetic looks from my husband.  Enter: the Bella Band.

Last week I tucked it into my bag, figuring I’d try it out on a pair of pants that I wasn’t sure would stay up all day, if I dared pull myself to a standing position at any point.  As soon as I climbed the 5 flights of stairs, the drooping waistband let me know I was going to have problems, so I ducked into the bathroom and pulled on the magnificent tube.  It’s stretchy enough to fit over my whole belly, but thin enough that I can fold it or scrunch it down.  No seams anywhere.  And if I pull it over my waistband, I magically have pants that stay up all day!  Plus, my popping belly button is smoothed over once and for all.

Friday was a dress-down day, but my previous jeans experience had been so miserable I was reluctant to join the fray.  Again, I tucked the Bella Band into my purse, and again, I knew by the time I’d reached my office that my pants situation was unsustainable.  Though they did stay up on their own, due to magic stretch panels hidden somewhere in the waistband, the denim was chafing every inch of my delicate skin.  Again, I hit the bathroom, where this time, I pulled the Bella Band on before my pants.  I covered my sensitive waist with it, then pulled up my pants.  Voila!  Added friction for anti-gravity powers, as well as a barrier between jeans and my skin.

I may have worn pants that were hemmed with safety pins yesterday (I hate to commit to making real hems before I know if my $5 thrift store find is worth the effort) and covered with dog fur (this particular pair was a magnet for blond dog hairs), but my pants stayed up all day long.

If this post saves one woman from the belly pouch panels and drooping elastic waist maternity pants, I will consider my obligation to the pregnant community fulfilled.

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No, I didn’t cop out and try to skip a few weeks, hoping you wouldn’t notice.  It turns out that The Bump is the one responsible for misleading and misrepresenting the fruit/veg of the week.  They show only the papaya for weeks 22-24, inclusive.  Apparently, at this point in the pregnancy, gestational real estate is getting tight.  It’s a seller’s market, really, and the fetuses are locking in a bidding war not only with each other, but also with my bladder, my lungs, the rest of my internal organs, and the outer limitations of my flesh.  So, there not being much womb to grow, they’re just growing at a slower pace than before.  Average size is also a range, probably corresponding to a median size.

When I finally went to the market and picked up 2 papayas and held them next to my bulging abdomen, it didn’t make any sense.  They were just too big.  I began to think I had picked up freakishly large papayas.  So I measured one when I brought it home:

Seriously, there are two of these inside me?

And then I double-checked The Bump:  10.5-11.8 inches.  As Marisa Tomei says in “My Cousin Vinny”: Dead on Balls Accurate.  My only way of rationalizing the number of inches is to consider that babies are now (post week 21) measured head -to-toe, not crown-to-rump, and they’re all curled up in fetal position.   They’re not all stretched out, like my papayas.  Except when they start kicking my ribs and punching bladder.  Then, I’m not so sure.

If you've never had the pleasure of cracking open a papaya, this is what it looks like. Orange flesh filled with caviar.

Mr. Apron set at once trying to taste the caviar-like seeds.  I convinced him his talents were more useful in trying to extract the seeds.  He did this by sticking his fingers down its throat and making it vomit into the sink.  Now we have a bulimic papaya.

Nasty, dude.


All kidding aside, we did actually set out to make papaya pie. 

 

All the beautiful ingredients laid out.    Here’s what we used to make

Papaya Pie:

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 cups (about 1 medium papaya) fresh papaya cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 9-inch graham cracker pie crust

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Whisk together brown sugar and white sugar. Add papayas and toss to coat. Let rest for 10 minutes.

Place papayas with its juices in a heavy saucepan. Simmer 10 minutes. Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt. Continue to cook about another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fruit is softened, but not falling apart.

Remove papaya mixture from the heat and let cool until lukewarm. Stir in beaten egg with a large fork until well-combined, taking care to leave the fruit in chunks.

Pour papaya filling into graham cracker pie crust. Bake for about 45 minutes. Let papaya pie cool before serving.

Maybe our papaya was not so juicy.  Maybe we weren’t super vigilant about those 10 minutes of simmering.  Whatever the case, the mixture started like this:
Then cooked into this:
 
And somehow, it solidified a bit much in the process, thus resulting in this concoction, which had to be scraped in blobs from the saucepan:

mmmmm, tasty.

Mr. Apron does not approve.

Somehow we managed to literally scrape together enough of the vlonk (c) and dump it into the pie crust.  On the whole, not really edible looking, we thought, but you be the judge:

Since we suffer for our art (and our blog), the Papaya Pie had to be eaten, preferably buried under a blanket of ice cream.  In truth, it was not so bad, but not our most successful venture to date.

Mmmm, ice cream blanket.

Now what to do with the other half a papaya in the fridge???

Maternity pants, why do you suck so bad?  I hate you, and long for the days of the muu-muu.  When I first was pregnant, I made do with plenty of my looser fitting clothing.  As the weeks progressed, I compensated for my barely enlarged belly by leaving the top button of my pants open, or by zipping my skirts most of the way up.  All my shirts still fit.  I had to be creative, and certain garments were off-limits, but I was pretty comfortable.  Sometimes I’d notice that a skirt that I could zip in the morning was feeling a might pinchy by bedtime, but gravity plays cruel tricks on all of us.

I was able to get away with a few pairs of larger sized thrift-store shorts for the entirety of July.  The slightly larger waistband fit pretty well as long as I didn’t do something stupid, like hang my keys off a belt-loop while walking the dogs.  I made some dresses this summer, too, which freed me up from the boredom of rotating the 3 pairs of shorts that fit.  I started digging in the bag of maternity clothing my mother had dumped on me, searching for dresses to stave off the heat wave. 

As we prepared for our trip toIreland, and I had to start evaluating the function of my wardrobe as well.  It was going to be in the 60s, not the 90s, and I had to start thinking about pant-type garments.  As we packed, I finally broke into the hoard of proper maternity clothing from my mother, as I wasn’t sure I had 10 days worth of Ireland-appropriate clothing from my pre-pregnancy days. 

I also hit the thrift stores again, and found some maternity pants that would work for the fall, once I got back to work and had to dress more appropriately.  I still wasn’t big enough to fill out all the elastic in the waistbands.  To humor myself, I tried on one of every type of maternity pants.  I’m not talking jeans vs. khakis.  I’m talking about one of every type of compensatory waist-band-like support system.  And though while trying them on, I tried to imagine a larger belly filling them in, I still had to wonder at their incredible awfulness.  Behold.

1) The drawstring.  This type works best when tied below the bulge, and they rest on the womanly hips.  I have a pair of non-maternity pants with a drawstring waist in my rotation.  I hemmed them before we went to Ireland, and have spent every day that I choose to wear them constantly pulling them back up on my hips, and retying the drawstring.  They scoop below my belly, which puts pressure (again, gravity) pulling them down off my hips, which are the last vestige of decency. 

2) The wide, stretchy waistband.  This type is vaguely reminiscent of the fold-top gaucho or yoga pants.  The extra-wide waistband is designed so you can allegedly unfold it and pull it up your belly, or fold it over a la hipster.  They work pretty well when they are actually exercise clothing, i.e., when the waistband fabric is the same as the pant fabric.  And when the waistband has stretch, but also resiliency.  One pair I put on this weekend did not have enough oomph in the waistband, so it kept rolling over below my belly, cutting of circulation to whatever’s going on down there, and trying to pull itself off of my hips.  I have a pair with a combo elastic waistband and drawstring.  While comfortable at least, they don’t stay up, and I am constantly retying the waistband all day long. 

3) The plain elastic waistband.  These are your grandma’s pants.  If you’re lucky, the rise is so high you can’t sling them below the belly, and are forced to pull the massive amounts of crotch fabric up to the belly button (wherever that went; mine is kind of closing up and looks very sad), thus creating the tell-tale elastic mark around the widest part of the belly, just like a red, itchy equator.  I picked up a pair at a garage sale for $1, and while they seemed tolerable in the morning, I was exasperated by the pinching equator mark by 6pm. 

4) The pouch.  The pouch pants look innocently enough like a pair of jeans or khakis from the back, but have a huge round cut-out from the regular fabric, filled in with stretchy fabric.  They are meant to envelop part or all of the bump.  I have not yet been able to bring myself to purchase a pair of these yet.  They look too awful.  I did try on a pair at the thrift store, to humor myself and make sure I wasn’t missing anything (along with other hideous trends that are strangely comfortable, like sports bras, Uggs, and Snuggies).  It may be a generational thing, spawned by the Britney Spears influence of hip-huggers, but I cannot cannot cannot tolerate a waistband – pregnant or not – on my waist.  I’m sure they actually stay up; if you pull the waistband of your pants up to your armpits or right below your breasts, they’d damn well better stay up.  They have the entire bump to hold onto. 

5) Hybrids.  These may take the form of elastic waist with a pouch, or yoga pants with a few extra pleats.  They may have an elastic front and regular back, or a drawstring with elastic.  Like many hybrid creations, they compromise on integrity, and come up short in function. I have not found ones that are both comfortable and stay up. 

I have special disdain for the pair of jeans I have on today.  Yet I wore them anyway, because it’s a dark, dreary morning and it’s a dress-down day at work.  They have a super-wide elastic waist (which may flip up over the belly, causing some mild sensory discomfort, but at least no Equator effect).  When I wore them inIreland, my worst issue was that my hips couldn’t hold onto the denim part, and I kept hiking them up all day.  Now that my belly bulge is, um, huge, my hips have an even bigger task fighting against gravity.  Worse than the constant drooping, though, is the combination of denim and spandex knit, an unnatural union no fashion authority should rightly ever condone (see: jeggings).  Many of us women are familiar with the weird bulge regular jeans make when we sit down; it looks like a penis has materialized within the inflexible fabric of the fly.  These pants have a teeny fly, cut-off by the swaths of spandex waistband.  This teeny fly, instead of popping out when I sit down, inverts.  The stretch fabric allows it to sink into my skin, and the weight of my belly holds it firmly in place as it digs into my soft flesh.  By the end of the day, I have a stunning red mark from the fabric of the fly imprinted below my belly.  Every time I stand up, I yank on the top of the waistband, futilely trying to pull it out of my skin. 

I had told myself I would live in lovely dresses during my entire pregnancy.  In fact, dresses are the most comfortable thing to wear.  I can’t wait for the weather to cool ever so slightly, so the sweater dresses I’ve made out of plus-size sweaters will be appropriate.  Unfortunately, I don’t have enough dresses in any season to leave the annoying pants behind.  I have a few cute sundresses, and a few warm sweater dresses, but not enough of either.  Then there’s the issue of tights/leggings.  If I thought maternity pants fought a daily struggle against gravity, it’s nothing compared to what tights and leggings go through with a belly bulge.  The high-waisted “support” hose style do stay up, if I can maneuver enough to yank them all the way up.  And then they have the Equator effect.  Other leggings are more modest in their coverage, and they tend to roll below the belly, resulting in constant tugging and immodest readjustment.  While I could get away with bare legs with my summer dresses, I can’t see my poor naked legs being exposed all winter long.

Maternity pants, why do you fail in every way conceivable?  Why are you so inadequate and ill-suited to your only task in life?  Why do I hate you yet keep pulling you on anyway?  You’re like an abuser, and I’m drawn to your attractive promises, yet you keep letting me down and beating me up. 

I hate you.  I need you.  Validate me.

Evidently, when babies get to be nineteen weeks of gestation, they turn into mangos.

One fetal representation.

Who knew, right?

Well, we know, because we compulsively research what size fruit our parasites/twinners/aliens are each week, because, clearly we have nothing better to do, even though we have cable.

In honor of the mango-esque nature of the babies, we decided, this week, to create a delicious, nutritious, apoplectic, intransigent, thoroughly fibrous smoothie.

Mangos are notoriously challenging to dissect, but, with the aid of a set of Ginsu knives, a complete mortician’s tool kit, the Jaws of Life, and an 18th Century Samurai sword belonging to one of the 47 Ronin, we were able to accomplish the task with minimal difficulty.

Skinned alive. NOT a fetal representation.

Following a recipe I stole modified from Ben & Jerry’s when I worked there one summer, I began with 8oz juice (some cran-blend).

I am juice.

I then added the mango chunks and some frozen raspberries (eliminates the need for ice).

Oooh, pwetty!

And blended it together.  Then I remembered there was a partially decaying perfectly ripe banana on the counter, and I tossed it in.

Whirrrr...

"Don't forget me or you'll get fruit flies on the counter!"

Finally, I added a few scoops of sorbet. This was how we could justify $3.50 or $4.00 at B&J’s — we used their sorbet.  It makes it super cold and smooth.

The secret ingredient.

When it was all mixed up, we poured it into the appropriate serving vessel: mixed drink classes from the 1950s.

The smoothies accompanied a delectable and eclectic breakfast.

With homemade (not our home) bagels and zucchini bread.

As I mentioned earlier in the post, the smoothies, though delicious with delicate fruity overtones, were somewhat fiber-heavy, due to the inclusion of an entire mango.  After his first yeoman’s gulp, Mr. Apron declared, with customary tact, that it was “like drinking a sweater.”

I wasn’t able to take a sip without a remark about its “cable-knit” quality.

A recipe borrowed from my preschool mentor teacher, who made this as a mid-morning snack for the preschoolers every year.  A snack that had me hooked.

1) Peel yams/sweet potatoes/whatever they have at the ACME.

2) Using the largest butcher knife/cleaver in your collection, hack into those tubers.  Cut them into bite-size chunks, or steak fry shapes, or, as Mr. Apron chose to do this time, circles.

3) Toss the chunks/fries/circles liberally with olive oil and kosher salt.

4) Spread on a cookie sheet.  Roast in the oven at 375 degrees, checking and flipping at 20 minutes.

Observe the Caramelizing Goodness

Depending on size/shape, they may take 35-45 minutes total.

5) Enjoy.  Serve with ketchup, barbecue sauce, ranch dressing, or plain!

Served with a veggie quesadilla

When you read that your fetuses have approached onion size, it makes sense that your last pair of shorts are fitting only by hanging onto your hips by the narrowest of margins, drooping suggestively below the belly bump.

What do you need?  Fried food.  What better to consume on a 100 degree day?  Onion rings, made with the kitchen air-conditioner (c. 1980) doing its best to combat the golden fried heat emanating from the stove-top.   Having no ready recipe (bread some onions in some batter, fry them), I found something that used only ingredients we had on hand.  It’s a good a way as any to choose a recipe.

Onion Rings

from cooks.com

3/4 c. cornstarch
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 c. water
1 egg, beaten

Mix dry ingredients; add water and egg. Batter will be thin. Dip onion rings in the batter and deep fry.

Aside from not having a deep fryer, so the bottoms became a little discolored (not burned, just not aesthetically restaurant style), we both decided these were some of the best onion rings we had ever eaten.  The batter didn’t dry out, and, more important, it didn’t separate from the onion part entirely when we bit into it.  I hate that.  You’re left with a mouthful of onion, and an empty shell of batter, which is just not the same as having both flavors combined in one glorious bite.  I was a little skeptical of adding the egg and water to the dry ingredients, as, when I fry battered things, I’m used to dipping in the egg, then in the batter.  But it totally worked.  And only seemed to get better as the cornstarch had a chance to thicken (I’m guessing).

Here are some in-process pics to whet your appetite!

Onions, all sliced and ready for the fry-o-later.

 

Mr. Apron prepares for his duties as fry cook with a little cheese stick pre-gaming.

The appetizing batter, resembling a large bowl of baby vomit.

I dip, I drip, I pose in my apron.

Mr. Apron wields his mighty Fry Fork.

The first batch!!

 

The obligatory foodie pic, piled onto a BBQ "chicken" sandwich.

And I bet you thought it was going to be guacamole!  I thought so, too, truthfully.  I told a coworker/friend of my weekly baby bump recipe, and he, being an avid cook/baker, all but hijacked avocado week.  I’m lucky I was invited to his apartment to eat the things.  As such, I played no hand in making them, but I did get to taste.  And I am providing a recipe (though is it the right one?  who knows…).  Given the simplicity of the ingredients, I imagine one recipe is not too different from the next.

Avocado Popsicles

(from yumsugar.com)

1 large avocado
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt

(He used regular milk in place of the coconut milk.  I think I would try it with coconut milk (or soy milk) next time, to cut down on the lactose issues.  But I digress.)

Using a hand mixer, blend all of the ingredients until creamy.  Fill popsicle molds with the avocado mixture and place in the freezer for at least 5 hours.

Seriously, that’s it.  I would recommend making sure you have plenty of freezer time, as we had a cracking hard time getting these suckers to release from their molds.  Here are some in-progress shots of the consumption process.

Attempt 1: Submerging the molds in hot water.

 

Attempt 2: Running the molds under hot water.A popsicle, "plated". Not shown: scraping the thing out of its mold with a knife and reassembling it on the plate.

  

A popsicle, "plated". Not shown: scraping the thing out of its mold with a knife and reassembling it on the plate.

Oh, wait. There's the knife. And a mangled popsicle.

 

Finally, preparing to enjoy!

 

I eat it.

 

 
 

Though Mr. Apron was not a tremendous fan, I quite enjoyed the creamy sweetness that was quite unexpected. 

 
Stay tuned for next week: onions!

As a member of thebump.com, I am treated not only to weekly updates on fetal development, reviews of the hottest $600 strollers, and inane messages on the chat boards (can I paint my nails when I’m pregnant?), but also to a fruit-size comparison.  Every week, I can see which fruit’s length corresponds to my fetuses’ crown –to-rump length.  And then I know what type of fruit is nesting inside me.

Last week, in honor of the twin lemons within my womb, Mr. Apron and I baked lemon nut bread.  Only, we didn’t have walnuts, and I put them in cupcake tins, so Mr. Apron could take them to work on the weekend.  They weren’t the most beautiful creations.  Instead of rising and making pretty little mounds on the top, they exploded over the edge of the tin, but with enough lemon glaze, you wouldn’t even look at their aesthetics as you let the sugary lemony goodness melt in your mouth.

This week, my parasites are the size of navel oranges.  I thought since I’m a baking sort of person, and I’m currently baking two buns in my personal oven, why not keep up with my fruit-of-the-week and inspire a confection of the week?  I may even take pictures in the future.

Thus is conceived the weekly bake-a-thon!

And no, I have not yet been offered a book deal, but I will negotiate with the right agent.