I’ve had 3 babies; 3 little girls. Well, one was not so little, but even with her pregnancy each and every day I was able to look into the mirror at the wonder of my growing belly.With the first it took what felt like forever for my belly to emerge and look pregnant. With subsequent pregnancies, there were people who asked if I was pregnant before my first trimester was even remotely close to being over.
I consider myself of average height and weight so I guess it was obvious to some of my closer friends (who take yoga from me) and I wasn’t at all offended when they said, “Well, you just look pregnant.”
I can remember being in awe of my body. The fact that the skin I had once known to fit into my work slacks, stretched to the size of a large beach ball. My legs, lungs, back, arms, FEET, don’t forget the feet, my entire body, adjusting to carry this miracle for however long she needed in order to come earthside. I swam, did yoga, walked and ran for most of my pregnancy, and my belly, and baby, were right there with me. This I can say for every pregnant woman, there’s no forgetting you’re pregnant, once you are.
But my how quickly we forget once that little one is here with us. Sure we may have some signs of our beautiful belly, stretch marks, a little extra skin, (or a lot of extra skin) perhaps a scar from a cesarean, and by no means will your belly button ever look the same. And if you don’t have ANY of these tell-tale signs of your pregnancy, then you’re one of the lucky few. Although, there are some who would say you’re missing out on a reminder of your ever-changing, completely amazing, totally beautiful miracle of carrying a child.
I’m done having babies. I’m a year postpartum. My belly has returned to its almost normal size, my waist is a little thicker, my hips are a little wider, and all of this I’ve come to love. But to be honest I really do miss my pregnant belly. For me it was a badge of honor, a sign of courage and strength. I had pregnancy photos taken by my sister-in-law which I will cherish forever, but I will never be able to feel the roundness of what once was my baby inside my belly. But you can, with a cast of your belly.
Belly casting has been around for about 30 years. It is said that the art of belly casting began with a woman named Francine Krause who wanted to make a cast of her belly when she was carrying her first child. Her friends then saw the castings (she made several during different stages of her pregnancy), and started asking her for help in making casts of their bellies during their pregnancies.
A quick Google search and you will see Belly Casting has become an amazing art. With casts varying from just the belly, all the way to the full torso cast of the mother. There are some that look as though the mother is in a tank top, and some that look as though she’s wearing a toga. The possibilities are limitless.
If you’re interested in doing a belly cast you have a few different options. You can hire someone, which I found can range from approximately $75, to just over $1000 for a cast made in each trimester, to show the growth of your belly, and finished in bronze. If you’re not hands-on or artsy and want someone else to finish, either with paint, decoupage, or bronze, hiring someone is the way to go.
You can also do a belly cast by yourself or with your significant other. If you don’t think your significant other would want to cover you in strips of paste soaked cloth, you can opt to have it done by all of your besties at your Blessingway or baby shower. If you have other children who are a little older I’m sure they would be more than happy to get in on the fun and what a wonderful avenue it’d be to discuss the beautiful subject ofyour living and growing belly.
The process seems to be fairly straight forward. You need to strip to your skivvies, take off your bra too if you plan on doing a full bust, cover your body in a lubricant (most folks talk about using vaseline but for us more crunchy mamas olive oil seems to work) and then cover your body in the strips, let dry and then wiggle free from the cast. (If you feel like your breasts need a little extra support during the process you can wear a bra and cover it in saran wrap or use press and peel saran wrap to give the girls a lift.)
There are DIY kits out there for purchase from different outlets. From what I could find they range from about $15 to $30. These kits have the lubricant, the strips, and some have add ons for decorating your belly cast. You also have the option of popping on over to your local craft store or general store and looking for plaster gauze strips. If you want to do several belly casts I found gauze strips online in bulk (orthostrips) for about $35. Most of the DIY kits have approximately 25 yards of plaster gauze strips to do a full belly and breast cast, so purchase the strips according to what you are looking to accomplish. You will also want to keep in mind when purchasing the plaster strips yourself that having different width strips will help you cover your belly faster, using wider strips, and easier to cover your breasts, using smaller strips.
You will also need a bowl or dish with warm water to soak the strips as well as a drop cloth, (shower curtain, trash bag, canvas drop cloth) to cover your work space. When choosing your workspace, make sure you can clean up easily, no carpet or rugs. I would think the kitchen or bathroom would provide everything you would need for the entire process.
When working with the casting material, it dries fairly quickly so start with a plan. Lay the strips out in the order that you’re going to apply them and find a comfortable position where you can remain still throughout the application and drying time. Remember that if you chose to sit, it would have to be in a semi reclined position so strips can be applied down below the belly. Hoever, this could put undue stress on the lower back to sit perfectly still for 20-40 minutes. Consider standing, which allows for the people applying the strips to move freely around you and get all the way under your belly. (Don’t forget to also discuss how much of your body you want the cast to cover. Do you want it on one shoulder, on both? If you want your hands in the cast, your hands will have to be still as well. If you are going to use your cast as a bowl and want it to be morestable, perhaps positioning a coaster on your belly button to give your “bowl” a flat surface would work.)
Start applying the strips at the top of the cast, at your breasts or shoulders if they’re included, and work your way down. Complete one layer all they way down and then complete another layer working back up. Try to make sure you’re double layered throughout; the more layers, the stronger the cast. If you want a smooth cast, without rough surfaces, you can help smooth the plaster out by wetting your hands and gently going over the plaster as it’s applied.
You may feel your cast start to pull away once it starts to dry — it’s important to stay very still at this point. Once your cast is dry, tighten your belly and it should pop right off, assuming you used enough oil underneath. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to gently pull it away. Make sure the belly of your cast is completely dry before removing it, or in the drying process it could lose its shape. If you feel that any part of your cast is weak, apply additional plaster strips to the inside of the cast as to not alter the shape of the outside of your cast. You can let it dry now for at least 24 hours, or more if it’s very wet.
You’ll need to decide if you want your cast to stay natural, rough and unpainted, or if you want to create a design on it. There are so many ways to finish your cast, but if you are going to finish it you’ll want to first prime it with Gesso paint primer. If you plan on painting and want a more smooth finish than what you achieved through the process, you can add spackle, then sand with a very fine- grit sandpaper in between coats, and then add the Gesso once you’ve achieved your level of smoothness.
As I said before, you can paint it. You can decoupage the outside with mementos of your pregnancy, ultra- sound pics, cards, photos of you. You can hang it on a wall (use a small drill bit to drill holes and hang with a ribbon), or keep it on a shelf. One of my favorites, being a yoga teacher, was having the cast made into a bronze bowl to ring at the end to my meditations in my classes. There are so many different ideas for your belly cast, but one thing remains the same: it’s a beautiful way to pre- seve the memory of your full-of-life belly.