I don’t have a belly button - it was surgically removed in the process of treating Crohn’s disease that progressed to life-threatening peritonitis about four years ago.
This isn’t a story about a belly button, or about intestines or any lack thereof. This is about the United States.
As part of a ‘getting to know you’ exercise a few weeks ago, a group of people and I were playing ‘two truths and a lie.’ For my turn, my lie was 'I used to live in Canada.’ I was called on immediately after the game was over for confirmation that my statement 'I don’t have a belly button’ was true.
I complied immediately, revealing a set of long purple scars that stretch across my abdomen - one of which crosses through the midline, no belly button in sight.
I gave a condensed version of the story and the general consensus was 'bro, sick.’ Except for one guy, who looked utterly horrified.
“Wait,” he said slowly, something clearly dawning on him, “how are you going to have kids?”
This threw me for a second, but I’m used to being asked that question - my abdomen is full of scar tissue, I’m missing some key organs, the medicine I’m taking to stay in remission is a known abortifacient and I may well not be able to have children. I’ve discussed it before, but generally not with strangers.
“Uh,” I replied. “Well, that’s a complicated question. There are a lot of factors and I don’t really know.”
“No, no,” he insisted. “You don’t have a belly button.”
“Isn’t that how the baby… you know, eats?”
“So like, the baby couldn’t get food. Because there’s nowhere for the umbilical cord to connect.”
“Wait,” I said, deeply confused. “Like, how was I born? This is recent, I was born with a belly button. I lost it like fourteen years after being born, there wasn’t a conflict.”
“No, I get that, but if you had a baby, there would be nowhere for the umbilical cord to connect and it wouldn’t get food. You don’t have a belly button so there’s nowhere to connect.”
I paused for a second, the realization dawning on me that this guy had a winning combination of no boundaries and literally no idea how pregnancy worked.
“Dude,” another guy cut in, “that’s not how it works.”
“That’s how babies get belly buttons, man,” the first guy insisted.
“The umbilical cord is a source of nutrients, yeah, but they’re stored in the placenta,” I offered. “That’s a totally different organ.”
“Then why do the mom and the baby both have belly buttons?”
The second guy was getting kind of upset, but I was totally beyond that - this guy had graduated high school and was heading off to college to study political science and didn’t have a clue where babies come from. It was actually comical.
I decided to interrupt and change the subject before anything got heated.
“What do you want to do after college?” I asked the first guy.
“Oh, I don’t know. I guess I just want to be a politician - like, public policy, that sort of thing. Run for office, you know.”
Me: In the U.S. giving birth at a hospital can cost anywhere between $400-$20,000+ depending on if or what type of insurance a woman has, wether or not there are complications during labor, and the state/city/hospital the baby is born in. Also, hospitals will not give you an estimate of the price of the procedure until after the baby is born, so it’s kinda like you’ll be stuck having to pay whatever they say.
When you’re trying to write and three cats won’t leave you alone, keep sitting on your mouse, walking across your keyboard and pawing at the door and you have to lock yourself in the bathroom to get some peace and quiet!