There are some books we read over and over at our children’s demand. Then there are those special books – our children love them, yes; but we find that it’s us, as mothers, reaching for them time and time again.
That’s the category that Thrity Umrigar’s new children’s book, When I Carried You in My Belly, (Running Press; illustrated by Ziyue Chen), falls into. Whimsical illustrations that will take your breath away, coupled with lilting, poetic phrasing, come together to create a sweet ode to pregnancy and childhood.
When I carried you in my belly,
we danced every dance together:
the rumba and the samba,
the tango and the fandango.
And that is why your feet…
Tap in rhythm to the earth today.
Told from a mother’s perspective to her little girl, the mama lovingly explains all the endearing qualities her daughter has today, and how they stemmed from when her mama carried her in her belly. The illustrations have such an ethereal quality to them, that they come to life on the page, and bring back many a sweet memory!
I find myself lingering on the pages, thinking back to when I carried my own three babies in my belly, and all the sweet moments we each had. My first son, and all the anxiety and expectation of that first baby as I bundled my belly in the cold Canadian winter, clearing out my office to house a crib. My second son, who bounced along in my belly as I learned the ways of a small Iowa town in an old brick house with a big back yard; and my daughter, whom I was somehow miraculously suddenly pregnant with when I already had a baby and a toddler; who moved with us to Minnesota just before being born and who arrived in a shock of pink as a surprise to us all – who sat wide eyed as I read this book to her, whispering “big girl,” as she immersed herself in the imagery.
I also loved the portrayal of an interracial couple in this story! Illustrations that oppose typical gender roles (such as the grandfather baking cookies, and the grandma building a crib) offer subtle reminders that gender stereotypes ought to be broken; and the reminder that our daughters can be fearless, world-traveling, athletic girls full of wonder is a beautiful message. “The feeling of being loved without conditions or reservations is the single greatest gift a parent can give a child,” says the author, adding that it is up to parents to raise athletic, strong, capable girls by playing sports with them, praising them for their strength, intelligence, and good hearts.
Warning: You may need a box of tissues at hand when reading this lovely book. It also makes a perfect gift for a mama expecting a baby girl, or for a little girl’s first birthday. Available on Amazon.