This is art? Beautiful belly bump.

Siju Gurung unbuttoned the lower half of her shirt, exposing her big, hard, round stomach so an artist could start painting.

The cool touch of the paint brush against her skin startled her and the child within. The baby moved vigorously. Mom’s stomach shifted from left to right, then a bulge showed up under the cartoon zebra painting now covering her belly. The painting had a pink background, a baby zebra with a round face and angel wings.

The 36-year-old Bennington woman, expecting her first child, had already scheduled a belly-bump photography session. So why not have that belly painted to include an image in the baby’s scrapbook?

Women like Gurung, who gave birth to Ivana two months ago, are marking their pregnancies with belly paintings, photos and even plaster casts of their chests and stomachs. They hang the art in their homes and share the photos on Facebook.

It’s all part of a bigger trend: Many parents are making a big deal out of celebrating pregnancy and pampering moms.

In earlier eras, etiquette required pregnant women to go into “confinement” when their bumps became prominent, and people didn’t talk about childbirth. Now, women take pictures at all stages of pregnancy, both clothed and unclothed, and offer intimate details about labor. They treat themselves to pedicures and spa days. One expert speculates that it’s because people are having fewer children.

Sonya Grafft of Omaha Masquerade, a face- and body-painting company, said she paints at least three to four pregnant bellies each month. More women are requesting them as an activity at baby showers and hours before they take their pregnancy photos.

And you can’t click on Facebook pages without coming across at least two or three profile pictures of baby bellies.

Calls to several Omaha-area photography studios found that pregnancy shots have become more popular within the last five years. One photographer said it makes up two-thirds of her business. Wedding and family photos account for the other third.

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