“I want to see what your belly looks like after the baby.”
Translation: “Your belly may be beautiful now but soon it will be a train-wreck”
This and other comments were made to me over and over during my pregnancy. When my photo was posted on Birth Without Fear’s facebook page it received 229 comments many were just like that. And many more worse that had to be removed.
Well folks, wish granted.
This is me at almost 6 weeks postpartum.
(excuse the t-shirt lines)
See this isn’t my first time around the block. My first pregnancy these comments would have hurt me, would have put me into a defensive state. This time however they make me grin, and puff out my chest a little. However much has changed between then and now.
With my first pregnancy I had an average body going into it. I was about 20lbs heavier than I was going into this one. I gained over 70lbs that pregnancy, though I still had a fabulous bump.
I was a bit uncomfortable in my skin at that point. I loved my big belly however I did not love the stretchmarks that covered it. When you picture your big beautiful belly at the start of pregnancy, its not generally covered by stretchmarks. And I avoided them for so long that pregnancy, so it was a shock when they showed up. They started around 34-36 weeks with 3 tiny ones. And they spread like wildfire. They ended up going from the bottom of my belly to a couple inches above my belly button. And they were bright red. I only have a crappy cell phone pic that doesn’t really show them in all of their glory.
I had seen postpartum pictures of women who were instantly skinny again (because duh, that is who posts postpartum pictures for everyone to see). So was holding out hope that there would be some miraculous transformation with delivery for me. Even though I had gained a ton I wanted so bad to not wake up and know my body had been ruined.
I remember the moment I looked at myself in the mirror after birth. It was about 7 hours after my c-section. I was up moving around and about to visit my daughter in the NICU, but first I had to use the restroom. I was in complete and utter shock. What had happened to my stomach? It was like it the only thing that had changed was it was no longer in a nice bump shape, instead it just sagged. My gut (yup, a gut… since it was no longer a bump. A huge bump is WAY more desirable than a huge gut) hung down out from under my shirt, and over my pants. It was not smaller at all than before giving birth. How was this possible? I still looked pregnant. In fact on the mom baby unit after getting back from visiting my baby in the NICU I was asked by a new dad when I was due. I turned bright red and admitted that I had already given birth, I was so embarrassed. I was devastated, I didn’t look at myself in the mirror for at least the first month.
I hated my body and knew that it was ruined forever. In my head I realized if my ex and I ever split that no one would ever want to have sex with me again. My ex at the time had made comments about my post baby belly, asking me if it would ever go back to normal again. I remember turning red and reaching down to cover it up admitting that it would not.
So what changed?
The answer quite simply was the internet.
I remember the day I found Shape of a Mother. I sat with tears streaming down my face looking at bodies that looked just like mine did. I remember thinking how brave these women were. Even before baby when getting ready I would change and change clothes, trying to find something that would hide the offensive pudge in my midsection. I remember hearing people speak about how they were grossed out by women who would wear clothes that they shouldn’t for their body types and feeling shame. I would imagine it goes unsaid that if you shouldn’t wear clothes that show your muffin top, you for sure shouldn’t post naked or next to naked pictures online. And here were these women, without apology sharing with the world who they were, what they looked like. It was empowering. I shared it with a mom friend that also was unhappy with her body at the time. We IM’ed for hours talking about these women and their bodies, and our bodies.
At 4 weeks postpartum I took my first picture of my postpartum body. I shared it on a online pregnancy/baby community I was a member of. The responses were amazing. So many women told me that their body looked just like mine and thanked me for posting the picture. That they had been afraid to post their plus size postpartum pictures because every picture they see posted did not look like them.
Sharing my picture really helped me take a leap into accepting my body. For the first time in my life I had posted a picture of my body from an unflattering angle. Not attempting to conceal any part of me. Around the time I started to make healthier lifestyle choices and I started to get into shape. I kept sharing my postpartum pictures in this community. I would share my progress and in turn inspired other women who looked like me to share theirs.
I got healthier and healthier. And started to feel amazing. I realized that how I felt was so much more important than how I looked.
[2 and a half years postpartum]
Through time I learned to love my body. I ended up single again and guess what? Men still wanted to have sex with me, and were attracted to my body. I also realized the cause of my lifelong battle with my body. I placed where many of these ideas came from that my body was somehow shameful. Through time I also found women’s studies and I was in love. With each class I became more and more confident and angry. I realized that I had to make a choice to love myself and I owed it to my daughter and every female in the world.
My belly will ALWAYS hang a bit, be wrinkly and be covered in stretch marks. This body grew and nourished two humans and is amazing. And even before pregnancy, my body was a body of a woman and just right because it was mine. You can ask any women no matter how small or large and she is going to have body issues. Its not because there is something wrong with her body, it is because she was taught by society since she was a little girl to hate her body. I read an alarming statistic that 42% of girls in grades 1-3 think they are to fat. That 51% of 9-10 year old girls feel better about themselves while on a diet.
How the fuck did we let our little girls end up feeling like this?
Its not surprising when you see the figures of the Disney princesses. They are oh so sexual and have insane curvy, skinny figures. They are perfect play-toys for men. But they aren’t on the cover of some adult magazine, they are who your 4 year old daughters aspire to be. And who our little boys want to marry.
I feel like sharing what my body looks like is not only my right at this point but my responsibility. If only women who fit the misogynistic beauty standards in our society share their pictures, then the only images that exist will be of this ONE body type. And these little girls are not getting an accurate representation of NORMAL BEAUTIFUL women. So I walk around naked in front of my daughters proud. And I will post pictures of what my body and not apologize for them.
Because guess what? Its gorgeous.
It doesn’t need to fit your beauty standards. Because it fits mine ^___^