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A Stolen Photograph (I Refuse to be Ashamed)

June 27, 2009

I was alerted to a certain anti-stretch mark article tonight by reader Sara. The author of this article had the gall to break copyright laws and steal my photograph of myself and my baby son which has been featured on this website for nearly three years. I have politely asked her to remove it.

I will not be linking to this article because I do not want them to benefit from the traffic a link would provide – also because I would prefer this end here rather than become some drawn-out internet soap opera. But this has given me an opportunity to write about something which has been on my mind for awhile. Namely the power we let society have over our esteem.

I am a fat woman. For the longest time, I was ashamed of that and felt that I was unworthy of good things in life – of looking pretty, of feeling pretty, of being listened to, of being admired. Screw that! I am human, I am smart, I am pretty, and I am more than worthy of all these things and more. I am striving to be healthy in diet and exercise and I do hope certain health issues get resolved, which will lead to being a lower weight for this size is rather physically uncomfortable for me. But if not, I won’t let anyone tell me how to feel about myself any more. I used to hide my fat arms in sleeves, short or long. But I won’t anymore. I happen to like the kiss of the sun on my shoulders, and I refuse to be hidden just because my arms don’t fit one particular image of what society says they should look like. I’ve liberated my arms and my esteem.

Society has no right to decide for me that my stretch marks, my extra skin, my body shape make me unworthy. I refuse to feel badly about my body because I grew, nourished and birthed (and nourished some more) two amazing people. I refuse – I simply refuse – to fall into that negative thinking. I have children who I have to be strong for, children who look to me as a role model for what women are – and I want them to know that women are strong, rational, intelligent creatures who can be beautiful and KNOW IT at any size and at any shape.

I really don’t care if people look at my belly and feel disgust. I steel myself against them. I run my fingers along the lines and appreciate what they mean: love. The love of growing my babies. And I simply refuse to let myself even think negative things – I won’t be held down that way!

As an activist, I feel like each person must take a stand. Ten years ago, it was unheard of to re-use grocery bags, but it is becoming quite the norm these days – because each individual person took that stand and made it so. I also feel like positive body image really and truly IS within our reach, only we each have to make the decision not to allow them to imprison us in our own cells of self-hatred. We have to make the decision to just REFUSE to let them tell us how to think of ourselves. How dare they? How dare they try to keep us down?

I find it rather ironic that the photograph that was stolen in an attempt to create a feeling of shame about a mother’s body happens to be a pose which I feel is confidant and self-assured, not afraid to just be, regardless of how many stretch marks and extra skin there may be.

The Birth of SOAM

Don’t let them get into your head. Take control and refuse them access to your insecurities. Fake it if you have to – the real stuff will follow naturally – but take a stand with me and all the other moms on here and refuse to be ashamed!

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62 Responses to “A Stolen Photograph (I Refuse to be Ashamed)”

  1. Ashley Says:
    June 27th, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    Finally. This is what I was looking for on this website. Be confident ladies. You don’t need creams and surgeries to be beautiful. Stand strong in your own skin no matter what it looks like.

  2. rose Says:
    June 27th, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    wow, im very proud of you!

  3. rose Says:
    June 27th, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    do you know that you can sue them for stealing your picture?

  4. J Says:
    June 27th, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    I work everyday not to feel ashamed.

    Sorry about the stolen photo… creepy.

    You are awesome!!

  5. Shi Says:
    June 27th, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    I just want to say that you ARE NOT fat!!! My goodness, you do not look overweight at all! And this is one of my favorite photos, the baby on your hip next too the tattoos he left behind make this photo so incredibly beautiful. I love to look at women at parks and beaches who have stretchmarks, and sagging skin, and other tell tale signs of motherhood as they proudly chase their little ones around, I just think those bodies are so beautiful, and they tell such an amazing story! Seeing women who are marked by pregnancy showing it off for all to see makes them look confident, attractive, and blessed! I have no problem showing my marks, and I truly feel blessed and honoured and special to have them…and thanks to this site, we can all remind ourselves what they really mean, and find pride in all that they represent!

  6. Beth Says:
    June 28th, 2009 at 12:16 am

    I wish I had something profound to add, but all I can say is, that is just a beautiful statement. Thank you, Bonnie.

  7. DAN Says:
    June 28th, 2009 at 12:17 am

    im a guy that likes to see nakid girls, that stated, what i really love is momma’s you have no idea how attractive you are as a whole, if there was to be a suryey as to who is more desirable the ladies that post here or at some other web site you would be amazied to find that shapeofamother would be the easy winner. in closing, mom’s . your cuter and checked out more than you will ever know

  8. Bonnie (SOAM) Says:
    June 28th, 2009 at 12:51 am

    LOL Shi, yes, I am, actually. (And FTR using the word “fat” instead of overweight is empowering to me – makes the whole thing less secretive, yk?) But, yes, I am. I am tall and big boned, but even then I am about 235 right now and should be more like 175 for a healthy weight for me. :)

  9. kerry Says:
    June 28th, 2009 at 4:28 am

    I’m so glad I found this site before I gave birth, because instead of hating my body and worrying about it after I had my son I loved it, stretch marks and all from the day he left my tummy to be in my arms! I’m not saying my confidence wouldn’t be tested had I had a different pp experience, I’m not gonna lie, I have the marks, but my belly is pretty near flat and I respect and look up to the mother’s with saggy bellys and a little extra weight even more! They are so strong! My husband thinks the same way DAN does… and who wouldn’t?!? I mean seriously! We’ve created, carried, and nourished another life! That is so much sexier then a flat bellied 15 year old! Thanks again Bonnie, for inspiring the multitudes!

  10. A Says:
    June 28th, 2009 at 4:53 am

    I’m confused, I thought you described yourself as ‘fat’ ?? I don’t see a fat person in the picture?

  11. nex0s Says:
    June 28th, 2009 at 8:05 am

    Are you 235 in that picture? Because if you are, I have to tell you that even at 235 you are NOT fat.

    BMIs are bullshit. I look at that picture and I see a confident pose, but also a fit Mom who has the marks to prove it.

  12. marci Says:
    June 28th, 2009 at 8:06 am

    bonnie, that was beautiful. and like so many things about this website, educational and empowering for all of us who come here. thank you again for sharing your courage and your vision and your strength.

  13. Bonnie (SOAM) Says:
    June 28th, 2009 at 8:45 am

    nex0s – no, I was about 200 there, three years ago. I agree that a BMI cannot give enough information – just as a scale can’t. I feel I am pretty realistic about my weight. :)

  14. Mary Says:
    June 28th, 2009 at 8:49 am

    Great picture!

  15. Anna Says:
    June 28th, 2009 at 9:04 am

    You rock, Bonnie!

  16. Kit Says:
    June 28th, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Every woman – mother or not – should be made to read this site. It’s the truest, most honest thing I have ever read and I love the message it gives to women.

    I say we should own ourselves for who we are. We all strive to do the best by our bodies (that can be doubly, triply hard after children). The fact that other women criticise what is, simply, the shape of a mother makes my throat catch. I love the photo of you; the stance of you with your child on your hip, stomach exposed. Your midriff looks so ‘incidental’ to everything else – the baby, the world around you, what’s in your head. I say stand like Boudicca in her chariot with your baby in your arms and love your skin for the glory of what it has done.

    I tell all my friends (new mothers) about this website. It often feels like, after love, it’s the most powerful thing I can offer them; an insight into the true sisterhood of motherhood.

    Kit

  17. I-dra Says:
    June 28th, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    thanks, dan! ; )

    that totally sucks about the stolen photo & who stole it & for the reason they did. those stretchmark creams are a SHAM! a sham, i tell you! women, mothers of the world: please PLEASE embrace the marks your children gave you! if your child suddenly died, wouldn’t you want to have something to show the world that yes, that child did, indeed, grow inside of you? i love my stretchmarks. i got only a few on my belly & a lot on my hips & i honestly think they are the most beautiful, gratifying things about pregnancy (aside from the baby, obviously). i love that i’ve crossed that gateway from maiden to mother & that i have my initiation marks to prove it.

    on the subject of BMIs, according to mine, i am about 10 lbs away from being obese, but i am only 5′ tall & 145 lbs. i’m not obese, i’m curvy!

  18. Tina Says:
    June 28th, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Bonnie you rule. I love that picture and I love that it is beautiful enough for someone else to want on their website, even if it is the opposite of what they should have been looking for.

  19. mrs. petunia Says:
    June 28th, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! You have given so many women the amazing gift of EMPOWERMENT. I felt so inspired after reading your words that I just wanted to go and shake a fist at….somebody :) Again, thank you for all that you have done.

  20. anon (postpartum 21 and 15 years' posts Says:
    June 28th, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Everyone has beauty within them – regardless of their outside shell. I have hung my drawings (see this site) on my walls. My sons are disgusted with nude drawings of me taken from a now 26 year old picture. I am so thrilled with them that I am proud to show them. One day I hope my sons will understand how I felt and not judge me for not being ashamed to show my body.

  21. Amy Says:
    June 28th, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Amen! By the way, you certainly don’t look like a fat woman in THAT photo!

  22. Stephanie Says:
    June 28th, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    I always wonder if those ads in the side bars on websites are stolen from this website. They are supposed to be a before and after of the stretch mark cream. Really, they look like many of the pics on this site, for example, a 3 week PP pic vs a 8 month PP pic. I feel like they’re stolen because I cannot imagine a woman posing for and getting paid for photographs that deem her “before” picture as unworthy. Does anyone else know what ads I’m talking about?

  23. Kim Says:
    June 28th, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    That’s it! I’m going to take a photo with each twin on a hip and my belly proudly displayed:) Thank you for unveiling the deep rooted pride in my mommyhood I knew I had to take a photo like this. I can’t wait to take it and upload it!

  24. Ashley Says:
    June 28th, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    Ditto everything “Shi” said, especially the part about you NOT looking remotely over weight! I’ve been coming to this site for a year now and I’ve always LOVED the picture! I don’t think you can mistake the confidence there… poor picture choice for their ad!

  25. Mina Says:
    June 28th, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    Bonnie, you are awesome.
    I’m really not a litigation-happy person…I can’t resist suggesting that you offer the person who stole this photo for devious means the option to avoid being sued…if she donates a sizable sum of cash to a foundation for women suffering from eating disorders…

    Thank you for this site and for the forum women have to discuss issues like these. It’s priceless…

  26. H Says:
    June 29th, 2009 at 1:20 am

    :) Couldn’t agree with you more. It’s like when people said that Britney Spears should cover herself up on stage, because she has had two children and “can’t get away with it anymore”. WHY???? It makes me so mad!

  27. H Says:
    June 29th, 2009 at 1:32 am

    I thouht you said you were fat!? Where exactly? I don’t see any :)

  28. Helena Says:
    June 29th, 2009 at 7:17 am

    It’s truely a sad reflection of our society that your picture was taken and used in such a way. I’m currently 32 weeks with twins and have never loved my body more. Our babies were a long time in the making and finally being pregnant has been a huge body confidence booster. I love my stretchmarks, they say to me that I am finally truely a woman, as like you say they show you have nurtured life. I look at them and I smile, I don’t understand why we are supposed to be disgusted by them? So many of us have them that in the end they are ‘normal’ not the ‘abnormal’ the supposed skin care companies want us to feel they are.
    Keep it up! I’m sure your son will grow up with a very realistic idea of what a woman looks like and will therefore love the women in his life truely for who they are.

  29. Deb Says:
    June 29th, 2009 at 8:53 am

    “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

  30. Bonnie (SOAM) Says:
    June 29th, 2009 at 8:56 am

    To update you all, the woman who stole the photograph has removed it and apologized both for having used it without permission and for the reason for the use. I have a feeling she had just done a google image search and swiped the first photo without considering where it may have come from. I cannot wrap my mind around any other explanations. LOL

  31. Annette Says:
    June 29th, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Amen! Your words brought tears to my eyes. You are an excellent example of what it means to be a woman and most importantly a mother. Thank you.

  32. Catherine S Says:
    June 29th, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Bonnie, thank you for all of this, your words, creating this site, and encouraging other women to be proud of themselves as mothers.

  33. mamaoffour Says:
    June 29th, 2009 at 11:28 am

    What a refreshing post! I’ve always loved this photo – I think it’s the epitome of lovely. What a gracious, confident person you are, and way to go for maintaining your sense of humour through it all. And how gorgeous is that baby?? Reminds me of my plump little breastfeeders! Isn’t it amazing to watch them grow from nourishment created by YOU?? I never cease to marvel…

  34. ashley Says:
    June 29th, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    no one can fake being a mom, a mom is something to be proud of, it is the oldest trade in history, almost every mom has mothered more than once, what more proof do you need that a mom is sexy, strength belongs to a woman, who has done what no man can do, and that is create life from her very core, why women struggle to be perfect, is because we already do everything perfect, not all of society needs to change its perfect image of women, women need to change what the perfect image is, everyone else will learn and respect our hard work, women create society, and we turn them against ourselves, its time to change that!

  35. xxBillieBonesxx Says:
    June 29th, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    I almost killed myself because I thought I didn’t deserve life for being overweight, stretch marked. I hated myself so much that I wanted to die. And I couldn’t get any help, I made a prison for myself inside my head and I was so hard on myself that I wittled away everything about me that was good until I was not just unattractive outside, but inside too. I had to work on the inside and out, and now I am not perfect, i’ll never wear a bikini, but I feel better about myself. Stay strong!!!!! you are beautiful and I LOVE YOUR BEAUTY MARKS ON YOUR TUMMY.

  36. taiyo Says:
    June 29th, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    This post IS so refreshing. Thanks for writing it, Bonnie, and thanks for creating such an amazing resource for women who are struggling to accept them/ourselves. I love what you said– “I happen to love the kiss of the sun on my shoulders.” I’m glad you’ve liberated your arms. How ridiculous that we live in a world where we don’t feel comfortable doing things that make us feel good like basking in the sun because we don’t feel like our bodies are the “right” shape. Bullshit! I also appreciate that you shared your weight struggle on here. We are so messed up when it comes to weight in terms of numbers. Anyone would look at this photo of you and think, what a beautiful, healthy woman. You are lovely and you should be proud.

  37. Katie Says:
    June 29th, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    The only chub I see here is on the adorable little baby on your hip that has very obviously benefited from the generosity your body has bestowed on those cute little baby legs.

  38. Tania Says:
    June 29th, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Hell yeah!!! You rock!

  39. Betty Says:
    June 30th, 2009 at 11:04 am

    An exquisite photo- hands on hips, defiant, a glowing child daring the viewer to mess with his mama! I love it.

  40. Shelly Says:
    June 30th, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Bonnie, that was beautiful. This site has helped me so much in achieving acceptance. You touch so many lives. I sometimes find myself wishing that men would be required to read these stories so that our husbands/boyfriends would understand where we women are coming from- and know that beauty comes in different forms. Our mommy bodies and marks are a deeper form of beauty. I know that for the most part we are our own worst enemies/critics and that the men in our lives typically love us through these changes- but to understand our struggles…..it would be wonderful to have that kind of support!

    Thank you again for all your work on this site. I really hope you get to Oprah!

  41. Clara Says:
    June 30th, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    AMEN TO THAT!!!! im done beating myself up for not being media approoved pretty, for not being as “perfect” as i thought i was in my teen years. For being less than perfect…..I am perfect, every stretchmark, scar, extra skin, fat on my body…its all natural! I used to be a model and i have never felt any prettier than i do NOW

  42. clara Says:
    July 1st, 2009 at 9:20 am

    you have been a source inspiration to me for the past three years…everytime i am told to lose weight and feel looked down, i remember about the many blogs ive seen here…im 22 now and posted here almost 2 yrs ago…ive grown a lot…ive learned to accept myself…so i have to thank you…and please sue that lady, who does shhe think she is,thats horrible…

  43. The Family Journey » Stretch Marks are Tattoos from Your Baby Says:
    July 3rd, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    [...] blog post speaks to the acceptance this mother has of her body, and her genuine appreciation for her own post-baby body. Posted in [...]

  44. Mama Says:
    July 4th, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    Anti-strechmark? Is that like being anti-human? or Anti-woman? Sounds like ignorance is to blame. Shameful, shameful, ignorance on this person’s front.

  45. Mama Says:
    July 4th, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    And you are definitely not fat and you provide hope for women around the world! Keep it up! Keep steeling yourself against this! :)

  46. Paula Says:
    July 5th, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Bonnie,
    I’m touched by your words…
    This site has been a live saver to me…
    I come here almost everyday… and it helps me so much…
    Here i feel normal… I feel good about my body…
    And yes, my stretch marks are my son’s first kisses.
    I’m a mother and i love it… wouldn’t trade it for nothing…
    My son is the most important thing in my life… and now i embrace my body changes… i’m not just a woman but a mama too… and i have a mama body… and i’m proud…
    Thanks to you Bonnie…
    And to all mama’s on this website…

  47. walter moller Says:
    July 6th, 2009 at 8:47 am

    I am a old man now and I am sitting here crying for joy about all the possetive answer your getting.
    for me, a womens body is art it is so beautiuful in every shape.
    Bonnie keep your head up ,your beautifull.Walt

  48. Abby Says:
    July 7th, 2009 at 9:13 am

    I wanted to tell you, I’ve actually seen your picture before…a livejournal friend of mine has it posted in her profile – of a beautiful and meaningful reminder of our physical changes as we go through pregnancy and motherhood. Thank you!

  49. Mia Says:
    July 7th, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    This website gives me hope that someday I may accept my ‘new’ body. It is so different from my ‘old’ body and seems determined to stay. Or rather I could get rid of it but I would also have to get rid of my true self and turn into a zombie eating fat free all the time.
    Like a previous comment above I have felt so much hatred towards myself for being fat – and I am unquestionably fat at 5ft4 and 200lbs (probably more by now but I don’t weigh myself) – at the same time I know it’s crazy to hate your body so much that you feel you don’t have a right to go out, wear nice things, eat in front of others etc.
    I have 2 little boys and I don’t want them to judge a person by their size. I feel a huge weight of responsibility on my shoulders.

  50. Alex Says:
    July 13th, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Ok you yes you are a woman who has been pregnant and given birth so the extra skin comes with the territory but why did you describe yourself as fat? Extra skin from pregnancy is one thing…being fat and overweight is different. Your size seems very “normal” and approriate.

  51. Bonnie (SOAM) Says:
    July 13th, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    I stated this in the comments above, but just to clarify – that photo up there is 3 years old and 30 pounds lighter. I am 5’9 and weigh 235 which gives me a BMI of 34 which is considered obese. Granted I have big bones (really! lol) and so I think that skews the BMI calculator so that it does not hold 100% accurate for me, I still think it is fair to say I weigh too much. In my adult life the lowest weight I have been was at 170 and I still felt I had weight to lose, although I don’t know how accurate THAT is – maybe 170 is perfect for me but I could not see it at the time. In any case, I feel I am being quite realistic about my weight and I am not angry at myself for it nor do I intend to sound like it is a bad thing.

    Please, let’s not make these comments any more. I realize they are intended to be supportive, but I feel like they take away from the point of what I have written – which is that it doesn’t MATTER what I weigh.

  52. Neecee Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Amen! I love your stance on this and in the photo. Keep up the great work because we need to see ourselves reflected in others to know we are not alone. I always come back to this site when I need to feel the comraderie of women who have been altered by the most magical experience there is, and even more, to fight the perpetuation of an unnatural beauty standard in our world and within our own heads.

  53. Neecee Says:
    July 15th, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Thank you!!!

  54. aiyana Says:
    July 19th, 2009 at 6:54 am

    thank you Bonnie. I was tearing up as I read this post. This website has done wonders for me, and for my acceptance of my body. Instead of looking at my stretchmarks and cringing, I now look at them proudly. Because this is what my body had to go through in order to give me the most amazing gift in my life. My beautiful baby boy.
    thank you so much for this site!

  55. I am not ashamed (Kimberly) | The Shape of a Mother Says:
    July 20th, 2009 at 9:59 am

    [...] Bonnie’s recent post inspired me to add my story. This picture is my story and I am not ashamed. I love my babies, I love my body, and I love my life! [...]

  56. Alicia Says:
    July 22nd, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Thank You Bonnie for being an activist for those of us trying to find our voice as we fall in love with ourselves all over again. As inside my inner hope is to glow on the outside the feeling of honour it has been to raise 4 children. I read this and asked my husband what he loves about my mommy body now, and he said “I truly believe that to look at your stretchmarks is looking at a badge of honour.”
    Yes! They are mine.

  57. Pat Says:
    August 2nd, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    You made me cry. As I was reading your words, I wanted to go into my bathroom and stare at my beautiful self without picking at every ” flaw”. And I did :)Thank you !!

  58. Dr. Candice Davis Says:
    August 11th, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    You are an amazing women! I wish I could have that attitude as i read in our state’s parenting magazine that liposuction and tummy tucks are on SALE! I thought out loud that I might like to have that done one day and my husband said “why, don’t you know that your curves are beautiful?”
    I wish for all mommies to know that our curves are beautiful.
    Thank your for posting your article.

  59. Kathy Says:
    August 13th, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    When I first glimpsed at this article (totally missing the fact that its the websites ICON, but I knew it looked familiar. haha) I thought you were going to say you “stole” the image from another woman to show how beautiful she was. I was shocked when I read it was completely the other way around.

    It is a gorgeous picture and you are a beautiful woman. I LOVE that this image screams MOTHER. That pudge-pudge little cutie made that body into what it is today, completely gorgeous.

  60. shanen Says:
    September 20th, 2009 at 6:41 am

    YOU ARE NOT FAT OR ANYWHERE NEAR IT. congrats on ur positive attitude but u r not fat.

  61. Gil Warzecha Says:
    April 29th, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Thank you! Thank you for writing this and saying this! I have stretch marks, sagging belly skin, and will-never-again-be-perky breasts. The funny thing is … I’m MORE comfortable in this new, less-than-perfect form than I was pre-children. So, I agree with you! You’re gorgeous JUST the way you are! (And NOT fat!)

  62. Laura Says:
    December 14th, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    I stumbled upon this page obviously YEARS after the last comment. However, I found it by searching “belly after baby,” frustrated by my own body. I clicked on it because, honestly, I thought this picture of motherhood so beautiful–chunky (healthy) baby looking on as mom bares the badges of carrying a growing human being inside her for 40ish weeks! You go momma. You are beautiful.

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