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Interviewed!

July 13, 2006

Meredith O’Brien interviewed me the other day via e-mail and posted it here in her Club Mom blog. Read it here and click on over to her blog to say hello!

Q&A with Shape of a Mother Creator
I had the pleasure of corresponding via e-mail with the creator of the new web site, Shape of a Mother, which solicits women to submit their pregnant and postpartum photos. Some are snapshots of women sans clothing, so be forewarned if you’re at work. Others are images of women in semi-dressed poses.

What they all have in common is that no one on the site is a perfect, airbrushed celeb. The images are real. And the collection of these images is very powerful.

Bonnie, a married mom of a 4- and a 1-year-old from Southern California, started Shape of a Mother after having been a blogger for five years. She was kind enough to answer questions from the Parenting Pop Culture blogger (that’s me). Here’s an excerpt from our virtual conversation:

Parenting Pop Culture (PPC): What does your spouse think about the creation of this web site? Your family and friends?

Bonnie, creator of Shape of a Mother (married 5 1/2 years): [My husband] is very supportive of the site, but in all honesty, it’s not one of his passions. The web site is still really new — a week old — so I actually hadn’t gotten around to telling many people yet. Those who do know are incredibly supportive and thrilled about it.

PPC: Was there a specific incident that prompted you to take the plunge and just do it, create the web site?

Bonnie: I originally had the idea back in March I think, but sat on it for awhile until last week. There was a “discussion” on a local moms board where a woman made some comment about overweight people on the beach needing to cover up. It offended me to hear someone speak like that and it lit the fire under my bum to get this site up and running already.

PPC: When you had your children, were you surprised by how your own body changed? How so? What were wome of the biggest changes?

Bonnie: To a degree, yes. I had resigned myself to stretchmarks at an early age since puberty had created many on my thighs and breasts, but I had no idea the degree to which I’d get them. Not only am I a “zebra belly” but my calves and upper arms also grew stripes during my first pregnancy. The worst shock was the extra flap of skin I have now that didn’t go away no matter how much weight I lost.

PPC: How did you feel about those changes in your body?

Bonnie: I hated them. I was overweight before getting pregnant and ended up at 225 pounds after my daughter was born, so I thought I did it to myself. I thought it was my fault for that extra skin because I was overweight. I blamed myself. Now I know better. I’m sure being overweight didn’t help things, and I wish I hadn’t been for many reasons, but I see now that it might not have made any difference at all. I’m not okay with my body by any means, in fact it’s a lot easier to see other women’s pictures than my own, but I know I’m not alone and I try to remember than I’m more than just skin.

PPC: What messages do you think the American popular culture sends to pregnant and postpartum women regarding their bodies?

Bonnie: That we are all smooth and firm, and anything else is shameful.

PPC: What’s the impact of the celeb moms who appear on magazine covers scantily clothed, nary a slip of loose skin or stretchmark in sight, on regular moms?

Bonnie: I think we compare ourselves to these women and expect to be like them when we don’t know the whole story. We don’t know what camera angles or air brushing made them look better. We don’t know what kind of rigid training and scant diets they might be on in the pressure to look skinny right away again. I remember reading a quote from Gwyneth Paltrow (I don’t follow celeb stuff too much, but this stuck out to me) that she said she was more concerned with nursing her baby than losing weight to have the perfect body again right away. I really admired that. Of course the kicker there is that she LOOKS GREAT and whoever was pressuring her to lose weight is exactly the person who is hurting all these women.

PPC: Do you ever talk with fellow moms about the state of their physiques post-children? What kinds of things do you hear?

Bonnie: It inevitably comes up in conversation, but it’s rare to hear anything positive. On top of everything else, there is this idea that if you think you look good, you’re conceited, and no one wants to be that girl, so even if a woman has some pride in her body — perfect or not — she will not likely speak up about it.

PPC: Why is it important to you to have images of stretchmarked bellies with loose skin on a web site?

Bonnie: Because, in every instance when I’ve felt alone in my life, once I have been brave enough to speak up, I find I’m not alone at all. We all box ourselves in these little cubicles of shame, afraid to talk about things, but the fact is, we’re all afraid of the same things. There is always someone who shares your fears with you. And it’s incredibly cathartic to find you are not alone.

PPC: Do you worry that there will be backlash from people who find the images distasteful? What would you say to those people?

Bonnie: Nah. In this world, everybody hates something, so I imagine there will be someone who is uncomfortable with this site. I would say to them, “Look away. Peace.”

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