Bonnie, I think it’s so wonderful what you’re doing on your Shape of a Mother website. I wish you enormous success with it – I’m telling my friends to go see it. My single MALE friends.
I’ve looked at all the photos on this website. I think I fall somewhere in the middle as far as the “bounce-back” goes, a couple of the photos made me pout with envy but mostly I just felt an amazing kinship with all the other bared bellies. I barely remember what my stomach looked like before I had kids. I saw a “belly shot” of myself at five months pregnant with OldestKid, and I laughed my butt off. My stomach was flatter in that picture than it is today, almost twenty-three months after YoungestKid was born. No stretch marks yet, either. It made me whimper just a little.
I don’t mind the belly itself so much. The stretchmarks – I don’t even think about them anymore. I got them on my stomach, my breasts, my thighs. They aren’t that bad, they’re basically flesh toned, and at this point they just happen to be a part of me, like my brown eyes or my short fingers or my fantastic legs. The love-handles (love handles, for pete’s sake!), the skin- sag, the pretty much completely horrifying scrotal-foldover when I bend down … those make me feel indignant. They are not supposed to be there! I mean, maybe they’re supposed to be there, but probably just for other women and NOT me – the fact that I have them was obviously a total oversight on nature’s part. I still have my linnea negra, too, at twenty-three months post-partum, but I just think that’s cute. What’s the deal with my belly button changing shape, though? That’s not cute or hateful, it’s just weird. One thing I do love about my post-partum body is my newly aquired butt – it’s not a lot, but it’s more than I used to have and hey! It doesn’t hurt to sit down anymore.
All that stuff can pretty much be covered up by a properly fitting pair of pants and a shirt that’s an appropriate length. Not such a big deal – except the part where I’m a single mom now and have been in a couple of relationships by this point. The first time I was naked in front of a man besides my ex-husband, I actually apologized. For my own body. I shook, I blushed, I said, “I’m sorry… I had kids.” He was beautiful, he said, “Don’t you ever act ashamed in front of me. You have nothing to be ashamed of.” He kissed my belly. He kissed my stretch marks. A funny thing happened when I found a man who really cared about me, who insisted I was beautiful and insisted I believe it too – I became pretty comfortably with my body. Believe me, indignant is a good step up from out-and-out loathing. I find it ironic that I was always so ashamed of my postpartum body in front of my husband, who knew and loved my body before and after I bore his children, and now I don’t think twice about wearing a bikini. An actual bikini! In front of people!
I remember a few years ago when a truly beautiful friend of yours and mine got her belly button pierced, after having two kids, and I was horrified at the very thought of lifting my shirt and showing a complete stranger my belly in all it’s striped, saggy glory. “I would NEVER be able to do that,” I gasped. I’d had it done when I was sixteen, but that was when my tummy was CUTE. Three months ago, with three of my (single, male) friends looking on, I lifted my shirt and got my navel re-pierced by a (single, male, utterly edible) total stranger. It hurt for a split-second, but what I felt more than the pain was a sense of vindication. I won’t find my body shameful anymore.
Keep up the good work, Bonnie. I am so proud of you – of all of us – of mothers. Here’s me NOT sucking in (I usually do, though, in the spirit of complete honesty).
(My ethnic pride belly button ring, haha.)