A Stolen Photograph (I Refuse to be Ashamed)

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!

64 thoughts on “A Stolen Photograph (I Refuse to be Ashamed)

  • Monday, July 13, 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.

  • Wednesday, July 15, 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.

  • Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Thank you!!!

  • Sunday, July 19, 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!

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  • Wednesday, July 22, 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.

  • Sunday, August 2, 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 !!

  • Tuesday, August 11, 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.

  • Thursday, August 13, 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.

  • Sunday, September 20, 2009 at 6:41 am

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

  • Thursday, April 29, 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!)

  • Saturday, December 14, 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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