The Result of Growth (Chloe)

I’m built very petite (5’2″, 100-105 lbs when I’m not pregnant or nursing) and yet three times, I’ve given birth to nine pound babies (my boys are almost 12, 9, and almost 7). It’s taken me time, but I’ve learned to love, honor, and respect the fact that my body that so often feels so small and vulnerable was able to grow and accommodate such big babies. I had to have c-sections because of the width of my pelvis and for a long time that felt like a failure- but now I honor that, too. The loose skin that buckles and puckers when I bend or sit is a physical representation of all the growing and expanding my body and soul have had to do, in order to become a mother. How could that possibly be ugly?

-Chloe, age 33



My Tears (Anonymous)

I came across this website after following a link at the bottom of an article on government fiscal policy of all things.

Without reading a single story, just the opening statement, I found myself in tears. Not a soft, delicate, salty trickle of shared sadness, but a harsh, tsunami of tears, so hot I thought my cheeks would blister. If my reaction to this site took anyone by surprise, it was certainly myself. But with those tears came a sudden epiphany – a deep and startlingly profound understanding of myself, and how I see myself and, hence, my world.

I have always had body image issues. As a young teen I was a curvy, top heavy size 12 and my friends model thin, flat chested size 6 and 8. There has never been a time in my life where I haven’t been focussed on my weight, my size or my shape to one degree or another, and not in a positive way. When I look back now, I am amazed at how good I looked as a teen and I feel sadness that I was so obsessed with wanting to be Kate Moss thin like my friends that I didn’t appreciate how healthy and normal I was.

I had my first child at 19, my second at 22, my third at 31. Each pregnancy saw me stay a little heavier and my body shape change a little more, but I wasn’t obsessed by it, even though I was still always dieting and wanting to look better and thinner. Overall it was ok – my, then, husband liked my body, I was still a size 13/14, and my baby pouch which had nurtured our three babies, was just a part of me.

When my marriage failed everything changed. I found myself in another relationship with an attractive, successful and yet, on reflection, controlling and misogynistic man who had me constantly apologising for my weight and size and just about every other aspect of me. When I fell pregnant naturally at age 43, he stopped touching me – wouldn’t come near me, all physical, and emotional, connection ceased suddenly, and he started a string of affairs with numerous women that continued until I left the relationship with an 18 month old baby and a very differently sized and shaped body. If I thought my body changed after pregnancy in my 20’s and 30’s I didn’t know what to think about the changes from a pregnancy and a natural birth in my early 40’s.

I’ve been living on my own for a year now, but in reality I’ve been alone for three, and if I am honest much longer, as I now know the affairs started before the pregnancy. I suffered severe post natal depression, which continues now as just regular garden variety depression since my daughter is now 26 months old.

Every aspect of my life has deteriorated, including my once successful career, and relationships with my older children, family and friends have been affected and infected as I have isolated myself. I have no confidence, no self esteem, no value in myself. The simple act of dressing every morning is an emotional hurdle finding something to wear that “minimises my fatness”.

I feel inferior to colleagues at work, embarrassed taking my daughter to toddler dance class because of what the other mothers might think of me, I avoid time with dear old school friends because I am embarrassed. I would like an intimate relationship, but can’t even contemplate that a man I would find attractive would even give me a second look – overweight, cellulite, saggy breasts and a, now, very pronounced baby pouch.

If the father of my child rejects me because of how I look, how my body is, how can I expect anyone else to accept me

My epiphany is that I suddenly realised I have allowed the loathing and hate I have for my body to determine the self-image I have in every aspect of my life. And that’s stupid. How I look doesn’t affect my skill at work, or the love I have for my children and family or the quality of my friendships. I’ve spent the last few years investing in tummy tamers, hold me in undies and fantasising about affording a boob job, tummy tuck, arm thinning, liposuction and a multitude of other surgeries to make me “acceptable” to the world.

The reality is, if I do not love me, I can never let anyone else love me. Self-sabotage is a vicious disease.
My body tells my story –every bump, lump, lovehandle, stretchmark and wrinkle – but it does not define who I am. If people can’t see beyond the lumps and bumps on my body that tell my story they doesn’t deserve to be part of that story

I need to see beyond the lumps and bumps on my body that tell my story. I need to accept and love and like myself.
And I suspect that there are going to be a lot more tears before I can do that.


Update (Anonymous)

Previous post here.

I have a incredible update to my story. My son I gave up for adoption well his dad and I got married. We got reunited with our son on our wedding day. He and his family was at our wedding. His adoptive parents are amazing my son is now 22 and I have never been happier. I have learned through all of my life experiences that everything happens for a reason and there is a plan for each thing we face in life whether it be bad or good. I have never felt sexier, more beautiful, and complete in all my life. I will always greive for the loss of my baby but know that someday I will be reunited with him. These pics were taken just a month ago. I believe that when you love yourself love will find you. My body is not perfect no where close to perfect there are things I wish were different but I know that every flaw I see is part of the beauty in my life. Each stretch mark each grey hair and the well not perfectly toned body is all part of being a mom. One of the greatest gifts in the world. I am going to be 39 here real soon and am embracing my age and my life. I encourage all of you to love yourself you become a better lover, a better mom, a better wife/girlfriend. When you love yourself your truly able to give all of you to the ones you love


I am a (almost) 50 year old woman. I have had 6 pregnancies, resulting in 4 live births and 2 very late (mid second trimester) miscarriages. My “babies” are now aged from 19 up to 25.

When I started having my children in the mid-80s I was considered to be slightly overweight (5-9 and 165lbs), after I had my first daughter (1986) I was 5’9 and (185) – try as I might I never lost that weight and was made to feel such a failure because of it. Forget that I was successfully breastfeeding this gorgeous little creature that I had successfully made and given birth to, all that was concentrated on was “getting back to normal” with absolutely no regard that – for me – “normal” would have to be redefined as I was now a mother and had done something amazing.

Let’s fastforward some 7 years and 3 more children (and 1 of those miscarriages) later and I gained another 5lbs with each of the pregnancies. EVERYBODY and I mean everybody was soooo concerned with how I looked – my own Mother was constantly nagging at me to “get back into shape” (forgetting the fact that she NEVER had!). I began to consider myself totally worthless.

I felt an absolute failure, all of my friends seemed to be able to do it and I couldn’t. I guess that started the terrible relationship with food that I have to this day. 20 years down the line and 1 Gastric by-pass later, I’m once again 165 and now I look at myself in the mirror and think “Ok, so not so good naked but GREAT clothed!” lol.

I really think that had I realised 25 years ago that it doesn’t all “go back to ‘normal'” and that I should redefine normal I’d have felt far less pressured.

I think younger women should realise that this is something that has been happening for generations – It’s great that women are becoming more open with each other.

With today’s scattered families, frequently we can’t ask our parents (I live in a different country from my parents) so we have to learn from other women.

Scarred for Life (Judith)

In 1991, my then 73-year-old mother visited me in Paris for my 36th birthday.
She’d made the long journey from the Dutch countryside by train, and while brewing a cup of tea, I drew her a bath.
Unable to get out of the tub she called for help.
While I’d often seen NIta in the nude as a child, it had been 30 years since I saw her completely undressed.
“Now you’ve seen it all,” she said, no doubt in response to my gaze.
She caught me taking in the slack, creamy skin of her deflated stomach, the nearly hairless pubes and surprise, surprise, her, our, my labia.
Would my body be like hers, I wondered.

A year later I was about ready to give birth.
Throughout my pregnancy I had continued my yoga practice and Jane Fonda’s exercises for pregnant women.
Fonda created the book with a midwife, who in the last chapter warned against the danger of a vaginal breech delivery.
Our breech baby Ariane Eira suffocated, just like the midwife described, during the last five minutes of her birth.
The past nearly 18 years it seems I’ve attempted to keep my stomach round, filling the empty skin, not wanting to view or face the emptiness.
The ten years following our loss I got pregnant four times, each pregnancy ending in a miscarriage.
After a “missed abortion” in 2003, I decided to stop trying to have another baby.
No longer trying to have a family, I focused on what we, my husband and I, had and could have together, just the two of us.
We got a puppy. I remember the moment I felt her heartbeat on my chest, a subtle reminder of earlier loss.

These days I’m working with a personal trainer to get back in shape, I enjoy the rediscovery of a former self.
As the fat burns away and my muscles tighten, the empty belly remains,
Other than that there’s the seldom shared, elongated scar on my perineum, which unlike the scars on my heart, is another visible proof of my motherhood.
My mother and I, so alike in so many ways, except for the daughter she got to see grow up and I had to let go before I could feel her heart beat outside of me.

55 (in November 2010)
6 pregnancies, one birth
18 years postpartum
Collage “Starlight” ©Judith van Praag
illustration from Creative Acts of Healing: after a baby dies


The Shape of a Great-Grandmother (Dora, interviewed by Holly)

Age: 90
Number of Pregnancies: 2
Children: DD1 – 71; DD2 – died at 64 years old. (would be 69 today)

Saturday morning. Bath day. Clothes gently stripped and placed aside, laundry for another day. I grip her elbow and guide her slowly into the shower, and onto her seat. And for the first time I truly see the woman before me. She is old, to be sure. But she also has young eyes. She sees everything fresh, grasping memories alongside fresh experiences, comparing, contrasting, learning, teaching.

Today she is teaching me about the wonders of the human body. She doesn’t know that she is doing this, but I learn much as I slowly cover her in soft and gentle suds. Her skin is papery, almost feathery. It lies in folds everywhere, on her arms and legs, her back, belly, breasts, neck. She is like the baggy little puppy, except she won’t be growing into her skin.

I notice two light lines tracing from her belly button to her pubic bone. I ask after them in passing, trying to make conversation during an experience that could be awkward if we let it become that. She points to each in passing, and tells me their stories. The one most left gave her a daughter, her second, born after a long and difficult pregnancy. She couldn’t tell me what was wrong with her by name, but by symptom it sounds like pre-eclempsia. She remembers a nurse caressing her brow and telling her that when she woke she’d have a baby. She tells me of waking up three days later, to pain in her breasts and pain in her belly, and staring at its deflated state and wondering wildly where her baby could be.

She was brought her baby, a pink little sprite asleep and swaddled in blankets. She wouldn’t take the breast, and so the doctor gave Dora medicine to stop the flow of milk. Not even a few days to try. Just emptiness.

She stares into space a moment, lost in reflection over her youngest daughter’s life and death. I continue to soap and scrub, wash and rinse, and watch her closely. After a moment, she surfaces again and tries to resume conversation. Where were we? Oh, yes. That scar, she points matter-of-factly at the scar on the right side. From a surgery a decade after her daughter’s birth, to remove scar tissue from the c-section. A surgery that almost killed her. Too much anesthesia. She shudders a bit. This must be painful.

I change the subject to save her from further reflections. How did she adjust to her body? Did she love her body? She waives the thoughts away. She’s never thought about it that much. It’s just a body. She feels old, she says. And before, when she was young, she wouldn’t look at her body. It wasn’t talked about, wasn’t proper. She kept her body covered, shown only to her husband, who she says loved her and her body fiercely. She smiles at that thought.

I tell her about the world today. Women having surgery to remove loose belly skin, tightening and “fixing” the marks that children give them. Trying to look perfect. Bah, she says. Would she have had that surgery to fix her loose belly? Maybe, she says. Maybe, but what good would it have done? She’d still be here now: An old woman, saggy, wrinkled, and no longer new of body. Although, she doesn’t see what I see. A woman who is wise, surrounded by love and loss, strong for the inclusion of all of it, marked by a life well-lived, but at precious peace now because of that journey.

She smiles as I wrap her in a warm towel. Where were we? Oh yes, she says, I loved my babies and that’s all that mattered then, and all that matters now.