UPDATED: I just wanted to post a quick and gentle reminder to everyone that this is NOT a “my body looks worse than your body” competition. At ALL. This is – and I cannot stress this enough – a celebration, not a competition, and it’s one in which we say “our bodies are all different and have done amazing things and are changed forever by those amazing things whether they are fat OR skinny OR stripey OR not-stripey… or veiny or flaccid or saggy or almost-like-pre-baby-except-with-slightly-bigger-feet or any other thing, and we are going to ROCK these bodies because we are WOMEN and we are MOTHERS and we are RAD”. That’s all. ;-) Carry on! Smooches!
Hey peeps! So my friend I Like Beer and Babies just started this completely rad project that she is calling “Body by Baby”: in a nutshell, it’s a celebration of what 98% of mom bellies and bodies actually look like post-kiddos and, simultaneously, a stick-it to the Victoria’s Secret models, assorted celebrities, and media who confuse the world into thinking that women are supposed to be a size 0 and walking the catwalk exactly 6 weeks after their babies are born. Oh, and that stretch marks don’t exist. Because we ALL know that they DO. She is inviting moms of all shapes and stripes to submit photos of their “Bodies by Baby” so that we can all get a better grasp on the fact that this is just what women look like. I love it. I was totally on board from the first entry and knew I needed to participate.
Of course, this being me that we are talking about, my single photo and brief, introductory paragraph turned into a friggin’ photo essay with a hearty dose of soapboxing. (Surprisingly few parenthetical digressions, though, if you can believe it!) In addition to submitting it on her site as part of the project, I decided to put it up here, as well, because I am so passionate about this message and because I want to encourage as many of you lovely womenfolk out there as I possibly can.
(Oh, and if there are any menfolk reading this: You may just want to check out now, because a veritable estrogen rally is about to go down in this here Nook. …We’ll see you in a few days, when we get back to our normal posts of cute baby pictures and… cute baby pictures… and… cute baby pictures. You know, where there’s no estrogen at ALL. Ahem.)
Here we go!
I so firmly believe that mama-bodies are beautiful, and that the media that’s out there has given everyone the wrong impression about what healthy women actually LOOK like. Of course, everyone knows this, and everyone talks about it, but simply knowing and talking about the fact that celebrities don’t look like real women and all of their pictures are airbrushed doesn’t actually change anything. The world needs to SEE the differences for us to all start feeling better about ourselves. We can ‘tsk’ and wag our fingers all we damn want, but none of us are going to start feeling normal in our own tigress skins until we actually see with our own eyes that that liposuctioned lion on the magazine cover is surrounded – overwhelmed – by a sea of tigers.
I am a tigress. I am a mother. I have grown and birthed actual, unique human beings from inside of my body. Which is AMAZING, by the way, if you didn’t already realize that. I get my stretch marks at 40 weeks, a crimson road map – directions for my life, ‘Babies, 5 Miles’, ‘This Way To Motherhood And All That It Means’ – from pubic bone to belly button, an impenetrable web. After birth they fade into the background and turn silver and shimmer in the light, taking a vacation, waiting until the next 40 week mark when they will again explode into being like a sudden burst of life-affirming fireworks, stretching me and shaping me. (Isn’t it astounding that the human skin can adapt itself to stretch as large as we could ever possibly need it to?) I can play dress-up with my belly: kneading it into bread dough, or a pillow for husbands or children, or the legs of that stone age Venus, or a butt with which to wryly moon the world and go, “Neener!”
You know what? I love my body! I am STRONG. I am HEALTHY. Do I want to lose those last 15 postpartum pounds? Sure, but I don’t obsess about it. I feel like a WOMAN, not a girl, because I AM a woman. Girls look different than women do. It’s a physiological fact, and for physiological reasons. Girls are lovely and pure and delicate and women are sturdy and powerful and the foundation of the earth and the wellspring of all the people on it. One is a dewy meadow in springtime: golden, inspiring, fresh, framed in photographs. The other is a robust field, rippling with harrow-stripes, abundant, ripe and overflowing with wheat, with milk, with succulent fruits, sustaining nations.
During my two pregnancies I was sick and thrilled and achy and felt like a goddess and a monster and I was terrified and I could not WAIT to be a mother, then a mother of two, and I was hot and hormonal and gained 55 lbs and my feet swelled and I ate gummy bears and steak and I loved every second. I can’t wait to be pregnant again in the future when that time comes, and I mean that. When I was birthing my babies I legitimately thought I was going to die, both times, and after my son I felt like a failure (natural birth) and after my daughter I felt like an amazing warrior queen who could do ANYTHING (natural birth) and next time I am pretty sure I’m going to rock me an epidural like it’s my job. I am 23 years old and I have a cystocele and permanent, often painful perineal scarring and I’m pretty sure I will pee every time I sneeze or jog for the rest of my life. It’s cool. I wear bikinis at the beach and you know what? No one gives me a second glance. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my young life, it’s that people don’t think you’re ugly. They aren’t even looking at you. Life is so full of lifeness for everyone engaged in it that they couldn’t care less if the lady with the babies has a pooch and some muffiny goodness going on. They are probably oblivious to the lady with the babies, and if they aren’t, they are probably focusing on her babies, and if they aren’t, they are probably not thinking about the pooch and stretchmarks at all, and if they aren’t, they are probably admiring her “bravery”, and if they aren’t, then why care? Life is TOO SHORT to spend it freaking out about what strangers on the street are thinking, people. I know we hear that all the time, but it’s for a reason. Listen to it. Embrace it.
Let’s stop being afraid of that lone lioness on her painted magazine; let’s unveil our stripes and roar with the masses of our neighbors. Let’s stop pining after the barrenness in those dewy spring photographs and instead revel in our own abundance, the hard-earned, life-affirming fruitfulness of our rippling fields, striped in gold and umber. Let’s smell the sweet breath of our babies and moon the world with our belly-butts and be soft pillows for the heads of our husbands, and buy things we love to wear in new sizes that actually fit us, and post pictures of our mommyness for the wide world to see. Let’s celebrate this strange, full, often absurd, achingly bright and beautiful thing we call life, instead of hiding from it. Let’s sing. Let’s love. Let’s drink beer. Let’s have more babies, or make casseroles for new mamas having theirs, or grow old in grace and wisdom, shedding light and joy on everyone around us whether we have children or not.
We are women. Hear us roar.
These two incredible, bright-eyed, deliciously scented people took turns growing in and out of the same soft, strong body they now sit on.
I thank God every single day for both of them and for every pair of the size 6 maiden-jeans I will never, ever wear again.
If you want to submit a photo (it can be just a faceless photo of your belly or a single stretchmark or your foot or your ear or anything else, I promise – it doesn’t have to be a whole post, and it can be anonymous or not, it’s up to you) to the Body by Baby project, email it to ilikebeerandbabies [at] gmail [dot] com, or go visit her here: