July 14, 2006

We have slowly been moving the stuff from our old bedroom into the new room, and in doing so I cleaned out an entire closet of ancient, dusty piles of clothing. I have a bad habit of buying crappy Old Navy t-shirts, then deciding that even I have some standards and banishing them to an ever-growing stack of ugly, ill-fitting shirts that apparently were designed for the specific purpose of highlighting bra-strap pudgerolls.

Into the donation bag they went – all of them, along with any jeans that took the term “low rise” way too seriously, a too-long shirt that I stupidly cut with a pair of scissors in the hopes a ragged, uneven hem might be fashionable some day, a boxy denim skirt that would make Kate Moss look like a lumbering wildebeest, and a pair of ungodly white fleece-y sweatpants that attract every pet hair within a fifty mile radius.

In the process I discovered at least five pairs of pants that I had hidden away at the start of my pregnancy last year, around the time that I embraced a tender, emotional relationship with Mint Milano cookies and could theorize that my expanding waistline was certainly due to the growing baby, never mind that he was about the size of a pencil eraser. Postpartum, I still couldn’t fit into them, and so kept them stuffed in the back of the closet in favor of roomier styles.

I tried everything on yesterday, and I was thrilled to find that all my old size 10s fit now. The size 8s, not so much, but the size 10s finally fit again. Believe me, I haven’t been dieting, so I think my body has just taken this long to reassemble itself into the same basic shape as before.

The same basic shape, but not exactly the same: my belly is squashier, and weirdly…I don’t know, kind of loose? Saggy. Well, of course. I mean, at one point it looked like this:

35weeks.jpg

And now it looks like this:

postbelly.jpg

I took that photo today because of this website (found via Amy). I spent some time on there this morning, looking at image after image of bodies that don’t fit within our societal ideals of beauty. I mean, to be completely honest my first reaction was one of surprise and disbelief, because it is so incredibly foreign to me that anyone would show that part of their body if it didn’t look like what you would expect a naked, displayed belly to look like – taut, tanned, smooth, muscled – but the more I looked the more I felt amazed and in awe and proud of those women. To show your body in all its reality is to take a step towards owning it, and a step away from it owning you.

I am not a confident person with a good body image. I look in the mirror and I see flaw after flaw after flaw. I am terrified of hitting this “publish” button. Every alarm bell in my head is going off. I have been staring at this web page for an hour, trying to work up the nerve to show you a part of myself that I normally keep hidden even from my own husband.

But the thing is, this is me. Right now. This is my body. I own it.

Comments

97 Responses to “Secrets in our skin”

  1. Sarah on July 15th, 2006 7:49 am

    Thank you for posting this! As an avid runner with a fairly toned stomach, and as one who is considering entering motherhood, I really had no idea what a post-partum stomach looked like. It has (shallowly) been something I’m concerned about. I can see now that, although it will certainly change, it will still be beautiful. You are gorgeous, and it is wonderful that you posted this, knowing how hard it is to do that. Your writing, personality, and entire being is such a positive guide for the rest of us!

  2. justmouse on July 15th, 2006 8:07 am

    never doubt that you are beautiful. inside AND out.

  3. Michelle on July 15th, 2006 8:08 am

    I just found that same website yesterday and I’m thrilled to see this picture of you. You look absolutely beautiful. As you can see, mommies and non-mommies alike admire you and thank you for this.

    Rock that sexy mommy belly!

  4. Jules on July 15th, 2006 8:19 am

    Hey, looks like a damn fine – and totally NORMAL – belly to me! You also have a really cute, teensy waist! What’s the problem?
    It’s been said a trillion times before but we are SO attuned by the media to the extremes of weight – images of celebs who are 50% the healthy weight for their age/height, and tanned and glossed and PR’d (also, incidentally, incredibly unhealthy and skeletal and I don’t give a shit what Keira whats-her-face says about being “strong” and “healthy”, she is ILL), or conversely, medically obese and equally dangerous bods – that we forget what real normal healthy womanly bodies look like, and end up believing we as individuals are freaks. So, kudos and thanks for keeping it real. Embrace the belly!

  5. clearlydistracted on July 15th, 2006 8:27 am

    Thank you. I had my third baby in October and lately have been dealing with some real self-loathing because my body hasn’t snapped back like it did after my first two. I consider myself a fairly reasonable and realistic person, but I guess I was literally convinced that NO ONE ELSE IN THE WORLD has a stomach that looks like mine. Your post brought tears to my eyes. Over something as stupid as a belly. I feel like an idiot.

  6. Mandy on July 15th, 2006 8:48 am

    You look wonderful! You look like a real woman. A gorgeous mother.

  7. Erin on July 15th, 2006 9:00 am

    You’re amazing. Regardless of what your stomach looks like today, or any day. You carried Riley for (almost) 9 months and that is something to be proud of. Battle scars!

    Not to mention the majority of women don’t look a thing like those we see in magazines or on tv.

    I think you look great and you’re awesome for posting the pic. :)

    Thanks!!

  8. chillier on July 15th, 2006 9:05 am

    You look beautiful!

  9. Annie on July 15th, 2006 9:31 am

    I haven’t lost all my baby weight yet so my tummy doesn’t sag, so much as it still looks like there is a baby inside. I’d take squishy if I could get into my size tens again. I’m right there with you trying to accept this new phase of my body. Hope this was liberating for you. Cute undies. :)

  10. Melissa on July 15th, 2006 9:48 am

    Being 41 weeks pregnant and not having met my baby yet, I can only imagine how much differently I will feel about my stretch-marked belly once he’s here. Right now it is just the physical changes I see; it is a loss of the only way I saw myself until now. I wondered how long it would take to “get my body back.” But after reading your post and seeing the other photos on shapeofamother, I’ve realized that it’s ok if I don’t look the same afterwards–why should everything look or feel the same when this is the biggest change of my life? My belly is a small sacrifice to make and he will totally be worth it.

    You and all other mothers are amazingly beautiful. THANK YOU for sharing this with us.

  11. nancy on July 15th, 2006 10:31 am

    You go girl! My body looks remarkably similar to yours, complete with the C-section scar.

    The funny thing about my post-baby body is that although by traditional standards of beauty it is, well, not pretty, but by my new standard, it is beautiful. I love my body more now than I ever have. I look at all it can do (like make and feed a human!) and am amazed by it. Who would have ever thought?

    Anyway … yay you for taking & posting the picture!

  12. squandra on July 15th, 2006 11:32 am

    I am so, so proud of you for doing that. Is that weird?

    You look beautiful.

  13. wn on July 15th, 2006 2:05 pm

    You ROCK!
    I loved that site…

  14. dorrie on July 15th, 2006 2:33 pm

    Thank you.

  15. LLL on July 15th, 2006 3:57 pm

    You look great – real. I look pretty much the same with a 6 month old. It took courage to post your belly pic, but as you can tell, none of us look like Jessica Alba and we are real women. By the way, it my group the bra rolls known as “bra sausage” – and yes we all have that too.

  16. Genie on July 15th, 2006 5:36 pm

    You look beautiful! Thanks for posting.

  17. Laura on July 15th, 2006 6:15 pm

    thank you! thank you! thank you!

  18. americangirl on July 15th, 2006 7:24 pm

    Thank you! Now I know I’m not alone in the squishy belly department–it is something we ought to wear with pride, and that our husbands ought to take delight in (because, um, 24 hours of labor? deserves SOMETHING.). Thank you again.

  19. Dillygirl on July 15th, 2006 7:28 pm

    I LOVE this. Love this. Thank you for being so transparent. I just had a c-section 4 weeks ago and you’ve helped me to embrace not only my hope to someday fit into my size 10s again, but to be proud of my body and that pesky scar.

  20. Laurabelle on July 15th, 2006 7:38 pm

    Lovely. Thank you for posting your picture. I never had nor intend to have kids but will never look as good as you do now. Your scar looks like it’s healing beautifully.

    Thanks particularly for introducing me to that website. I’m going to send it to my sister-in-law who is expecting her first child in three weeks or so.

  21. Donna on July 15th, 2006 7:45 pm

    This is me, applauding you!

  22. Stacey on July 15th, 2006 7:51 pm

    De-lurking to say: BRAVO! You rock.

  23. Holly on July 15th, 2006 9:27 pm

    by the way, you don’t have any stretch marks at all… wtf up w/ that? My moms belly is a purple road map of us kids! :) I’m sure I’ll have scar’a’palooza when I finally have my own little tots! Your stomache still looks like a normal stomache, except for the little C scar which is a sweet reminder of how Riley came into the world!

  24. Holly on July 15th, 2006 9:28 pm

    Err um… Stomach :) durrr

  25. Susie on July 15th, 2006 9:40 pm

    ::sob:: Good on ya, woman! I, too, had a c-section and it is somewhat traumatizing to see your post-baby body sometimes.

    Strangely enough, I have always been self-conscious about my belly. Yet when I was preggers, I was proud of that huge belly o’ mine. I figured it was the only time in my life when its huge-ness was acceptable and even beautiful. I looooved showing it off! LMAO

    Now, I cover it up like the ugly step-sister. hee!

    You look great, girl.

    Thanks for shedding your inhibitions enough to post it AND keep it posted.

    *smooch* :)

  26. Amy on July 15th, 2006 9:48 pm

    Good on you for showing what we mothers do for our families! I have three kids, first my son (body did quite well bouncing back) and then my twin girls. I remember after having them grabbing my stomach and stretching it out as far as I could. It was like playing with play-doh! I did lose the baby weight for that pregnancy too but was left with some faint scarring on my boobs and outer thighs. Well worth it though! Of course all t hat loose skin apparently needed some fat to attatch and now have a lovely rounded belly. Makes me sort of miss the pregnant days when I could show it off ;)

  27. Breck Girl on July 16th, 2006 6:09 am

    You look fabulous – and can even wear those cute boy short undies. I can’t even go there – not even before I had a baby – so see, you have an body that is the envy of other women! I have been working hard to lose weight (the baby weight itself has gone, thank goodness). I do the “try on” thing every other week or so – go through my old stuff and try all of my pants on to see how I am progressing. It is usually an uplifting experience, although the old 7 jeans are still creating way too much overhang to actually wear – sausage pants, we call that. So try on the 8’s again in a month or two – you just might be surprised. And even if you never get in them again, who cares? Riley is worth a few pant sizes, as is my son, Wyatt.

  28. Elyse on July 16th, 2006 8:30 am

    That is amazing. :-)

  29. wealhtheow on July 16th, 2006 11:55 am

    Sundry, you look beautiful! That body created and nurtured life! We woman are so conditioned to downplay our beauty, especially when it varies in any way from “conventional.” You should be incredibly proud of yourself for this post–and Riley is lucky to have such a wonderful role model. He’ll grow up to be a man who can appreciate a woman’s true beauty, not what magazines and movies tell him he should appreciate.

  30. Sonia (DDM) on July 16th, 2006 12:28 pm

    You. Look. Great. Seriously! Thank you for posting this Linda.
    I remember for the first 2 years after my son was born, feeling like I had ‘Gumby Tummy’. My baby boy is now 5&1/2 years old. I *just* had a moment of clarity at my yearly OB/GYN appointment, upon stepping on the scale fully clothed. The number was almost 10 pounds less than I thought it should read. I’d had one of the worst ugly days of my life two days prior while trying on clothes at Target and went home and cried. Standing on that scale……I finally accepted that I have a distorted body image. I’m working on my mindset. First step; buying a pair of jeans at OldNavy that had a size number on the tag I don’t want them to have, because they looked GOOD. I’m a work in progress. Next step; posting a picture of my belly.

  31. Kendra on July 16th, 2006 4:16 pm

    Belly slightly marred
    by ceasarean scar she’s
    still Bikini Mom

    Did you like the above haiku for yu?

  32. guinevere on July 16th, 2006 4:42 pm

    you’re just the greatest thing ever!
    thank you for that, and for linking that website. awesome. :)

  33. Polichick on July 16th, 2006 8:23 pm

    I just saw Amy’s entry on the club mom blog and my reaction here is the same as to hers–I think you both are damn impressive, strong and admirable women. I think these posts are so important, for all women, moms or not.

  34. Christy on July 17th, 2006 5:55 am

    Ditto to what everyone has said so far – thank you for this! I can only imagine the courage it took to finally hit “publish…”

  35. ali on July 17th, 2006 6:55 am

    i’m truly amazed at all your gorgeous women with all this courage. :)

  36. MRW on July 17th, 2006 9:20 am

    Well, I’m late to this thread, but I wanted to add my two cents. You look great. You look like a woman who has had a baby – beautiful.

    I’ve been thinking about the issue of body image lately because I realized when I’m walking around I see all of these women of different sizes and shapes and I hardly ever think “she shouldn’t be wearing that” and if I do it’s got nothing to do with their body, but instead it’s just something scary. Much more often I think “she looks really good in that, I wonder if I could wear that.” Finally, it hit me, here I am walking around every day feeling unhappy with some aspect of my body and thinking everyone thinks I’m not thin enough or stylish enough or whatever when really everyone else is walking around thinking exactly the same thing about themselves. The chances that any other woman out there is looking at me and thinking “well, she’s got a pooch” or something are ridiculously small. Why the hell am I all worked up about it? Must try to remain rational about body image, Hollywood be damned. Easier said than done.

  37. Ashley on July 17th, 2006 11:00 am

    I think that you look great. Poor body image is something that plagues everyone and it shouldn’t. Society needs to change but in reality the chances of that happening are slim. What you did took courage.

  38. Rayne on July 17th, 2006 3:36 pm

    You rock – in so many ways – today it just happens to be in the courage department!

  39. Amy on July 18th, 2006 5:18 pm

    Thank you more than I can express, Linda.

  40. Zoot on July 24th, 2006 9:14 am

    (I’m late, I know, blame vacation)

    I still can’t bring myself to take those pictures, much less post a picture on my blog. I dont know why, but even after looking at that site I still think, “But my belly is way worse.” It took every ounce of courage to post ones of me from the beach where I wore a t-shirt over my bathing suit the whole time.

    My point? I have severe issues – obviously.

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