Goodbye and Hello – A Tummy Timeline
A bit of a tummy tale..
Warning: This post contains a large dose of whining, a pinch of self-loathing, and a heaping spoonful of hormones. Read at your own risk.
Today’s post is in honor of National Love Your Belly Day! Actually I have no idea if that’s a real “day” or not, but it sounded good, right? Fake day aside, I was feeling a bit down in the dumps about my lovely lady lump-iness (aka my post-baby mom body) when I went swimsuit shopping recently. You see, having a chronic illness had already prepared me for what it feltlike to be a captive in my own body. When you live with an illness you feel neither in control nor certain. Yet one thing was always for sure, though: when I went shopping, I never had to try anything on. I was always a small. Having a child changed that.
But let’s rewind for a minute because you didn’t just wake up with this body one day. It took nine months to expand and seemingly a lifetime to learn how to deal with it after. I remember all those years ago when my body first began to change during pregnancy. This is probably just me, but I found myself to be incredibly weirded out by my no-longer flat stomach. I was so unfamiliar with this that I felt the desperate need to constantly tell people that it was a human baby, not a food baby. That should have been my first clue that even back then I was not immune to judgmental glances.
What does it say about our society – and ourselves – that the only time it’s acceptable and celebrated for a woman to be larger is when she is pregnant? I can count on one hand the times I wore form-fitting clothing (and enjoyed it) and they all occurred when I was pregnant. When I go shopping now, I go straight for layers or something that will be loose around my mid-section. And forget trying a swimsuit on and not needing at least a pint of Haagen-Dazs afterwards.
Though it’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment I realized I didn’t have the effortlessly petite body of my 20s, I do know that having a child changed the relationship I had with my body. I remember looking under the sheets after my c-section and crying after I saw a mushy, blob of a stomach. Logically I knew that my stomach wasn’t going to be firm and flat after having a baby. Reason told me that no one would judge me for still wearing maternity pants for months after. But logic and reason meant nothing to the hormonal brain of a woman with low self-esteem. Even now, if someone says that I look good “for a mom,” I tell myself that they’re just being polite. Only I know the real truth. Only I know what my stomach really feels like. My body used to be my “home” and now it felt like a stranger.
Want to know the shocking twist ending to this blog post? I’m not going to say that one day I woke up and there were rainbows and sunshine everywhere. I won’t say that I walked out of the store with a brand new, super cute bikini. I won’t lie to you or myself and say I am in love with and proud of my body. It’s still a work in progress. I remind myself that my body, my “home,” was also nurturing home to my son. I also remind myself that things could have been so much worse during the pregnancy and even afterwards. I feel shame, sometimes, for being so superficial. Yet I feel comforted when I open up, like I am now, and find that other mothers – women I deemed flawless – have the same struggles. So let’s get back out on the beach and start taking full-length selfies again. We should share our battle scars, talk about the Play-Doh tummies we have, and make a safe neighborhood for our “homes.”
Sarah is a wife, mother, feminist, animal rights activist, and a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. She holds a BA in Religious Studies from Stetson University and currently works as a cognitive skills trainer with children facing developmental challenges. In between balancing a chronic illness, work, and a feisty toddler, she loves to share her experiences, advice, and humor with others. You can find more of her writings on her blog Bump Birth and Beyond!