One of my favorite blogs is The Well-Rounded Mama, and the author, kmom, is hosting a Belly Blog Carnival! The Carnival is to promote honest talk about our pregnant and post-pregnant bodies, and our struggles to accept them as they are, while still focusing on the positive. I'm going to attempt to do that, but please be aware that, in the interest of honesty, not all of my body talk will necessarily be positive. Because I do struggle with accepting my body in the state three pregnancies (and not always taking proper care of myself) have left it. But why?
"There is no other organ quite like the uterus. If men had such an organ they would brag about it. So should we."
— Ina May Gaskin
My body has done amazing things. It has grown and nurtured life. Not once or twice, but three times! My belly has expanded to make room for entire human beings inside of itself. That is pretty awesome. My body was cut open, and left scarred, but it healed! It healed! And went on to carry and birth two more babies! It has been stretched and stretched again, returning to close to normal each time. My breasts have nursed my three babies for many years, at least 18 months a piece. But I have also provided life-giving milk to three babies who were not my own through milk donation. Gallons and gallons of milk from my body!
My body has done all of the amazing, wonderful things I have asked of it. Yet I do sometimes feel ashamed of the way it looks. I get frustrated that my belly didn't shrink back to the way it was before I was ever pregnant, before it was cut open and rearranged. I get embarrassed that I have stretch marks. My "cesarean shelf" quickly turned into an apron that I hate with a passion. It can be so, so hard to remember all of the amazing things my body has done when I'm in the midst of that self hate, or when someone says something cruel as I walk by.
Women's bodies are changed by childbirth. Long ago and far away that was revered.
Saggy breasts, full bellies and wide hips were normal and expected. They're still normal, yet seem very unexpected. We live in a world where our self esteem is determined by how soon after birth we can squeeze into our skinny jeans, rather than being cherished for who we are and what we do. That world inside our own head, where we are meaner to ourselves than we would ever allow anyone else to be to us. So, at least for today, I am celebrating my body and my belly for all it has done for me. I accept all of it, the way it is - the way I am. At least for today, I choose to see my stretch marks as signs of the life I carried within me, my scar as evidence of my love for my children. Body, at least for today, I love you!