In Celebration of My Tie-Dyed Stomach

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Vanity Fair ran an article about Marilyn Monroe, in which she was quoted as saying:

“There isn’t anybody that looks like me without clothes on.”

I don’t know if she was being existential, ironic, or just plain silly, but I thought about this quote for months.  I’ve adopted it as my new motto of empowerment on those days when I feel not-so-awesome.

I have obsessed about my weight since I was eleven.  I’m not going to get into all of the years of disordered eating and self-loathing in this post, but when I look back on photos of myself, I can’t believe I thought there was anything wrong with me.  I was a fox–  long, lean, lithe, and curvy in just the right places.  I could shimmy into tons of really cute clothes, and heads would turn.

These days, you could describe me as “pillowy” rather than “willowy”.  I’m not one of those lucky women who lost all their baby weight breast feeding.  My body feels the need to hold on to all its fat stores until after baby weans.  Also, I was not one of those women who’s breasts shrivel up to half their pre-baby size after nursing. Mine remained a DDD cup, which would have been awesome if my husband were a boob man, but he recently said to me, “Don’t be gross; boobs are for babies,” when I asked him if he noticed the unholstered rack on a woman who passed us by.  It is good that my hips and ass are in proportion to my gigantic jugs, because he likes those just fine.

My pregnancy with Jack passed with nary a stretch mark, but in my last trimester with Emily, I looked in my mirror to see my belly button surrounded by a spiral of stretch marks.  The pink whorls were hideous, fascinating and hypnotic.  Since having Em, they have changed to a silvery shadow around my navel, a translucent tie-dye.  I could slather vitamin oil onto them to make them fade into obscurity, but I actually contemplated having them tattooed.  I’ve grown to love these delicate fingerprints of my final pregnancy.

It’s normal for women to grieve the loss of their pre-baby body.  I went through all the stages of grief–  denial, anger, depression, bargaining–  before I got to self-acceptance.

While watching me button my jeans the other day, Jack stated, “Mama, you have a big, big belly.”  Then he wrapped his arms around me and nuzzled said big belly.  At 12 months, Emily is still passionately nursing, and worships my body as a shrine of sorts.  I am a place where my children snuggle, snack, and climb.  To them, I am warm and safe, a place of comfort and sweetness.

So, if my husband and children can accept and love my body, why can’t I?  I would like to have a bit more core strength so that my back didn’t feel quite so elderly, and I always want to make sure that my heart and body are in good health.  But, ugh, I really would rather go for a brisk walk with Em in her stroller than pound it out at the gym. I see moms who spend hours in the gym and they look ahh-maze-ing for it.  I really respect and admire their discipline, but I’ve gotten to the point where firm abs and buns just aren’t a priority for me.

Marilyn died alone in a nearly unfurnished room.  By most accounts, she was unhappy and lonely, despite being the most admired sex-symbol in the world.  She fought a war within herself of depression and was reported to have wild weight fluctuations because of anti-psychotic medication.  From these facts, I deduce that fame, fortune, and a 20 inch waist can’t buy you love or joy.

My body is ahh-maze-ing in its own way.  It created two gorgeous, perfect babies, then nourished them with warm, sweet milk.  Mine is a body that is loved, cherished even.  There isn’t anyone in the world who looks like me without their clothes on, and I have the stretch marks to prove it.

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21 responses »

  1. Oh, I needed to read this!! I am feeling such similar things about my body after having my 3rd baby 14 months ago. I am writing a post about this very thing to try and work through (or grieve, as you cleverly put it) my changed body. I was in really good shape leading into this pregnancy and all through it, but afterwards, sleep deprivation and breastfeeding have been enough work that exercising is not on my list of to-do’s at ALL and those doughnuts over there? They look good… 😉

      • Ha! So, do you think about calories or any of that? I try to watch portions, but when I’m hungry, I eat. It’s a philosphy that has worked well for breastfeeding, but also kept my weight about 9lbs above my pre-pregnancy weight.

      • Nine pounds?! Well, I guess it is all relative, but I am a little jealous. . . I’m at more like 20-30 heavier than before my first. I look at pictures of myself when I was pregnant with my first and realize I am as nearly as heavy now as when I was full term with him! We eat a very clean diet, mostly vegetarian most of the time, but yeah, I do eat when I am hungry.

      • Remind me how old your chldren are? I lost all the baby weight from my older two when my son was 3, over the course of six months, using sparkpeople.com. I love that site!! It was a change in my lifestyle, not a diet (which is why it worked). So, going into my most recent pregnancy, I was at a good weight. I gained 27lbs, lost 15 right away, then another 3 lbs in the first 2 weeks….then, nothing. I’ve just maintained. I have tried working out and I just feel too rundown. I look forward to losing this weight once Samuel is weaned, but I am in NO HURRY to do that. 😀

  2. very honest read. Don’t think I have quite got to the acceptance state with mine after having 2 kids. Sometimes it feels like my body is ruined and other times I cherish the fact that these are signs of the most important things in my life. Swings and roundabouts. Do love the idea of the tattoo though!

    • Thanks for your comment. . . the acceptance comes and goes some days. I think my sleep deprivation may just be making me to lazy to care anymore, haha! We will get to where we are comfortable, eventually. Momaste to you!

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  5. You are Beautiful;) thanks for talking about a topic that we all, after bearing children,must go through and hopefully accept- our post baby bodies! No matter what the scale says or how our clothes fit. Our bodies are forever changed after having babies. My little’buddah’ belly that I will always now have, i embrace (most days) because its a reminder of my pregnancies. Years ago this belly would’ve sent me to a very dark place.

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