It’s almost bedtime, and the kids are going bonkers. My nine-month-old has just learned how to walk, so he’s traipsing around the room like he owns the joint (and he kinda does). My 3-year-old is donning a cape and nothing else, as she runs around in circles making airplane sounds and pretending to fly. Meanwhile, I’m trying to stay inconspicuous as I lay down in a quiet corner, so I can keep zoning out on my phone in peace.
As if they communicated telepathically, both of my kids walk over to me at exactly the same time. My daughter pulls up my shirt and laughs. “Mommy, you have a big belly,” she says to me. My son starts haphazardly drumming on my midsection, and my toddler makes another keen observation. “Your tummy is so soft and bouncy, like a trampoline!” Then away they go, climbing and trying to jump all over my body like two tiny hooligans, as I piss laugh at them.
This is just an average Tuesday night in my house.
It makes sense that my kids would notice my belly taking up a lot of space. I gained about 75 pounds with both of my pregnancies, and my mom pouch is in full effect. It’s squishy AF, has some purple stretch marks running across it, and feels legitimately soft to the touch. It’s no wonder they want to play on it like it’s a bouncy house.
And to be quite honest, I wouldn’t change anything about it. I love my postpartum belly and think it’s frickin’ adorable. In fact, I have come to adore so many other things about my body that I used to hate, which still shocks me most days.
Things were much different for me about a decade ago. As a gal in my mid-20s, I was obsessively dieting, punishing myself with exercise, and doing just about anything to make my stomach look as flat as possible. And flat it surely was. It was as thin and societally pleasing as my skinny thighs and bony arms.
But do you think I took a single moment to actually enjoy my thinness? Not once. I spent the vast majority of my “thin” days sucking my tummy in, drinking only water on beach trips, and painstakingly over-analyzing every photograph taken of me. I constantly felt the need to lose more weight, and I was sure to hide any physical aspects of myself that might lead people to think I wasn’t perfect.
The hard truth is that up until recently, I’ve been stuck in a lifelong body image prison and never once stopped to question why I kept myself locked in there. Or more importantly, who locked me up in the first place.
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I was recently asked if I’m pregnant. It was a moment that took me by surprise, but one that I deep down was ready for. Instead of feeling torn down in that moment (since no, I’m not!), I felt surprisingly empowered. Because this year, I’ve devoted a ton of time to being invested in the willingness to see my body as a powerful collection of courage, rather than an unworthy series of flaws. So in that moment, I responded in a way I hope so many of us mothers do in the future. I said that while my stomach may appear pregnant, it’s actually just the way it happens to look after my two pregnancies. And while not a lot of magazines or websites show the true nature of a postpartum belly, mine is actually reflective of so many mamas before me (and so many mamas to be). Growing children is an amazing, challenging, miraculous, & vulnerable act. And quite honestly, I’m proud that my tummy reflects the strength & flexibility needed for an act like that. IMHO – to have a belly like mine (whether you’ve birthed babies or not!!!) is a totally natural and awe-inspiring thing. Having the evidence plainly laid out in the open on my midsection is exactly how it should be – I mean, I birthed two frickin babies! Shouldn’t my body reflect that? 😆 But seriously – it’s not lost on me how revolutionary the act of revering my postpartum belly – without feeling the need to change it – truly is. It goes against every single diet & beauty industry standard I’ve known forever. And I’m 1000% aware of how insane I may sound to the average person who is wondering why my belly hangs soft and loose over my pants. I just don’t have the room to care too much about the average person’s response anymore. 🤗🎉 After I answered the question, I did something radical. I moved on with my day. Because I didn’t want to spend a single moment second guessing anything. 🌈Whether you’ve birthed children or not, your body is valid, worthy of love, & so very magical. And how others may or may not see it has no bearing on its inherent value & beauty & wonder. Questions like the one asked the other day helped reaffirm this for me. And I hope it will help you as well. ❤️
Motherhood does some funny shit to you. Now, I straight up sing Lizzo songs to my naked belly in the mirror after I shower, and I think my big ass is totally hot. Sure, I’ve got cellulite for days and wrinkles in spots I didn’t even know I could have them. Most of the time, my daughter finds her zen place by gently pinching my ever-growing soft bits. My clothing size is also currently the biggest it’s ever been. And yet, I’m completely in love with my body.
This is not a joke, people. My body is my bae now, and I’m totally taking her to homecoming.
There’s a fearlessness that comes along when you decide to question why you’ve hated parts of yourself for so long. For me, it came down to realizing that society and many of those around me had taught my young, impressionable self to equate worth and lovability with thinness. And since being skinny, cellulite-free, and youthful has been forever synonymous with perfection, I spent my teens and adulthood doing everything I could to appear without bodily “flaws.”
When I learned long ago that stretch marks were basically the devil, for instance, I made sure to cover them up as my hips innocently accumulated them during puberty. Like many other natural bodily changes, I was taught that these lines were inherently bad. And I zealously believed that lie so much that I was overcome with crippling shame for having them. I did the same thing whenever my belly puffed out more than usual or if I gained a little bit of weight. And anytime my arms or legs seemed too jiggly, I believed my body was betraying me.
If it was deemed popular to hate, I would jump immediately on board to change or hide it.
In the years since I’ve had kids and learned to embrace the new lines and extra fat on my body, I’ve realized that the very aspects of me I used to hate are the parts I surprisingly love the most. I think it’s because I’ve always rooted for the underdog. And because once I unlocked the prison door and stepped outside, I realized that my narrative for body acceptance had the freedom to change. I didn’t have to hate myself the way I had been conditioned to. I could actively decide as a grown ass woman what I found attractive and lovable about my body.
And that is so damn refreshing.
Hands down, the biggest catalyst for positive change has been discovering some majorly powerful social media pages on Instagram. In my first year of new motherhood, I felt immediate relief upon finding the accounts Take Back Postpartum and 4th Trimester Bodies Project and seeing beautiful mom-bods of varying size on their profiles. At the time, the exercise-and-diet hustle I was accustomed to succeeding at wasn’t translating into post-baby weight loss. I’d see the loose skin around my belly or my new back rolls and beat myself up inside for not being able to quickly detox cleanse it all away. I felt out of options and like a total failure, until the brave and wonderful moms on Instagram helped shed light on a broken system, and not a broken me.
In the years since I’ve had kids and learned to embrace the new lines and extra fat on my body, I’ve realized that the very aspects of me I used to hate are the parts I surprisingly love the most.
Plus-sized self-love advocates like Jessamyn Stanley, Megan Jayne Crabbe, and Allison Kimmey have also helped reshape my beliefs around what it means to be a worthy human being in this world. Seeing their posts on a regular basis has led me to embrace my own physical frame exactly as it is, discover health at any size, and cultivate lasting love for the parts of me pregnancy and birth affected the most. These inspiring women have fiercely rebelled against societal norms, and they have motivated me to do the same.
In the two years since I’ve begun giving a big, juicy middle finger to diet culture, I’ve noticed something really awesome. Since I’m no longer investing energy into actively hating parts of my body, I have so much more time to enjoy my life and family. I stick bathing suits on at a moment’s notice and eat whatever I damn well please in them. I rub my belly for good luck and blow kisses to my cellulite, and IDGAF how ridiculous that sounds. And I always make sure to get in the picture.
As I continue on my body acceptance journey, I’ve chosen to prioritize this one important truth. All of us — no matter our shape, size, or condition — have earned the right to enjoy every single mother-effing part of ourselves, simply because we’re alive and kickin’ on this Earth. And embodying this truth firsthand is the precise example I want to set for my kids. In fact, I want my children to know that every single part of their bodies is helping to tell their extraordinary life story. And their physical homes — however they may change — are worthy of their own love and respect.
So, to my wild child toddler and my active baby boy, I assure you both that mom’s trampoline-like belly will always be open for business.