Thursday, 3 November 2011

Birth Special: Acceptance Nude

Before I had my two children, I really liked my body. I know girls are notorious for having bits of themselves they despise, but I liked all of me. I never really worked out, I never really watched what I ate, but I just had a great body, that looked good in clothes, and even better naked. Before you really start to hate me, here is a picture I just took of my tummy button:


This is what it looks like when I bend over. So if I'm naked, and reaching down to pull the plug out of the bath or pick up a discarded toy, this is what I see. As the three year old so beautifully put it, 'Mummy, when you bend over, your tummy goes all sort of melty-down.'

And I dislike it. I dislike it intensely. I realise this may make me seem shallow and superficial. But I'm afraid that I cannot quite accept the rather dramatic fall from grace my body has experienced; transformed, almost over-night, from something I willingly and happily flaunted, to something I'm keen to keep hidden from view.

You can imagine why the following image caught my eye.



Doing the rounds on facebook, Cassie's Fox's photo of her own tummy when her baby was six months old has been shared thousands of times over. Her image and accompanying words have sparked everything from cathartic release, to spiteful bitchiness. For me, they raised mostly guilt. My tummy looks a bit like this, and yet I have never really so far been able to integrate the way it looks with the gratitude I feel for my children's existence.

I shared her image via the facebook page for my blog, and although some who commented, like me, felt negatively, I was inspired by how many women echoed Cassie's feelings of pride and acceptance in their changed forms.

An artist friend and follower of my blog, Anna Appleby, offered to take these women's words and transform them into a piece of art to be shared here. I am so grateful to her for taking time out from caring for her two small children to create the beautiful image that follows.




The next images are close-ups of the main picture, with some of the words transcribed beneath.

doughy, squashy, home, mature, mummy's like a zebra, love handles, cuddle

womanly, curvy, proud, strong, feminine

wanted

scarred, striped, complete, someone's left a cake out in the rain

stretched, stitched, lucky, powerful

powerful, lucky, torn, stitched, stretched, scarred, now empty, complete, stripes

nourishing, finally have a purpose, disconnected

For me, these images, and the little chain of events that led to their creation, has been a welcome challenge to my entirely negative feelings about my melty-down tum. I don't love it yet, and perhaps I never will, but I have certainly nudged a little bit further along the long spectrum of feelings, a small step away from repulsion and disgust, and a tiny tiptoe towards pride and acceptance.

Please feel free to share your own feelings and responses in the comments below.


If you would like to find out more about Anna's art, or would like a print of Acceptance Nude, please contact me, and I will put you in touch!



You might also like What's Good About This? Re-Framing Our Post Baby Bodies






33 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this post! Like you I also struggle with my new body. Before I had my son I was ok with my body. I wore a size 0/1 (I'm 4'8 so I wasn't super skinny), didn't work out or watch what I ate. I somehow thought that I would snap back into the same body after my son was born (especially because I was going to breastfeed!). Boy was I wrong... At 8 months post-partum I still have to hold back a tear when I see myself naked. I'm still nursing but my body has decided it needs to hold onto this fat and my hips are now wider. Just last week I bought some new jeans and had them tailored so they would fit perfectly. Having a good pair of jeans has helped to begin to accept my new body.

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  2. I have carried 4 babies in my body and I feel like I posed for this picture! I love it! I am not thrilled about the way my body looks but I charish the thought of knowing my body has nourished and produced these little ones I love!

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  3. thanks celeste. with both of my pregnancies i have put on a lot of weight and i've found that it has only really started to shift as my baby approached one, i think if you keep breastfeeding they really start to suck out the calories at this stage! i'm glad you liked the post and hope, like me, it has helped you feel a bit more positive about your new body....and thanks to you also anon, you are right, they are worth it! xxx

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  4. Hard for bloke to comment on this because there are so few equivalents - going bald perhaps? Jane has had three children and yet has virtually no stretch marks, lovely figure, tall and elegant - all the stuff her friends envy. And yet she still has ' a crisis of tops' as she recently explained (half joking) to me - or will worry about her neck line, the slight darkening of the skin...

    There is something terribly wrong about the way western society puts so much pressure on the way we look, creating anxieties and fears that we know to be shallow - and yet most of absorb this (men as well) - we know its trivial and yet we somehow can't quite fight it fully.

    I once asked Jane's Mum if shed swap her current figure (not fat but a bit soft and tummyish) for being a perfect weight all her life - the catch was that in return she died five years earlier (everything else was equal, health, wealth, etc) . Oh definitely, she said. Now the more you think about that the odder it is - albeit it was an intuitive response. So five years less with your kids, I said - and five years less with your grandchildren? I didn't think of it that way, she replied.

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  5. thanks Mark.
    i love your story. i keep coming back to it in my mind. it says so much about the way we all place importance on the most meaningless things, really!
    it's great being around my small children because they come at life (for now) with absolutely no judgement, they don't see wrinkles, or wealth, or fashion, or age, or colour, or disability, or size, they are just not concerned with any of it! wonderful!
    xxx

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  6. you mean other mommy's tummy buttons look like that, too??? gee I thought I was *special* :)

    I did OK up until the 6th baby. LOL I am so thankful that my husband doesn't mind at all!

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  7. ha ha anon sorry to spoil it for you!
    this is just after 2 for me but the second was ten pound four! ;-)

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  8. my last one was 10'4" as well...isn't that funny!?!

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  9. My 2nd is 11 weeks old and weighed in at 10 lbs 7 oz. My belly looks identical. I hate it too, but have made some peace with it. Moms are definitely warriors, and we carry our fair share of battle scars. Lots of love to all you moms out there!

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  10. Thanks Anon. I'd like to say it will improve with time, but my daughter is one and a half! :-(
    But it only looks like that when I bend over. Standing up it has definitely improved a lot.
    Love to you and all other Warrior Women xxx

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  11. Mine looks similar, and I've only had one!! She was almost 10# and breech the whole time though, and I'm only 5'1", sooo. Great post,as always!!

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  12. Wow! I read this with tears running down my face. Thank you for articulating the feelings which I could not about my body. I too was so invested in the way my body looked before becoming a Mum. It was only when I could no longer count on the confidence that being tiny and toned brought that I realised how much my self esteem depended on it. 6 months after the birth of my beautiful boy, I'm finally discovering the beauty in my new body too. I've stopped the negative self-talk when I see myself in the mirror and have started to invest in looking good again. It's hard to adjust and love the 'skin you're in' but sharing, through posts like this, and knowing that many Mums feel the same helps hugely.

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  13. Thanks Jill! I agree, I feel very similarly about the self esteem thing. I guess it is an inevitable part of growing older that we can no longer 'rely on our looks'! But when you have a baby you can change dramatically in such a short space of time, it is hard to adjust! I'm glad you have started to like your body again, and I'm so glad this post helped and moved you. It has certainly helped me a great deal to share this and to hear feedback such as yours. xxx

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  14. And thank you Shianne too! these ten pounders have a lot to answer for! ;-) xxx

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  15. I love this post! Cheers to doting moms! :)

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  16. thank you bliss! cheers indeed x

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  17. Each mark has a story to tell, whether it is a mole from your carribean cruise, a scar from where you had life saving heart surgery or stretch marks from where your baby was created. No matter what others think we must all love our own bodies, we are all so unique and our experiences are so very precious. We must treasure the moments that make us. I can't wait to have my baby grow and make these wonderful tracks in my skin. No matter how far my children are from me, there will always be a part of them right here on my skin.
    Doctors have told me that carrying a child will be an uphill struggle due to defects I was born with but I am deterined to have a child. Whether I carry my own or adopt! x

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  18. "I can't wait to have my baby grow and make these wonderful tracks in my skin. No matter how far my children are from me, there will always be a part of them right here on my skin."
    I really love that MindTheCorners.
    I hope it happens for you, somehow. x

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  19. I am going to start looking at my tummy and saying all the positive things about it from now on. It brought me my 4 year old boy and my gorgeous 5 month old girl. My tummy has now completed it's job as it will be carrying no more but I will endeavour to say a thank you to it every time I see it now. Thank you x

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    1. That's great Jeni. A lovely idea. Thank you! xxx

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  20. That is a beautiful painting, and a beautiful post! I am having trouble accepting my post-baby body, but mostly because it is uncomfortable to wear clothes. My belly is bigger than my hips, and waistbands dig in. But I don't mind looking at myself naked. That's when I remember what my body did for my babies.

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    1. Thank you Tmuffin, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I found especially after the second baby the weight took much longer to go, so I bought a couple of pairs of cheap jeans in a size up to tide me over, rather than feelings squeezed into my smaller ones!
      Love to you and your babies x

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  21. I've always called my stretchmarks: "my babies' signatures".

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    1. That's lovely Alpha Parent. I still can't like my tummy, even months after this post! Still trying though! x

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    2. Ive struggled with anorexia nervousa since i was 11 yrs old. For lots of reasons I didnt feel connected to by body in a positive way and consequently had a very negative relationship with food and a very bad self image. I had my son when i was 25 while in a period of recovery.

      I cant thank my son enough for making me feel so connected to my body in a positive way. I wish someone had told when I was young the wonderous things our bodies can do, how miraculous it all is and how much women should revere and respect thier bodies.It may sound soppy and ridiuclous but as women we can get so many negative messages about ourselves that its hard to comprehend how powerful we really are. We grow and birth babies, we nuture and we sustain. That is emense!

      Thanks for sharing your journey. How we look is one part of a very small picture. What we have done in birthing our children, what our bodies are capable of doing is so much more important and should be valued by society much more than how we look.

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    3. Thank you Anon. I really like the way your story is almost the 'mirror image' (pun intended!) of mine, and how your journey took you from negativity to acceptance. The points you make about our wondrous bodies are so true and wise and I hope you are sharing them far and wide! WIth love, and huge respect, Milli x

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  22. My belly, breasts, thighs, upper arms, calves, and even buttocks have huge stretch mars all over them since I had our first child in 2004. He was 10lbs 6oz and I had pre-eclampsia which made my legs so swollen they came out in stretch marks. The skin on my legs is all wrinkly all over. I also put on lots of weight.

    Before we had our first child I had eating disorder tendencies. I was never happy with my body.

    Since then I have grown non-stop mentally speaking. With my supportive partner and our wonderful son as inspiration I started this year free from depression, and we found out that we are expecting our second surprise child later this year! Well I am now at the point where my body is ok. My boobs are fab, and although its not all quite where it should be... I like to look back at the renaissance paintings, and actually, I think I am not too far off those women, paint a few (now red again) stripes across the belly and trim the pubes a little, and hey presto my picture is on art gallery walls and priceless... Well its not a skinny super model, but my partner finds me sexy still, and my body has the power to nurture and care for a baby.

    How amazing are we ladies? We have performed miracles :)

    Mark, That's a fab comment mate, thanks!

    Sending good vibes to all of you struggling to find your body confidence, you really are just as human shaped as any any other person, you just get to see things from a different angle on your own body x

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  23. Love this post - Hi, I'm new to your Blog but completely loving it. My body is remarkable as it has stretched out of all recognition three times (the last with twins). I EAT in pregnancy, and have put on 5 st, 4st and 6st respectively impressive non?! Well my body is incredible because I have also lost that weight each time and produced beautiful children into the bargain. My twin sister recently said she wants breast and tummy surgery after having 5 babies, including twins and it made me think. Could I too slice off that extra bag of skin that hangs off me when bend over to run the bath, could I too have pert breasts for once in my life rather than having to scoop them up of the bed to turn over? But thinking about it made me realize I don't hate my body, I don't hate my stretch marks. I loved my mummy's jelly belly and my kids love mine. I'd hate the unnecessary scars of surgery more. I have a C Sections scar from twin two's birth which is like an amusing underlining of the effect growing babies has had on my body. But it is a truly female body. No body ends up looking like mine unless it has born children and my husband is so proud of what it has done that he cherishes the marks that have been left on it, for which I am truly blessed.
    Thanks for this post - it is so important we feel positive about our achievements and our bodies achievements and not succumb to the false media ideal of the body beautiful.

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    1. Thanks so much!
      What a great comment, what a great attitude. <3
      You might like this other one I wrote about post baby bodies:
      http://www.the-mule.com/2012/06/whats-good-about-this-reframing-our.html
      Love Milli x

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  24. Hi, I've never been on this blog before but I found it through another blog and wanted to say something too. I agree with previous posts about society's idea on beauty, but started to think about my own body as well. I'm 20 years old and I have what a lot of women would call a perfect body. I am extremely grateful and happy because other than eating very healthy, I never had to do any effort to keep it like this. Now this also means, that from my heart I cannot be truly proud of it either. I am proud of myself when I accomplish something I worked hard for, but I can only be grateful because I just got this body 'for free'. You, mothers, on the other hand, can be truly proud. You've given up your perfect bodies (I honestly find every healthy body perfect)and lots of your time and lots of your energy to give life to a new child. And 'giving up' your perfect body does not at all mean that you look hideous now. You look like a perfect mother, who maybe is tired, but looks so happy and proud when she looks at her children and you have an air around you of comfort, of trust and of love. Not only for your children, but for all people around you. And your body is now pretty in a feminine and a motherly way.
    My body as a 20-year old is pretty in a feminine way, but my arms are not strong enough to hold a baby very long when it needs comforting. My hips and back couldn't carry a baby around for 9 monts just now. My breasts don't have the best food and vitamins a baby could wish for. My belly is not comforting for a child to cuddle. All I can do now, is to be the best aunt I can be for my little niece (who I love with all my heart), and hope to become a great mum with a body to give life, to love my children and to be as a (slightly heavier) rock in their lives.
    Good luck to you all and thank you for being such great mums. Don't envy flat and thin girls, they envy you for your love and your patience!

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    1. Such a beautiful and wise comment...I have shared it via my FB page as I think it will inspire many mothers out there, thank you so much! x

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  25. I was reading the post on self soothing and then decided to take a stroll thru your blog. This post encouraged me so, not because I have issues with my body but because I am struggling as a parent. Sometimes I am so hard on myself for not doing things as well as I should. It's so hard not to repeat the patterns you have been taught. So this post encouraged me in the sense that acknowledges that as a mother I have already given so much of me: my body. That in spite of its looks and conditions it keeps on giving. I have 4 children and could have more. God willing.

    So yes, I can do the parenting thing too. Love never fails and yes, I can keep on loving and connecting with my children.

    As for my body... I had lots of issues before children. Had a nice body, but I hated it and thought I was so ugly. Once I had children and with the help of my awesome husband, I don't hate my body anybody. Although I look like the artwork and am pretty overweight I am pretty happy in my own skin. I can take my clothes off and parade naked in front of my DH and feel glamorous. How ridiculous is that?? LOL but it's true.

    I feel comfortable with my squishy belly and my children love it. My droopy breasts are still feeding my almost 3y.o. and we love it. So yeah for stretch marks!!! LOL

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