I will never forget the moment of clarity when I realized that I had a flat stomach my entire life…and I’d missed it.
I scurried to my sweet husband, and said, “I had a flat stomach?!? All along, I HAD a flat stomach…and I missed IT!?” All those years, I’d misled myself to think that my stomach was poochy and woefully sub-par. But upon seeing my postpartum reality of crepe-paper-like stretched skin that lifelessly drooped, coupled with a diastasis recti that actually caused a pouch, I had a whole new perspective on what a picturesque stomach I formerly owned.
The twenty-seven years before I had children, I’d completely taken my silky smooth skin and uninterrupted abdominal wall for granted.
I remember stroking this somewhat bizarre new belly of mine and pondering how many other women through the generations had walked through this same season of life before the likes of tummy tucks, liposuction, and body image were even a glimmer of a thought.
How’d they feel about their new reality? Did they spend time pondering such things?
I thought about how life must have been for the women of history and current day women in areas with no epidurals, no pain meds, and no birthing center. I thought about how I wasn’t the first girl to have this alien-like skin, nor was I the only female on earth to have a mounding abdominal wall.
I was reminded that I wasn’t alone in my new body. I wasn’t the first woman to have her tummy deflate and look like a prune.
Nope, none of us are alone in discovering that our postpartum physique is similar, yet somewhat different from our original. We’re actually in the company of generations of women whose bodies looked similar, yet different after they entered the land of Motherhood. And, as I pondered away that day I was reminded of the incredible gift it is to even get to be a mom! When I consider the women whose reality is infertility, how they’ve yearned to conceive, and ached as month after month yields another month of waiting and wondering, I am reminded to choose gratefulness.
So, yes, my perspective quickly chooses to shift from the Woes to the Gratefuls when it comes to my momma markings. Sure, I easily could turn up the volume on the negative self-talk in the privacy of my head that wants to cry out, “Woe is me! My stomach looks confused. I want my old body back.” But that wouldn’t change my reality or help anything. Lamenting would just trigger an avalanche of woes and begin a tornado of bitterness in my heart. So, I choose to graciously thank the Woes for their time, bid them good day, and greet the Gratefuls with open arms! I chose to thank God for my ability to conceive, for my uneventful pregnancies, for my two healthy children, for my healthy body, and for the true gift it is to get to be a mom. When I remind myself that an 11 pound, 2 foot tall baby lived inside my stomach, I only find reason to be grateful…and choose to honor my stomach, not loathe it.
My belly is a visual reminder of the gift of the two lives that once took up residency inside the walls of my body. Those are the same lives that I’ve gotten to watch learn how to roll over, take their first steps, kick a ball, read early, and now embrace new adventures.
Our stomachs show our life experience and the luxury not all women have, to get to bear children. I choose to embrace the stretchy crepe paper skin, medallion of a belly button, and sag of my stomach because they are a daily reminder of the two humans that once called it home. I hope you’ll embrace yours too.