A Mother’s Body


This is an image shared by 257 friends of mine on Facebook.

I understand why people responded to it and why it has the number of likes that it does. Our stretch marks and lose skin and dimples may not have been there twenty years ago, but they are part of who we are now and, therefore, they are beautiful. We earned them.

We are Women, hear us Roar!

But, here’s the thing: I’m not roaring about my stretchmarks; I’m groaning.

Then there’s this movement that seems to pop up every few years of mothers baring their bellies to show what we — real women — look like. Yes, it’s absolutely refreshing to see what a normal belly is after years of being bombarded with washboard abs and Photoshopped perfection. Real bellies dimple and sag and dip and bulge. Real boobs do the same, and most of us have them. By recognizing this, we should all be more comfortable in our own skin. Well, that’s the point at least.

But, while everyone else is comforted and roaring, all I’m thinking is that I’m sure as hell not going to be caught dead on the internet without a shirt on. Good for those women. Their self-confidence and self-acceptance is inspiring. Good for their daughters, being raised by moms who are comfortable in their own skin… Good for their husbands who don’t need deal with the mishigas that most partners do. It’s a good thing… I’m just not there yet.

My body gave me my children and for that, I will be eternally grateful. It is a beautiful thing, indeed. But, the stretch marks? They’re not so pretty, no matter what exotic animal they’re compared to. The stomach? Sorry, but I would prefer it be be flatter. The veins? No, I don’t see little works of modern art in their formation. The sagging? The drooping? No, I can not say I love the effects that carrying and birthing three children has had on me. Does that make me anti-feminist, shallow and vain? Maybe, but it’s the truth: I liked my body better before I had kids.

Would I trade my motherly imperfections for the experience of motherhood? Of course not, not in a million years. But, I don’t consider them trophies, either. They’re more like necessary consequences that I’ve learned to accept, but never fully embrace. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat, but I’m not exactly proud of them, either.

Perhaps someday, I won’t slather coco butter on my skin, hoping for a miracle. Maybe I’ll even wear a skimpy swimsuit at a crowded public pool without the slightest hint of self consciousness. Maybe I’ll prance and roar and pound my chest with pride. But, more than likely, I won’t. I think I’ll always wish that I’d appreciated my pre-baby belly more and scowl at the cruel redistribution of weight. But, I do recognize that I’m more than a number on the scale or the ripples on my skin. I am woman. I guess I’m just not much of a roarer.

I do, however, really like to hiss.


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  1. 1

    tracey says

    I wish I didn’t feel the same as you do, but I do. It sucks to be squishy where I once was not and to have extra skin that, no matter how hard I tried (if I tried) would never, EVER go away…

    I think what people are trying to do with the Photo Movements is to show women who are PRE CHILDREN what is in store for them. Not the photo shopped images of models and actresses who have unlimited funds available for surgeries and treatments. That’s not real. If we knew BEFORE we had kids, we might appreciate our bodies before getting pregnant. I know that I personally thought I was fat and unattractive pre kids. HAHAHAHAHAHHA! I was so cute! And HOT! I wish I could kick my own, younger version’s ass.

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  2. 5

    Jeanne @ TheCommonSenseMama says

    Thank you for saying this! I saw the same picture the other day followed by several comments about stretch markes being a mothers ‘battle scar’ and ‘stripes of honor’. As nice as that sounds, it doesn’t change the fact that I will forever be self-conscious without clothes. Love my kids but, damn, I hate the stetch marks!

    Great post!

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  3. 6

    Mayor Gia says

    So true. I mean, I’m not a mom, but I hear you. Just because you’re a mother doesn’t mean you can ignore the all the images of “perfect” women in society.

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  4. 7

    Jadzia@Toddlerisms says

    And that picture? I WISH I looked that good still–that looks like me after Baby #1, and yes there was whingeing and whining about the 1/2 inch of extra tummy that remained after losing “all” the weight. Ha ha ha ha ha. Now, 2 months after Baby #5, I basically get dressed with my eyes closed and am not thinking that is going to change anytime soon.

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  5. 10

    Amy says

    I just developed a disposable camera from 2001 (6 years before Girl Child was born). In one snap, I’m standing in from of the fountain at the Bellagio in Vegas, wearing low-slung jeans, a sleeveless top with a neckline plunged so low everyone in a 5 mile radius could see how creamy white my breasts were and a pair of sky-high hooker boots. My hair is styled, my eyebrows waxed, and I’m wearng make up.
    I took one look at that girl and thought, “Who the hell is this b*tch and how did she get in here?” before I realized, HORRIFIED, that the b*tch was ME. {SOB!!!}

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  6. 12

    Just Jennifer says

    I freaking HATE my stretch marks! And the spider veins in my legs? These things are NOT attractive and I don’t cherish them. I’ve had “jelly belly” since my son was born 6 years ago. We put up with these things cuz they come with the territory of having babies and we love our babies. I like that some women want to put what’s real out there cuz I think the perfection of celebrities and models is BS and I really do want people to appreciate all body types. But yeah, I won’t be shouting from the rooftops that my post-baby body is wonderful!

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  7. 13

    KH99 says

    Ugh yes. I appreciate what they are trying to do, but I didn’t carry my child, so I don’t have anything as positive to account for my flabby stomach and weight gain since college. Infertility body? I’m proud of surviving that, but I still wish I looked better.

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  8. 16

    Shannon Kuhns says

    I feel the same way…. which is why, 7 months ago, this proud Mom of two amazing children got a tummy tuck and a boob lift. Yep. And I got some grief about it. As if saving my hard-earned money and driving a 12 year old car so I could afford to have my body look a little more like it did in my 20s was a betrayal of a mother’s love. I totally understand being empowered by motherhood. Being empowered by pregnancy and childbirth, and embracing the miracle of what my body did. But I also embrace the miracle of modern medicine. ;) And I did keep some souvenirs from from all that empowering stuff. Their names are Wyatt and Neva. They’re the only proof I need that a miracle happened.

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  9. 20

    Sandra says

    I’m pretty much against anything that insinuates we should all jump on the bandwagon. When I see things like that, it annoys me. I have no stretchmarks. Sorry. I don’t. Does this mean I don’t get to roar?
    Great post and so nice to read something that isn’t all about conforming to the feminist agenda.

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  10. 22

    Tanya says

    That photo makes me angry…if I positioned myself in that way, you’d see a whole lot more than that faint shadowing of extra skin. I’m betting they photoshopped those stretch marks onto that completely gorgeous body.
    My stomach, after 3 kids, has so much extra skin, I can’t help but be reminded of the Silence of the Lambs whenever I look at myself. You know, the skins suit that guy was making? That’s what I’m talking about…

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    • 23

      Jaci @ Ravings of a Mad Housewife says

      If they want to make a real RAWR! movement, show a stomach with the post-baby, shriveled “apron” we all have going on in the front. Pan the camera down a little lower.

      Otherwise, it DOES look like marks photoshopped on a model.

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  11. 24

    Lynn says

    Actually I DO love my stripes of honour, I adore my tiger stripes and all they stand for and I wish I could show them off with pride on the beach. However it is the saggy (too much chocolate) belly and boobs I can’t bear to show. If I had a body like the one in the pic, of course I would show it off: that woman looks amazing, in fact I doubt she has had children at all, I bet it is the stretch marks that have been photoshopped on to make the poster! My ‘tiger stripes’ don’t look like hers – all straight and exotic- mine are creased and bumpy and cover much rougher terrain; my saggy skin makes it hard to find the lines in places.

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  12. 26

    Tanya says

    This pic is my cell phone wall paper… Not because of the stretch marks but it’s a reminder to me that after having kids my stomach can look like that. And I’m close. Yeah that particular picture is probably as the previous Tanya said, photoshopped, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. I love this pic and I love the encouragement it gives me. *shrugs*

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  13. 28

    Cheryl says

    While I dodged the stretchmarks, hand to Heaven, after breastfeeding twins, my nipples point in different directions….even now…10 years later.
    Doubt Dove or any “real woman” campaign wants in on that action.

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  14. 31

    Anna says

    it would be great if that was actually an ad for stretch mark reduction – there’s something about it that seems a little “thou dost protest too much” to me, but then again i am a total cynic. maybe one day i will be the sorta person who also likes that kinda thing on fb, probably about the time my stomach looks anywhere that good, stretch marks and all.

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  15. 33

    SoberJulie says

    You’re doing it wrong Jill, with that photo I imagine I HAVE that tummy already, that my pooch is no more and my stretch marks match.

    Sometimes fooling myself is wonderful but HELL no I don’t show off my tummy in public

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  16. 34

    Tam says

    AMEN! I love my kids, all three of them. I loathe my body. It is saggy, stretched, marked and frankly even if airbrushing did not exist, my body would *still* be considered ugly. BECAUSE IT IS. Society hasn’t ‘duped me’ into thinking that I have to look like ‘them’ to be pretty. I know ugly when I see it. And I see it daily.

    The only thing my stretchmarks tell me is that I’m never wearing a bikini again.

    I love my kids.

    I HATE my body.

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  17. 35

    FIFW says

    I never really gave them a second thought. Although my ex never had any of these, I had a girlfriend who had these. I found her to be sexy as all hell, marks or no marks….. Passion overcomes…. : )

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