Every time I look in the mirror, I cringe at my stretch marks and fat. My hips have spread to unimaginable proportions, and after two C-sections, I’m pretty positive this belly overhang will never go away. I feel disgusting. I grab fistfuls of my stomach and cry. The tears are so strong it’s like they ripping apart my throat, but I can’t stop. I hate it.
“Mama!” Baby No. 2 screams from outside the bathroom door, because anything longer than a minute means a portal must have opened in the bathroom and I’ve been sucked inside of it. I hastily wipe the tears away, lower my shirt and open the door. She uses the opening to her advantage and busts inside like the Kool-Aid Man as she smashes the door against the dryer. She smiles.
I survived the black hole.
I walk out to see baby No. 1 holding both baby 3 and 4. “They were crying so I picked them up, but I finished my homework first because I didn’t want to hold them in my room,” she says. It’s kind of scary since she’s only 8, and they’re squirmy month-old twins.
I stop then, halted by the sudden realization that I’m happy. I finally feel complete with what I have. My body gave me this. The body I hate so much housed and raised four perfect babies. It carried twins for 37 ½ weeks, keeping them snug and healthy until way past the time my doctors thought I’d make it. My body didn’t want to give them up and fought to hold on to them so hard that an emergency C-section was the only way to remove them. It protected one daughter from the car crash that deeply bruised my stomach. My body shielded her while a car slammed into us, while the windshield smashed in around us and while the steering wheel invaded her space. My fat did that.
My body kept another daughter safe from every drug I ingested before knowing I carried her. It made and perfected this tiny person who ultimately saved my life even when I was actively working against it.
How can I hate something I’m so fucking proud of? How can I let everyone else warp my view so much that I’m spending hours at a time telling myself how wrong I am? I force myself to eat food I hate and deny myself food I love based on stupid lies: that I’m not good enough as I am, that I need a flatter stomach and tighter thighs and arms, that my stretch marks are ugly.
Stretch-mark cream is directly aimed at mothers like me. We’re made to feel we should be ashamed of what our children gave us, that we should change and hide every little thing that proves how fucking awesome our bodies actually are. I call bullshit.
I’m finished thinking I’m not good enough to feel sexy. I’m finished falling into the trap of needing to change to feel that I am worth anything. I’m finished dressing to hide myself and cropping photos so only my face is visible. I’m finished being self-conscious every time I leave my house and every time I see myself.
I’m fat, my stomach is flabby, my stretch marks have stretch marks, and I’ll never be what I’m “supposed” to be. But it’s not about everyone else or the supposed-to-bes. It’s about me convincing myself I’m beautiful as I am. Why spend time hating something that’s so amazing? Every stretch mark represents the months I spent giving life to someone else. The hips my husband loves to hold onto safely cradled four babies. The fat on my stomach and thighs fed my children when I couldn’t manage to eat. My body is a fucking rock star, and it deserves recognition. It’s not meant to be shoved into the back of a closet like it’s something to be embarrassed by.
Hating my body is stupid. So I’m not. I’m taking back my own worth and the definition of sexy. Sexy is every woman. Sexy is real. Sexy is the unconditional love and commitment it takes to carry a child.
I am sexy exactly as I am.