I sat at a table surrounded by Moms. We all chatted, smiled, drank and laughed with nerves. My eyes couldn’t help but look past these women who were about to be so brave and see the park behind them. The park filled with people. The park that borders on one of the busiest streets. The park that we were about to fill with ourselves, bellies out, and smiles big. I was terrified.
Children ran around, husbands wrangled the littlest ones and the fastest ones. Diaper bags were haphazardly strewn across the stairs and lawn, this looked like a big playdate. A playdate where all the Mamas peeled off their tops and assembled on the stairs. The first few clicks were awkward. How do I stand? Is that my baby crying? Does the woman next to me look so much better? And then, with each click, I felt those thoughts start to melt. The laughter changed from the awkward and tight sounds of women trying to flex their bellies and stand up straight and into those belly laughs that make you shake. The smiles grew more broad and the boldness and bravery felt almost palpable. We walked around without our tops. We changed locations. We bent over to pick up our babies, kiss our spouses and hug each other. We became comfortable. I didn’t feel compared. I didn’t even think to compare. We were women coming together and forgetting what we are told, in favor or loving ourselves just as we are today.
I smiled and felt confident. I forgot to look at my stomach. I forgot to look at anyones’ stomach. I grew more and more secure, calm and happy. I could have partied with those women all night in my bra! I left feeling like I was free. Something had come off of me in that park and it wasn’t just my shirt. It was those thoughts. The thoughts that lots of Moms have.
I look disgusting. Is my stomach gross? Does everyone look like this? Will my stretch marks go away? Will I ever feel sexy again? I must lose all this weight and look normal. I am not OK and this body is not OK. My body is gross. This is taking too long.
I took those thoughts off and I didn’t pick them back up. Three days have gone by and while that fire tamed into a steady small flame, it burns on.
I have been running. Not for weight loss. Not for Charlie. Not for anyone but myself. I am running to keep that feeling tight in my hands.
My tshirt smells like breast milk, I am wearing three bras just to hold my nursing boobs in place, my pants are too tight and I am drenched in sweat. And I couldn’t feel better or more alive, more myself and more thankful. Running is my time to be alone and in it I am falling in love with a new me. That belly picture has changed me, ignited me and given me some oomph to turn my habits around and love me with words, strength and care instead of food.
That picture and those women reminded me to cut myself some slack. I am caring and pouring out for others all day long and my body shows it- in scars, stretch marks and weight. And that? That is ok. That is OK at 11 weeks PP and OK at 40 years PP. It is never too late to cast off self hate and pick up confidence. You don’t have to do it for your kid(s), you don’t have to do it for your partner and you don’t have to do it for your skinny jeans. You need to do it for yourself.
This picture shows every mother. Every birth experience, every scar you could have. It holds women from two weeks postpartum to 17 years postpartum. It has bellies that are carrying babies that could be born tomorrow and bellies that will never hold a baby again. This picture is every Mom.
This picture is you and your Mom. This picture reminds me that beauty and self love don’t have anything to do with a number and everything to do with health, acceptance and grace. Moms act in boldness for their children every day. But on this day, we were bold for ourselves.
thank you so much to Tiffany Burke for capturing what was a game changing day.