An Open Letter to Moms Stressing About Their Bodies and Bellies
Earlier this week on social media I posted the photo below to show what my belly looks like when I’m ovulating. For me, this is rounder than other days, recently.
Here’s that photo.
The constant is that our bodies and our bellies change.
Throughout the day, the month, the years. THIS IS NORMAL.
Let me repeat that: the constant is change. We don’t arrive at some specific body or belly shape and stay exactly there for the rest of time.
This can be troubling when we connect the meaning of a good, worthy, fit, strong, sexy, capable, __________ (insert word here) body to a particular size then, yes?
If the body is always changing, whether those are small (ovulation) or large fluctuations (pregnancy), then what happens when you are not at your ‘ideal’? When you are not in a place where you are most comfortable?
Where does the mind take you?
This can especially dangerous postpartum.
The form takes precedence over the function.
Our western culture often puts more value into the size and composition of a mother’s body than whether her body actually works.
Please nod YES if you realize how fucked up this is.
• Do we want to be thin more than we want to be able to stop leaking urine during exercise/life?
• Do we want to have a ‘good’ body, as defined by some societal beauty standard, more than we want to rest and recover adequately postpartum?
• Do we want to prove we’re tough, strong, and fit more than we want to ensure that our core and pelvic floor function returns for the rest of our lives?
I want to know what your body can do, what you want your body to be able to do, if there is a disconnect, and how we can resolve it.
Being able to pick up your toddler, swing them around, laugh hard, and not doubt that you are able to physically do this without symptoms. This is function.
We want permission.
Many of the comments I received after posting that photo have been, “thank you for showing that this is normal and that it’s ok.”
There is so much comfort in knowing that your body is going to continue to change and not remain the same. After you get past the THIS IS HORRIBLE AND TERRIFYING stage, of course.
We want someone to give us permission to tell us that it’s ok for our bodies to not always be the same.
We want permission to know that we haven’t done anything wrong if our bellies feel bigger and bloated when we’re in certain stages of our menstrual cycle.
Or, if your belly is bigger and bloated at literally anytime in your life – you have permission to enjoy that body.
For years, when I noticed these fluctuations in my body throughout my cycles I used to be worried that I had gained weight, had been eating too many carbs, too much fat, too much sugar, etc. The inclination was to go on EAT NOTHING mode.
I would tell my things like, “no sugar until the weekend”, and “only protein and veggies for lunch and dinner”.
I would use exercise and food as control tools to shame myself over a round belly. More exercise to burn the calories and less food to restrict the calories.
Show up in your whole body.
Now when I notice my belly is more round my, sometimes forced, go-to is to embrace it harder.
You’ll notice in the ‘ovulation photo’ I’m wearing a tighter dress so that I can be aware of the roundness. I can see it when I look at my body. I can sense it when I practice relaxing my belly.
If I go out in that dress with my round belly others might be aware of it. I’m sure they’re not, but it’s important for me in my journey to show up and not hide my body when my belly feels more round.
These types of actions are purposeful and with intent.
The one thing I wish every mom believed is that they have permission to BE all that they are in *this* body right now and then keep showing up without shame, guilt, or the desire to hide.