The beauty of my body isn't measured by the size of the clothes it can fit into, but by the stories it tells. I have a belly and hips that say, 'we grew a child in here' and breasts that say, 'we nourished life.'In January and February, I wrote two posts called Belly Thoughts and Further Belly Thoughts. They were about belly ambivalance, specifically about how my generally good body acceptance was challenged by pregnancy and birth, and how I sometimes still struggle with that.
- Sarah from I Am Beautiful: A Story of Women in Their Own Words
However, even as I explored topics of body ambivalence, I tried to end on a positive note with an acknowledgement and honoring of the work our pregnant bellies had done. I wrote about honoring my belly, I posted some pictures of how my older children painted my belly in the last weeks of my last pregnancy, and I discussed how much those pictures meant to me.
That was my way of trying to bring the conversation back to a positive place, because even as I am challenged to fully love the changes in my body brought about by age and multiple pregnancies, I also do not regret having had children, not for a single moment. My children are more than just compensation for the changes that have happened to my body.
As I've written before, I think it's a crime that there are not more images of women of size pregnant, birthing, breastfeeding, and parenting. I certainly could have used some images like that when I was first pregnant and afterwards, and I know many other women of size feel the same.
Most of the information out there on fatness and pregnancy is very negative, and rarely do you see any pictures at all in the media ─ let alone beautiful pictures ─ of women of size in pregnancy and afterwards. And we need images like those.
And many of us, trained to be self-conscious or ashamed about our size, neglect to document our own pregnancies in any significant detail, whether that be with belly pictures, birth pictures, breastfeeding pictures, or parenting pictures. Far too often we take the pictures, instead of letting ourselves be the subject of pictures, and that just adds to the lack of documentation out there....and the lack of documentation of our own lives.
And we need documentation. We need to STOP being invisible mothers. We need ─ and deserve ─ to be seen. We deserve to take up space in the world as women and as mothers.
A number of you have sent me pictures of yourselves pregnant as a result of my post about the lack of images, and I think this is awesome. Thank you to everyone who has sent in or shared their pictures with me. I have so enjoyed them.
However, I've been a little reticent to use some of them on the blog because of the fear that a troll might take these pictures and abuse them. Unless you have made it really clear to me that you are okay with your pictures being online forever like this, I usually haven't used them, just to be cautious.
But even as I worry about these things, I've decided it's really important that we declare our independence and post our pictures anyhow. It's SO important that there be pregnancy and parenting images of women of size out there, showing that we do have babies, we do give birth, we do breastfeed, and we do parent.
We women of size are women, just like other women, and we have families, just like other women. It's about time we got more documentation of that. And it's about time we celebrated that more, instead of hiding whenever the cameras come out. It's time we became visible moms.
So as a positive coda to my series on belly thoughts, I would like to propose a BELLY BLOG CARNIVAL.
If you have had children, blog about your pregnancy belly and body, and post pictures too. Document your experience in words and/or in pictures, and share your feelings ─ positive, negative, challenges and all.
If needed, please use trigger warnings out of respect for others, but I would ask that everyone try to end with a focus on the positive, if at all possible. We can document our challenges, but let's also not forget to celebrate our bodies. I especially welcome entries which celebrate their bodies in creative ways.
When you have posted your entry, send me a link to it (with a brief summary of what it's about). You can send it to kmom [AT] plus-size-pregnancy [DOT] org. Send it by March 31st, 2011. Then I'll summarize everyone's posts together (with links) in one place here on my blog sometime in April.
If you don't have a blog and just want to share a picture, you can email that to me as well, along with permission to use the picture and whatever brief information you want to appear with it. I generally discourage the use of real names, since this will be available online forever, but if you are absolutely positive you want this picture of you, identified with your name, available forever (the logistics are too much if you change your mind and want to delete it later), I will publish that as needed. Depending on how many I receive, I may put it in one big post, spread them out over a number of posts, or open a Tumblr account or something (if I can figure out how...I'm new to that!).
(If you send me a picture, please remember to give me explicit permission to use your picture or I won't post it. People often send me a picture but forget to add permission, and I don't have time to do follow-ups to get that. In addition, if you'd like to include permission for me, kmom, to use your picture in whatever way I need for future posts, articles, presentations, publications, etc., I'd love to have that as well. I'm always interested in adding to my gallery of plus-sized pregnancy and parenting photos to use as needed in my various projects. I welcome pictures from everyone but am particularly in need of pictures of any stage of pregnancy or parenting from women of color, and pictures from women of size during labor and birth.)
In summary, it's time to cap this belly discussion with a positive finale. Over the next few months, expect to see periodic pregnant belly pictures on my blog from various women of size. We may even have related posts about belly casts, belly henna, belly painting, and other things we as women of size can do to celebrate our beautiful lush pregnant bodies.
Bring on the bellies!!
*And isn't that picture from "Lyista" at the top of this post just the MOST gorgeous belly photo ever? My thanks to her for sharing and for giving me permission to use the photo!