The Shape of This Mother...
By imperfectbird on March 08, 2011
What do you feel when you look at that photo?
At one point in my life any of those words would have described my own reaction to this photo. This is a photo of a woman named Bonnie, who founded the website, and indeed movement, called The Shape of a Mother. She is committed to displaying images of REAL women’s bodies, usually postpartum, to show other women and the rest of the world what the true “normal” looks like. Instead of the airbrushed images in the media, actual women submit photos of their bodies.
The first time I encountered this website is kind of a funny/sad story. I was probably 9 months or so postpartum after having Zion. I had gained close to 60 lbs. while pregnant, and had only lost maybe 30 lbs at that point. I remember looking at my post-baby body with complete shock. I had NO idea what pregnancy plus 60 extra pounds would do to me. Stretch marks were everywhere from my chest down to my legs, my once taut belly was now soft and streaked with fading pink lines, and my breasts had grown and shrunk and grown again, permanently changing their shape.
The very fact I can type all these words now amazes me, because I was so ashamed of myself. I was so ashamed of gaining so much weight. So ashamed of the stretch marks and pudgy parts and all the wear and tear.
So one day I sat down at my computer, desperate to feel normal, desperate to see evidence that I wasn’t the only one left with scars from pregnancy. I went to Google and searched for photos of postpartum stretch marks. I felt kind of sheepish searching for such a thing and I had no idea what I was going to get as my results…but amazingly The Shape of a Mother was the first website to pop up. I began clicking through the hundreds of photos, and soon was in tears.
There were women who looked just like me. Some had less stretch marks and saggy skin, some had even more. And it really had nothing to do with their weight gain in some cases…some women who would look like a perfectly healthy weight with their clothes on had the same sagging extra skin on their stomachs.
Immediately I began to think of my body in a different way. I didn’t come to peace with it right away…honestly, that didn’t happen for a few years, and there are days I’m STILL not at peace with it. But I did learn that day to start feeling differently about the jagged lines on my tummy and down my legs.
I have the shape of a mother. I’m no longer just a woman…I’m a woman who’s grown two children within my body. Only God could have created such an intricate and beautiful system of bringing children into the world. In the depths and warmth of my womb the powerful force of life unraveled and grew until I was able to push that life forth from darkness to light. Within an hour of birthing these two children I brought them to my breast to receive the perfect food to nurture them.
Every Sunday for years and years I have heard the words of Jesus, “This is my body, broken for you. This is my blood, poured out for you”.
Yes, my body is broken by the standards of beauty we uphold today. Yes, the stripes on my body, though faded, still remain.
But it was for them…my two sons, that this body was broken. In blood and water they were washed as they entered the world. From my body they receive the food on which they both have grown. I have reminders of these things everytime I look in the mirror. What an honor.
If you are a mother through birth, find peace in this…your body really IS normal. Don’t be deceived by what you see in the media. If you are a woman who has never given birth, whether a mother or single woman…this is for you too. Being a woman is difficult when our bodies are constantly being analyzed and portrayed in unrealistic ways. But you too are normal! Sometimes it helps just to hear the words, and I encourage you to look at The Shape of a Mother as it has endless categories of photos of women of all shapes and sizes…some who have had children and some who haven’t!
Go back to the top now, and look at that picture of Bonnie again. Look at her precious baby on her hip. See the power in that body, the sacrifice, the beauty.
Go take a look at: The Shape of a Mother
Lydia writes about life, motherhood, marriage, and becoming the woman she longs to be at Imperfect Bird.