Love Thy Belly

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I have never been a small girl and have struggled with my body image since I was very young. One would think by age thirty-nine I would have outgrown my body insecurities; unfortunately, that is not the case. The kicker is I am stronger and more fit then I have ever been in my life, but with three kids comes extra stretch marks and the dreaded “mom belly.” 

The other day, my six-year-old sat on my lap and asked me to take a picture of us. The first thing that popped into my head was, “I hope I don’t look fat.” Really … what am I thinking? My son wants a picture taken of the two of us—and I am worried about THAT. He wants to capture a moment in time with his favorite girl—and I am worried about WHAT? 

We also got family pictures taken recently, and I asked the photographer if she could Photoshop my unwanted belly out of the picture. After all, it’s going to be on my Christmas card and living room wall for a long time. And I don’t want to look at the pictures and see that belly. Sigh …

As my little guy crawled out of my lap, I asked him why he wanted a picture with me. He simply smiled and said, “Because I love you, Mom,” and walked away. That simple statement made me stop and really think of all these feelings I was having about my body and myself. What do my children see when they see a picture of their mom? What does my husband see when he sees a picture of his wife and kids? It is obviously not what I am feeling. 

In reality, they see their mom. The one who kisses their boo-boos, tucks them in at night, worries about their safety, and loves them unconditionally. They see a strong woman who even on her worst day has never let them down. They see a leader, a wife, a school volunteer, a listener, a discipliner, and the queen of multitasking. They don’t see the imperfections; they see their mom. 

So, I am asking: How do we feel what our kids see? How do we get past our bellies, our flaws, our non-perfectness? It took some time for me to realize that I may not like what I see all the time, but that unwanted belly birthed three healthy, amazing children. Those stretch lines are marks of the growing children that I was lucky enough to carry full term, and the extra skin layer served as protection of my babies. Do I like it? Do I think it’s sexy? Not so much. Do I jump up and down when I look in the mirror? No. But do I smile now that I have put things in perspective? Absolutely! As far as I am concerned, that belly is like a battle wound: It is proof that I have done something amazing in my life, and I am proud of it. 

I am still working my butt off to lose the extra weight—but it’s for me, not for pictures, or for what I think my kids see. I have promised myself that when asked to be in a picture, especially with my kids, I will always say “yes,” because I am never going to miss an opportunity to capture a moment in time with my family or friends over such a silly thing—never again. I will love thy belly. 

Written by: Heidi LaPlante Photo: stock.xchng

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