Saturday, January 24, 2015

My Belly Will Never Be the Same

Australian model Erin McNaught is the latest woman to post a mommy body photo on Instagram. Her photo shows her in a bikini four weeks after giving birth.

''4 weeks PP [post partum] and I'm starting to get my stomach back!

Aside from lots of walking and eating healthily, I've been doing loads of pelvic floor and transverse abdominus exercises. Still no traditional ab work though which is driving me crazy! #bodyafterbaby”

The comments range from congratulatory messages for her being so healthy and working hard to the negative observations that this sends a bad message to other new moms.

There are already so many pressures placed upon women to look a certain way and be a certain way as moms, that a photo and message like this can trigger negative thoughts and behaviors in non-model moms.

The worst part of photos like this though is that it sets up a certain ideal unconsciously in women’s minds.

When I gave birth to my first child, I had never seen a post-pregnancy belly before, except for toned abs like McNaught’s.

When I looked down at my belly in the days following the birth of my daughter, I was scared. I thought my abs would never be seen again. If I had only seen other moms and their squishy post-pregnancy bellies, I wouldn’t have been so worried that there was something wrong with me.

My post-pregnancy belly
My belly button looked like a cork popping out of my round midsection.

I took a photo out of bewilderment. Would this ever reverse itself?

My belly has somewhat returned to a normal state, but regardless of how much ab work, or exercises, or dieting I do, it looks like I will always have a wonky looking belly.

Am I jealous of women like McNaught?

No. I know that every woman is different. Every body is different.

Should she be showing off her trim tummy for all to see? It’s her prerogative.

I am not one to speak, having at one time been photographed looking good. Having once made a living based on what my body looked like.

My pre-pregnancy belly
Did I ever make another woman feel bad about herself? I never really thought about it quite like that before.

Do women have a responsibility to other women when it comes to their beauty? Is there a difference between celebrating ourselves and showing off?

Should there be?

Should intent matter when it comes to sharing photos of ourselves? 

Should we have to consider how other people will react to our photos? Either out of jealousy for our killer abs or even revulsion for our wrinkly, stretch-marked bellies?


  1. So first of all, you know that I have great admiration for your beauty then and now. I refuse to have my pleasure in beauty ruined by any kind of argument or anybody's hurt feelings. Although I appreciate the beauty of nature and of art, the most powerful form of beauty to me is still female beauty. I am glad to say that my images of feminine beauty have ripened with age. I find young women beautiful of course, but I find the most beauty in women around my own age. In their expressions, in the pleasure of talking to them and in the depths I often find in them.

    I feel that beauty is a great gift and that one of the truest pleasures of life is learning how to see it in many things and many people. Anybody who badmouths beauty or tries to shame people for their looks in any direction disgusts me. I could go on but let me refer you to a relevant book I read by Harvard Philosophy Professor Elaine Scarry.

    Here is a summary:

    And here is the book:

  2. Thanks! I will check out the book!

  3. No one else can make you feel and about yourself. The problem is, as you said, the fact that the female body isn't her own. Our culture owns our bodies, and our race to be beautiful is a warped part of a warped culture. To be healthy is one thing... But it is a slippery slope. Just remember that the overlying (and underlying) issue is that at the end of the day women THINK they are free and equal, but they are not. They are objects of the male gaze, and as such ours actions fall from there.