Endure a long, hard look at the teenaged girls who bare their midriff or wear tight t-shirts that accentuate the rounded bellies of their youth. Pay attention to the ones that aren’t anorexic looking; you know the ones I mean. They’re slightly plump, their tight jeans cradling baby fat that they have yet to outgrow; their shirts so tight that their breasts seem flat in contrast to the bellies that protrude against the cotton fabric of their clothes. Do they hide their fat in shame? No. They take their appearance in stride without having suffered the laborious work of carrying a baby inside them. They’re young, bubbly with ignorance, and despite the fact that they are bombarded with the same kind of celebratory body images that define the female form as fat-free and prickly-thin, they carry themselves with budding sensuality, feeling the sexy freedom of their youth, which we have lost in motherhood. Don’t envy them; be them. What do they have that you don’t?
We share the same pouch, affectionately termed the muffin top, that stubbornly distends, sticks up and out of our jeans – a spherical entity that refuses to obscure itself. But we have a better reason for its existence: in our thirties and forties, we are mothers. And the bulging flesh is an emblem of our greatest accomplishment: safe-keeping the lives of our children. We should be hailed, worshipped; full-bodied and maternal statues should be chiseled to emulate our birthing bodies, as they once used to be — we should not be condemned for not having perfect figures, and our bodies should not be the hosts of a patriarchal and image obsessed society’s unrelenting expectations.
Be proud of the bulge. Respect the Muffin top. It represents our capacity to give life and have life thrive inside us. It is not a locale of shame — it is the core of our bodies and the core of our existence.
It’s incomprehensible that we, women, mothers, are made to feel shame, hiding this one rounded sphere of nurturance from the eyes that surround us. Every day we wake up, wrapped in the joy of our children and families, only to be bombarded by celebratory images of Brooke Burke‘s, Kate Hudson‘s, and even the simpering idiot Kardashian’s of the red carpet world, flaunting their flat post-baby bellies, perfect, lithe, and air-brushed, telling us that we are falling short of perfection. If they can look as they do after 1-3 babies, what’s our excuse, the media taunts us. But these women are commodities, brand names with price tags. They get paid to look like that, and if they don’t, they pay the heavy price of candid media shots shaming them in People Magazine, or no more working/acting/modeling gigs until they resume their perfection.
After two children, I joined Jenny Craig and the gym to lose the post-baby weight, but the only thing I have not been able to lose is my baby pouch. It has become less rounded, but it still sits atop the waist of my jeans, boasting in its comfortable niche for its ability to stretch and expand wide enough, far enough to cradle my two most precious wonders. I haven’t run or gone to the gym in months, and my weight fluctuates around 3-4 pounds over where I would like it to be, but I have better things to do — like write, play with my kids, prepare for my teaching courses, read great books, try to get published, and hang out with new artist friends. Why does so much of my time have to be consumed with achieving an impossible image, a superficial goal at that, instead of on living my life for my enjoyment? After all, on the cusp of forty, I don’t know how long I will be around.
And what really gets me going are the men. Have you seen them lately? With their robust frames and their protruding guts? No offense gentlemen, but why do we, who have labored and given birth to your children, need to look perfect on the outside when you let it all hang out — and in public? Whenever I go to the beach or the pool, I am saddened and overwhelmed by the great number of women who wander along the beach or wade into the water or sit on a lounge chair, covering the outstretched skin of their midriff with fluttering hands, towels, or dresses. Men’s bellies have never carried life, have never needed to stretch and expand for anything other than beer, food, and plain old consumption. Yet they get a free pass. They walk around without a stitch of self-criticism, their rotund bellies bouncing and shifting to no end.
There is no shame in our muffin tops, our baby pouches, our big old bags of skin. So next time you rest your eyes upon the flesh which enfolds you, let your eyes travel down to the belly that protrudes. Instead of casting it a dirty, discomfited look, feeling the self-loathing and criticism that comes with realizing it may never go away and you’ll never look good in a bathing suit again, remind yourself of how your body came to be this way. Look at the faces of your beloved children and smile because that stretched skin once enshrouded and protected the most beautiful and pure of all things: your babies. The greatest, most unadulterated and exquisite loves of your life. There is nothing more wonderful, more empowering than the fact that we have given life and sustenance.
Don’t carry the pouch in shame as if it is something that you must conceal from the eyes of the world. Don’t have it surgically sucked out or cut up. Don’t camouflage it with a sarong at the beach or with baby doll shirts that billow over its existence. Wear that two piece bikini. Wear the tight t-shirts and tank tops. Reveal it, expose it, take pride in it, and let it hang out.
Why shouldn’t you? It’s your baby pouch, the one perfectly rounded cradle that provided your baby with her first sanctuary – a warm and loving hearth that cushioned his fragile state with safety, lulled her constant movements to sleep, and loved him towards maturity and his first breath. It is a place of love and life in all its purity. It should be hailed with praise and gazed upon with pride and a sense of utter delight.
Copyright© 2010 by Marina DelVecchio. All Rights Reserved.