Progress

Since I last wrote about Body + Belly issues in February, the Bump and I have now gone just shy of another 12 weeks of growing together. The delay between posts was not intentional, but I think it is both interesting and fitting that I somehow decided to check in again after the same length of time, and it probably comes for various reasons.

For one, it has been an intense 12 weeks. With so much going on at home and in my classes and with the Littles and friends and family happenings, it is probably safe to say that part of the logic here is sheer distraction. I’ve been super busy and focused on getting from one day or week or appointment to the next, so there hasn’t been much time for reflecting on my reflection. Now, some of this distraction might come across (and rightfully so) as denial and avoidance of the work at hand, but I think some forward motion is happening which leads me to my second reason for the gap between posts: progress.

In part, I believe my progress stems from being surrounded by kind people who give me ample opportunities to practice saying, “Thank you” when they compliment my belly; when you tend, as I do, to put too much stock in what people say, both kind and, well, unfiltered, knowing how to accept a compliment can be just as difficult as deflecting rudeness. Each time I am able to express gratitude for kindness without offering back a sarcastic or cutting-down comment about my appearance is a total win. It helps that I now have a true Buddha belly going, and I find myself running my hands across it when I respond to people as if Babe is keeping me honest in those precious moments of letting in love.

The other marker of progress stems from no longer having a complete freak-out when the pics Ben snaps each week in our kitchen don’t look exactly how I think they will. Does my belly still often seem way bigger on the camera’s display screen than it does in my head? Oh, heck yeah. But at 5 months pregnant, a girl can only suck that tummy in so far (ha! or not at all), and I find myself constantly going back to the mantra of it-is-what-it-is and it is a beautiful baby belly, all while continuing to add the photos of the Facebook album.

Interestingly enough, on Mother’s Day, my children gave me a true test of any and all progress made when they decided they wanted to be in my Belly Photo with me. Normally we take the pictures after they are in bed, but we had time Sunday afternoon, so I asked Ben to quick snap the shot. Unsurprisingly, there was an instant chorus of little voices saying, “Me, too!” “I want to be in it!” and so on. And what mama can turn away that much love and devotion on Mother’s Day, eh?

In seconds, I had my arms full and legs surrounded, IMG_9808resulting in this amazing photograph of all 3.5 of my children:

Now. You know the point of this post is dealing with my demons, so while I do find the image amazing, you can probably imagine what I thought when I first saw it. Oh, hell. No. We are not sharing that with anyone. Right? Well, yes; exactly right.

I don’t like having pictures posted that are flawed or unflattering, although who does? In my case, however, the intense dislike goes deeper and further back than sharing pictures on social media (although, I remember one posted last fall that sent me in tailspin, actually, because it felt like such awful, ugly proof of something I don’t actually walk around believing about myself until I see it, in mirrors or photographs – except I’m not really sure what I’m seeing, because I focus on the flaws and magnify them). This body dysmorphia is something that I have been dealing with for most of my adult life, and I’m trying here to be honest and real about it, which was also the approach I decided to take with the above picture.

That picture is real. It has flaws that draw my eye every time I look at it and willingly putting it up on my timeline felt scary. What would people say? What would they think? Well, ultimately I cannot control any of that, and the picture was otherwise too great, too special (and there was no way my kids had the attention span to try for the perfect shot) not to share, so I did.

Each time I came back to the image  to see new “likes” and comments, I was both surprised and proud to see it there. For me it was a big deal and a big step. And of course the folks who said anything came from a place of kindness, and of course I really want to add a snarky next line that says something about not knowing what others maybe thought or said when they saw it, but grand scheme, that doesn’t matter. Or it is mattering less (and is why I’m writing about adding those lines without officially adding them in to the text), which is the whole point. Baby steps of progress.

The other point? I got a chance to share a flawed but honest depiction of motherhood, with my three beautiful children surrounding me and my lovely belly and say, “Happy Mother’s Day.” My own body images go beyond those related to being a mom, but because I am a mom, I want to and will keep working on this (more on that to come soon).

Even though I don’t know if I will ever look at this particular photo (or others) and not see the imperfections, I can still choose to see this and myself with happiness. Forgiving my own flaws, physical and otherwise, just as I do for others also creates a healthier cycle for me, my family, and everyone we encounter, which again feels like some pretty noteworthy progress.

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