Every morning my little one pulls up my shirt, kisses you, and says “I came from there!” You are fleshy now, stretched. I feel warmth and softness when I touch you. Mother. You hang over my jeans a bit. My sagging muffin top. I try not to mentally airbrush you out of pictures- the little traces of shame that still linger, the empire cut shirts, even though I haven’t been pregnant for five years.
Twenty years ago disgust for you filled my world. And crushed my spirit. All the self-loathing, anger, fear, shame was stuffed into you. I’m sorry. So many apology letters written to you in those first years of eating disorder recovery. But I did grow to accept you! And fed you. And then you created an amazing child! (Ok it was my womb, but you are the flesh that stretched to accommodate). You grew and stretched beyond what I thought was possible.
Belly, I’m sorry that there are so many images in the world that don’t look like you. I know those images make you feel unloved, disgusting, flabby. I’m sorry those images make you feel wrong.
Those images tell you all kinds of crazy sh*t: Be smaller! Be flatter! Do this to be loved! Be big and full of yourself until age seven and then be flat and hungry. But don’t feel hungry! Just look thin! Don’t get angry! Hide your intuition. Don’t listen to it. Be attractive by not being yourself! Don’t get stretched. If you get stretched, get sucked and stitched back in.
I just want you to know, Belly, they’re wrong, those messages. Contrary to what the images tell you, There is nothing wrong with you. Let me say it again as you have received those other brutal messages so many times:
Belly, There is nothing wrong with you.
You can be yourself now, Belly. I’m here with you and I will be your advocate. You are allowed to sag. You are allowed to be your full, and I mean that literally. You can be your authentic, embodied, unapologetic self. I’m proud of your stretch marks, Belly. I’m proud of the way your belly button has been changed by birth. Belly, You can wear whatever the F*ck you want.
Thank you for sticking with me, doing your job amidst all the previous abuse. Thank you for digesting my food, thank you for helping me find the place that doesn’t need to be pleasing. Thank you for the intuition you give me, the feeling when something is right, and when it isn’t. Thank you for letting me know what is nourishing, what needs to be integrated, what needs to grow.
Thanks for digesting. That’s pretty amazing how you do that digesting. Every day. Thank you for helping me to let go of what needs to be let go. Sorry I probably stress you out trying to hang onto things when I’m afraid, belly. I’ll try to relax more, so you can do your job more easily.
Thank you for “hanging out.” I promise to not hold you in, to breath deeply into you. I will try to treat you like the lucky Buddha-belly of wisdom that you are. Um, and Belly, just to be totally honest, I will probably forget this. When I do, I promise to breathe in again, and try to remember. I promise to take care of you, to the best of my ability, again and again.
Thank you for being you,
Belly. I love you.
Linda Shanti McCabe, PsyD Licensed Clinical Psychologist PSY 25747
Psychotherapy and Expressive Arts for Recovery and Motherhood
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