Two years ago, I gave birth to a 10lb 5oz baby. During my pregnancy, I gained 50lbs. 16 months of breastfeeding later, and needless to say my body has seen its share of changes over the last 24 months.
For the first 30 years of my existence, you couldn’t get me to even try on a bikini without nearly bursting into tears. But somehow, pregnancy and motherhood has completely change my relationship with my body in the best possible way. So to document all of this extraordinary transformation, I decided to set aside all of my insecurities and do a sassy pin-up photo shoot with Rocket Queen Imaging. To say it was a fabulous, empowering experience would be an understatement!
“Body hatred” is an almost beloved part of our culture; spend five minutes on Pinterest or in the checkout line of any grocery store and prepare to get bombarded by 87 ways to flatten your belly, tighten your butt, rid yourself of wobbly bits, and basically look young and flawless until the age of 93. We are absolutely obsessed with how fast celebs “get their bodies back” after launching whole humans from their uteri. (Get them back from where, exactly? Were they stolen?) The American standard of “conventional hotness” is a narrow road, and it gets even narrower postpartum.
It was during the Perfect Storm of middle school that I realized “conventionally hot” was never going to describe me. Already six feet tall, I towered over almost everyone I knew, and terrified boys my age like some kind of roaring, red-haired Godzilla. Freckled and translucent even in the Florida sun, I stood out in sharp contrast to the blond and bronzed goddesses who traipsed along the beach beside me. And at a perfectly normal size 12, I saw myself as a chubby monster compared to my diminutive gal-pals in their size 2 jeans. And so the body hatred began. I thought that if I could just be thinner, prettier, more delicate, more “normal,” then boys would adore me and I would finally feel good about how I looked. And so I cried and starved and mistreated and basically attempted to loathe myself into a more acceptable state.
For years, I put the definition of my worth, my value, into the hands of other people and their perception of me. I was also putting far too much weight (no pun intended) on my appearance as a source of my value and worth. To silly young me, prettier equaled more valuable, important, and worthy. The really sad thing is, I had good friends and a great family that always supported me and lifted me up. I was smart, creative, artistic and had all kinds of good things going for me. I really had no excuse to feel so painfully insecure. But I did. And it was just a tremendous waste of time.
For the past decade, my amazing husband (who is a pretty big fan of every inch of my tall, voluptuous self) has helped to alleviate a lot of my insecurities through his constant admiration and encouragement, but still, I don’t know if I ever really let it sink into the deepest parts of my identity.
And then pregnancy happened. For the first time in my very cerebral, anxious, over-thinking life, I felt completely present and rooted in my own body. I was excited (imagine that) to see my stomach poking out. I embraced my growing curves in a way I never had before. And I don’t know, but something about creating a human nervous system while you’re just laying in the bathtub with a cup of tea makes you feel kind of like a goddess. My body was doing CRAZY THINGS every minute of every day, and I had to feel a little bit in awe of it.
Pushing out a 10lb baby while roaring like a lion was the most outrageously empowering thing I’ve ever experienced. If I could do that, I could do anything. And then I spent 16 months feeding a human being with liquid gold I produced out of thin air. Mommas, if you are not absolutely astonished by your bodies, you freaking should be!
So now I have an extra-squishy stomach that’s laced with fresh stretch marks, but I’m in love with it for the first time in my life because that’s where my perfect son grew for nine months. My breasts are unimaginably huge and pendulous, but they were hard-working magic milk machines that have put every ounce of chub on my roly-poly child. And I may always look a bit tired now, but it’s because I’m chasing a healthy, adventurous, happy little boy around every moment of the day, and rocking him to sleep with my nose tucked into his sweet smelling curls late at night.
My body has had the craziest season of its life, and I couldn’t be more proud if it. I’m happy here, in this skin, and I can’t wait to show it off.
Kimberly Poovey is a writer, speaker, wife, and over-caffeinated toddler mom. She runs a teen pregnancy prevention program for a nonprofit and is a founder of Pearls, an organization that serves women in the sex industry and fights human trafficking. You can find her over on Scary Mommy, The Mighty, her blog, and on Facebook.