If you Google “I hate my weird pregnant belly,” you’ll come up with over 2 million hits. If I just enter “my pregnant belly is…” the choices that comes up are: crooked, too fat, and flabby.
The fact that so many women are unhappy with the way their pregnant bellies look is new to me. In fact, I just learned this yesterday. I was 19 when I got pregnant, and I believe my naked pregnant belly was the first I’d every seen. It never occurred to me that it might be misshapen, lumpy, crooked, or fat. I just marveled (and sometimes felt horrified) that a living thing was inside of me. Oh, I had a miserable pregnancy; don’t get me wrong. I was sick as a dog the entire time; morning sickness lasted months; then it was UTIs and every other kind of infection I could get. Suffice it to say I didn’t glow during my pregnancy. But I didn’t hate my body either, and I didn’t think anything was wrong with it.
I’m in my 7th year of this business, and I’ve photographed a lot of pregnant bellies, and I’ve not once noticed the shape of one. Instead, I ask questions: Does it move? Can you feel it? May I touch it? Does the baby ever get hiccups? I’m fascinated by pregnant bellies, and not in a creepy sort of way, thank you.
Ladies. Our bodies are fucking vessels of life! You know how excited you get when you plant a flower or a vegetable or even put an avocado pit in water and it starts to grow? YOUR BODY DOES THAT! How amazingly fucking awesome is that?! My kid is 33 years old and a full foot taller than me, yet sometimes I look at her when she’s not looking, and I remember that she was once inside my pregnant belly and that BLOWS MY FUCKING MIND! I’m now 54, and sometimes I hold my (kind of flabby) belly, or I’ll give it a slap and say to nobody in particular, “this is a belly that has lived.”
I’m going to clue you into something. You know all those perfectly round bellies you see in photos? The ones with no stretch marks, and no lines, and no lumps? Those are rare, and often photoshopped. Why are we photoshopping pregnant bellies to look different than their own true lovely selves?? When you get pregnant and your belly starts to grow, you start to notice that, “eh, it’s not very round” or “it sags so much!” or “it’s so flabby!” you’re comparing yourself to something that doesn’t exist.
What’s the difference between a Perfect Belly and an Imperfect Belly?
NONE, because neither exists. Your belly is, it just is. Love that belly, man. That’s not a belly growing, you know, that’s your child growing. That’s your baby’s foot making it look lumpy, that’s your baby son’s head moving around inside like some alien life form. And that’s SO RAD. It’s life, it’s a life that your body made. I may be naive, but that still blows my fucking mind.
So, how I learned that some women are unhappy with their bodies: A couple, Megan and Robert, came into my studio yesterday for some maternity portraits. The first thing I do when people come into the studio is look at the clothes they brought. When I saw what Megan brought, I noticed that they were all tight. They all hid her belly. So I went into my closet and got this big men’s white linen shirt I keep for such occasions. I told her to put it on, and right away I could see was a bit uncomfortable as I started to unbutton the buttons she had just done up. I put her in a profile and I noticed that she covered her belly with the shirt. Just then it occurred to me that all the times I heard her remark, “I don’t like bare belly shots,” she really meant, “I don’t like my bare belly.” Being the understanding, sensitive person I am, I said, loudly, “I want to see that belly!”
From that point on, Megan began to forget about her belly. Robert was so sweet and so attentive and so INTO his wife, I don’t think he ever noticed that her belly wasn’t the “right” shape. He just knew that the love of his life was carrying the soon to be next love of his life, his daughter. The one for whom that adorable Star Wars-themed nursery is waiting for. The one who will wear his grandmother’s handmade sweaters that his family kept all these years. The little girl who is destined to years of watching “Dr. Who” whether she wants to or not.
As my shutter started to click, love just happened. I was just there in the right place at the right time, and I got some photos of a lovely couple, a wonderful woman with a beautiful belly.
Very soon after they left, while uploading the images to my computer, I texted her a photo and she texted me back, “I never liked my belly, but you made it look good. I love it!” And I told her, no, this is all you. I just took the picture.
Then about 4am this morning, I got another text from her. She’d seen the photo I posted on Flickr, and it gave her the warm and fuzzies, and she thanked me. I crush on Robert & Megan a little bit more today than I did yesterday.
Megan, this post is dedicated to you. I hope it goes viral and you’re the catalyst for many women to change the way they think about their oddly shaped bellies which hold their perfect little people.