I looked at her – really looked at her – and saw right there on her face, how she was standing on the precipice of the turning point, starting to want to shrink. I wanted to reach her and grab her back from that edge. “NO! No. Do you even know what this body has done? Do you know that it grew you girls, and your brothers? That it fed you from my breasts and held you in my arms and wiped your tears with these hands? Do you remember how it woke from much-needed sleep again and again in the night to rock you, letting you find your comfort in its softness? How this,” I say, gesturing towards my own belly, “was your first safe space?”
I surprised myself with my vehemence. Did I really believe all of that, I wondered, or was it only what I would have wanted to hear when I was standing on the edge myself?
I searched my heart and realized that yes, when it was put like that I did believe it. There was nothing in my body to be ashamed of. I didn’t need to be smaller. If anything I needed to be bigger: to take up more space, to stand taller. I stretched up and broadened my shoulders and let the weight of these two little girls rest squarely on them.
It felt unnatural at first and then it felt vulnerable and then it felt like exhaling a breath I had been holding since puberty.
“Our bodies,” I said to my daughters, “are amazing.” And slowly, still half naked, I made myself stop sucking it in. It felt unnatural at first and then it felt vulnerable and then it felt like exhaling a breath I had been holding since puberty.
The youngest reached for me, grabbed a fistful of my stomach, and echoed to me what I had said to her so many nights before: “Mommy, you have the best belly.”
I answered her but I was looking at her sister, making sure she was listening.
“You’re right,” I said to the two of them, but also to myself, “I certainly do.”
Liz is a writer, blogger, teller of stories, believer in truth, and mama to four. She shares her stories on lizpetrone.com and all over the Internet, and recently finished a sloppy first draft of her first book. She can also be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.