Just last week I was doing everything I could to disguise my protruding, flabby, post-baby belly. Now, I am trying not to be so self-conscious, as thousands of people throughout the world have now seen it. It wasn’t what I set out to do. It wasn’t what I expected, but as my Mum so proudly exclaimed: “Honey, you’ve gone viral”.
Many people have asked me, since I published The Baby Belly post on my blog, why did I do it? You see, it was late at night, I confess I’d had a couple of wines and I was fed up with the post-baby, weight loss machine. The pressure on Mums is intensifying. It’s ridiculous and potentially extremely harmful. I don’t want my three girls to grow up with the same pressures. Then I had a brainwave, I’d take pictures of my belly and explain that no matter how hard I try I will never look like a celebrity or supermodel. I have nothing against those women it’s just not my reality. I decided if I woke in the morning and felt embarrassed about having pictures of my floppy, stretch mark riddled, tummy out in “cyber world”, I’d remove them. Nobody would see them anyway, I’d thought to myself.
I was so wrong. What I didn’t forsee was the enormous reaction the post would generate. I was not prepared for the overwhelming outpouring of support and the hundreds of heartfelt, honest responses from women (and men) from all over the world. By mid-morning, the next day, I had over 4,000 hits on my blog and hundreds of retweets, Facebook shares, comments, phone calls, emails and texts.
Then the media outlets started contacting me. Firstly, I was approached by a producer on the Nine Network’s Today Show to be interviewed live the following morning; an opportunity I accepted with a mixture of fear and excitement. Then, ABC Radio booked me for a radio interview on 891 Adelaide and ABC website The Drum asked for permission to publish the post, as too did The Hoopla. To say the response has been overwhelming would be an understatement.
What’s been most eye opening for me has been the courage of the women commenting on the post. They have shared their stories with me and talked of their own body struggles. They have talked of how they hate their bodies, yet how blessed they are to have been able to have children. They have vowed, like me, to stand proud of our scars, to not buy into the pressure from trashy magazines, mainstream media and family and friends. They have cried. I have cried with them. As one woman wrote: “My stomach, your stomach, they have a journey to motherhood written on them”.
The word most used was brave and while I am so very grateful I am also saddened. Brave to me is standing up to fight against injustice, mistreatment, horrors of war and the protection of your fellow human beings against bigotry. Brave is saving someone else from death without fear. Showing your imperfect belly should not be considered brave. I suppose that is the point of my post. It is so ingrained in our psyche what women “should” look like that if you have “imperfections” you are made to feel ashamed. It is so incongruous to say when someone dares to let other people see their belly they are brave.
What I also didn’t plan for were the nasty comments. The ones telling me I was fat, that I shouldn’t have had kids, that I was a whinger who lived in “magazine land” and my favourite – that I was a nobody. It’s my first experience with trolls and while I tried to laugh it off, it was still cutting. Some people must read the words, but only process what they want to hear. There was such harsh judgement with so little understanding of the issue.
But, I refuse to let the few drongos tarnish what has been an amazing confirmation of the human spirit. I’ve had over 8,000 hits on my post now. I’ve been shown that it is possible to make a difference in your own small way.