So get this, Michelle Obama, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, Hillary Clinton and yours truly all have a common trait: we are all mothers with daughters. This makes me feel very proud to know that we are all part of a mutual collective. Like a sisterhood. Having two girls of my own, it is my greatest wish that my daughters will grow up to be strong women, like the women above, and be able to live their best lives in whatever they choose to pursue. That goes for every other girl on this planet. If I continue to think about the future of my girls and all the soul sisters out there, there is a real possibility that they will become mothers and the rightful owners of what is colloquially referred to as a “Mummy Tummy”. Resist as you may with all the tools available – boot camp, planks, squats, yoga, pilates, personal trainers, resistance training, diets, and when all else fails… plastic surgery. Do none, or do them all. At the end of the day, for the vast majority of us, our tummies will never quite be the same again. The truth hurts sometimes. But the truth can also be liberating.
We have all heard the phrase “Yummy Mummy” in social media headlines which is slang for the perception that despite becoming a mother, you still got that IT factor. Celebs and even Royals like Beyonce, Brittany Spears, Gwen Stefani, JLo, Kate Hudson, Kate Middleton, Kim Kardashian, Shakira all look absolutely amazing. Kudos to them. It’s part of their job as celebrities and living in the public eye. Sure they are up there in the Mum-o-sphere of inspiration. But let’s be perfectly honest, who really looks like that without the help of an entourage?
The truth is closer to the tummy selfie I shared above. Yes, all you Single Ladies. In fact, five and a half years ago, when my fourth was 6 months old, I shared these words on a website called six word memoirs, that encourages people to submit their life story in 6 words:
I had been fortunate with my first two kids to have escaped getting stretch marks but by the third and fourth, the odds were not in my favour. Both were well over 9 pounds and by then, well, the photo speaks for itself. Everyone has a different elasticity level in their skin so you never know until you become a mother. And while you may dodge the bullet the first time around, sooner or later, those silver smiles might just appear.
As a person who does not personally have an ink tattoo, I’m sticking with this memoir. While I admire anyone who is confident enough to commit to a tattoo of their choice in a location of their choice, I am still working on my ability to make such a commitment. As for my tattoo, the one that I did not choose, let’s see how they compare. Pain? Check. Indelible pattern? Check. Scars? Check. Permanence? Hell yes. Do you really see a difference? And just for the record since I am putting it all out here and have no plans to make a trip to the parlour anytime soon, tattoos do not create life. Stretch marks do.
Now fast forward to this January and imagine hearing another woman say the following to you:
“I can tell from your tummy that you’ve had four kids.”
These are perhaps the last words you want to hear when you are naked in a physiotherapist’s office. Like a punch to the gut. My first instinct was to cover up my vulnerability with a joke. Just wish I could have had those same six words when I was lying on that examination table. Instead, I responded with the first thing to sooth my bruised ego: “Gotta love ’em, eh!” But inside, I felt like I just received a serious woman-to-woman b***ch slap!
Why would she say that? Was she referring to the stretch marks? The doughy tummy skin? Both? I mean, my husband would never dream of saying that even though he has seen me naked at least four times. Especially when I am about to have an examination that has me feeling uncomfortable and anxious. Surely a male therapist would not have said this to a naked woman?
To be fair, the physiotherapist made me feel at ease and relaxed in the beginning. She had won my trust with her knowledge and expertise as I sat beside her desk. She explained everything I needed to know before she started the examination. All was good. Right up until that truth bomb. Then something switched in me. I felt rage and wanted to be out of that office as fast as I could but I was naked and still had a pain in my ass!
I was so tentative about trying to get professional treatment for my tailbone pain that it had taken me 8 months just to make the appointment. I had been going to the gym 5 times a week for the 6 months leading up and was actually feeling quite good about my body. But instead, it was now a chilly January afternoon and I was regretting everything.
Why did I allow that comment to get under my skin? Literally. Was it that the specialist was young, looking maybe 30, possibly childless and about to give me my first ever rectal exam? I am sure the therapist did not mean any harm by stating the obvious. It wasn’t a lie. I had told her I had given birth to four children naturally and maybe that had something to do with the pain? Or maybe it was a fall I had had crossing the street onto my tummy which bruised mostly my pride? Or maybe it could be from running up and down 50 flights of concrete stairs for 8 months after taking my first job in 16 years of being a homemaker in construction? (More on my adventures in high rise construction at a later date). But, like I said, hearing the truth from someone else’s lips, really hurts.
On the positive side,the exam was painless and I ended up going back for another visit because clearly I’m a sucker for punishment. So I rationalized my insecure feelings that day by telling myself that I should be feeling super blessed and grateful because:
- I got to have children.
- I got to feel a human being growing and kicking inside my body (1,2,3,4 times).
- I got to have healthy kids.
- I got the warrior tattoo to prove it.
- I got nothing to be ashamed of.
That’s when I started to feel a peaceful calm slowly replace the rage I felt that day. Here’s the thing. We are our own worst critic. And by “we”, I don’t just mean the voices in our head. We women are tough. We are tough on our selves and we are tough on each other. The narrative in our head can really play games with our confidence. And if that is not bad enough, we have social media reminding us constantly, especially our teenage girls, that there is this inauthentic ideal that we should all be striving for once we become mothers. It is my wish to see a shift in the conversation and social media to change the imagery just enough so we are not so hard on each other.
Last week, we celebrated The Day of the Girl, a movement to help with the advancement of girls’ human rights all across the nation. It is incredibly inspiring to see what the UN and Emma Watson are doing to bring awareness to some of the crucial issues girls and women around the world face today. While I may not be an activist like Emma, or Michelle, or Sophie, of Hillary, I am a girl, a sister, a woman and a mother and I too have a voice.
My tummy selfie is in part thanks to a little encouragement from Kim Kardashian, yes, who defends the right to be able to share her body without being shamed for it. It is my attempt to raise awareness for the future of my girls, and all girls in the world who will one day become mothers. Together as women and as mothers we can bring out the best or the worst in each other. So girl to girl, sister to sister, woman to woman, mummy to mummy, tummy to tummy, be kind to each other and remember that true beauty is always beneath the skin.