As a kid and pre-teen I felt like my stomach was always bloated and too short for my petite frame. As I got older, my stomach became a guidepost for my thinness during my eating disorder struggles. It is the first thing I body check in the mirror when I'm feeling anxious. My post-baby stomach looks good, but I'd trade my pre-baby stomach for what I've got now in a heartbeat. I took a beautiful thing for granted, which is the main message behind the things I wish I could tell my pre-baby stomach. I honestly had no idea whatI had until I lost it.
I spent a lot of time in my 20s working on my abdominal muscles (with weight training, pilates, and yoga) and was especially drawn to the aerial arts because it focused so much on core strength. I wasn't even happy with my stomach when it looked the best it ever did, which was probably in my late 20s. In fact, I know there were plenty of things I hated about it. With each of my two c-sections, I had to basically start at square one when ti came to my abdominal muscles. After all, they were cut through in order to safely deliver my children and, as a result, felt like jelly the first times I tried to use them. It was humbling and extremely frustrating to feel like years of work had been erased (even though I knew that was not entirely true). It messed with my head.
With a lot of struggle (exercise, and yes, I admit, some messed up eating habits) I'm proud of the stomach I have now. It is almost as strong and muscular as before I had kids, but it will never be the same. There's that damn scar, for one thing. There's the skin on my stomach itself, for another, which seems to bunch in ways that it never did pre-baby. (I mean, when you've stretched to accommodate a human body, where does the skin go when you lose all the weight?) I'd like to take this opportunity to tell my pre-baby stomach that I'm sorry I took it for granted, and that it really was a great stomach. The problem, after all, was not with my stomach. It was with me and my mindset and my inability to recognize just how beautiful my body truly was.
"You Are Beautiful, No Matter What They Say"
If I could take back every awful, body-shaming thing I said about my pre-baby stomach when I was in a dressing room, or looking at a picture of myself, or tearing myself apart amongst girlfriends, I would. Compared to the c-section-scarred, stretched-out, kind-of-starting-to-crepe situation I have going on now, that not-model-perfect pre-baby version was just fine, thank you.
"Enjoy Being Taut While You Still Can"
I look at younger women's stomachs, or the stomachs of women who haven't had babies, and I can't help but envy how un-stretched-out their skin looks. Then I almost laugh about it, because I never would have imagined looking at another person's body and being jealous about something as silly as the tightness of someone's skin. What is happening to me? What have I become?
Another part of me wants to reach over and be like, "So you probably hate your stomach and think it is fat, but can I just point out how beautiful the skin on your stomach is? It is so smooth, and fits over the contours of your body in an appropriate way that makes actual sense to the eye. Bravo! Bravo!"
"Do You Enjoy Massages?"
Sometimes during a professional massage (not a prenatal one, of course) a therapist will go in for the stomach area. This is my least favorite area of the body for people to touch because, as previously mentioned, I hated my stomach. I do not like my stomach being touched and I don't even like touching it myself.
However, when you're pregnant you kind of want to invest in massaging body butters and special lotions, so you can apply them all to your stomach to help moisturize your expanding skin tissues and prevent stretch marks. This was one of those nighttime pregnancy rituals I dreaded the most, even more than taking those horse-sized prenatal vitamins. I would probably try to prepare my pre-baby stomach for getting OK with future touch sessions because, whether my stomach liked it or not, it was going to happen.
"Sorry About That Tattoo I Almost Got"
Long ago, during an all-girl's trip with my high school best friends to Europe, I almost got a tattoo on my lower stomach. At the last minute, one of my BFF's and I switched tattoo locations, and I got mine on my lower back and she got hers on her lower stomach. I am so glad, because I can only imagine what that tattoo would look like now, and after ballooning to the size of a football with each pregnancy, only to shrink right back.
As it is, the tiny, doodle shape tattoo on my lower back, that resembled a strawberry plant at the time of its application, has turned into a cursive letter J, oversized hook-shape thing that no one can figure out. Not even me.
"We Had Fun With The Piercings, Didn't We?"
Speaking of body art, I got my first stomach piercing when I was a junior in high school and that was a real hoot. My dad was responsible for that one, actually (he is a physician, and he did a pretty good job).
I loved my navel piercing, and so did every boyfriend, including my husband, up until before we got pregnant. I changed the jewelry every few years and got it re-pierced after our wedding because of a pole-dancing injury (long story). The piercing never took, unfortunately, but I would love to just a big thank you to my pre-pregnancy stomach for the good times.
"I Shouldn't Have Kept You A Secret For So Long"
Despite the fact that I was proud of my stomach some of the time, there still were so many times when I felt wedded to the idea that it was still fat and ugly. I rarely showed it off unless it was in a swimsuit, and you know, I kind of regret that. That pre-baby stomach looked bomb. It should have gotten more time to shine. Regrets? Yeah, I have a few.
"I Have to Warn You About Some Unfortunate Changes Coming Down The Pipeline"
My poor pre-baby stomach had no idea what was coming, let me tell you. I mean, it probably was familiar with the pregnancy weight gain and the stretching, and the linea nigra, and even the possible scarring from a c-section.
However, no one told me or my pre-baby stomach about the horrible gas and bloating that would last nearly a full week after I would give birth. I thought I was supposed to go back to basically normal a day or two after giving birth. I felt so betrayed by my body when I found out that so wasn't the case. Plus, no one told me about the c-shelf (the part that overhangs or sags below your c-section scar) either. No one.
So yeah, pre-baby stomach, you're in for a wild ride. The good part, though? It's totally worth it, and the entire process is going to make me appreciate you in a way I simply couldn't, before my babies were born. So, I'm sorry, and thank you.