In 2012 things had begun to look up for me body-image-wise. After years of struggling with my weight and not wearing the shorts and crop tops I adored, I found the fatspo movement. I began to love my plump cute tummy and said screw it. I wore what I wanted and my confidence in myself won the interest of plenty of cute people, possibly a little too well.
By January 2013 I had learned to love myself completely, earned a good amount of notches on my headboard and found myself holding a pregnancy test that turned positive the moment it hit urine. Two days later, with my legs up in the air, I found out there was not one uterine intruder, but two.
I was scared and being a fairly vain 19-year-old, one of the first things I did when I got home was Google twin post-partum bodies, which yielded only two types of results: the first and largest was the stick-thin suburban mom, spray tanned to hell, balancing a 3-month-old on each hip, her belly smooth and flawless, and the second was out of a plastic surgeon's before and after, without the before: a slumped over woman wearing spit-up stained sweats and sports bra, her face cropped out and her belly looking loose, wrinkled and etched with stretch marks. It always had something self-deprecating on it or was a starting point for weight loss/surgery.
It was kind of a downer. I accepted that I would not be one of the rare women who came out completely unmarred from a twin pregnancy. I just tried to enjoy my cute ginormous bump and applied stretch mark cream religiously but of course that did nothing, and by 35 weeks I had deep red marks from my pubic mound up to my rib cage.
After delivery I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror or even lift my top to look. I hated how I looked, and I missed out on opportunities to have photos of me and my preciously itty bitty babies together. Breastfeeding did nothing to help my weight, neither did exercise and even if it did, losing weight and working out doesn’t tighten loose skin, so I concentrated on my babies and thoroughly neglected myself. Around the 6-month mark, I started dipping my toes back into body positivity and also experimenting with photography as a new medium for my art.
It didn’t take long for the two to come together. I posted a few photos of me breastfeeding my twins to my personal Tumblr, us all wearing matching jean pants. I used an itsy bit of Photoshop magic to make my stretch marks pop because I wanted people who were expecting or had already delivered, who didn’t know what to expect or hated their bodies, to see what it really looked like -- but in an intimate way that showed maternal love, not just a “Here is my body, I hate it, it's gross, I'm working on it.” I wanted them to see it in action, and I wanted it to be realistic rather than the thin-smooth women you see on TV playing twin mothers or new mothers wearing skin-tight tank tops that show off their 20-inch waists. Not that there's anything wrong with thin moms, but they have plenty of representation.
I wanted to give girls who have never and will never look like that, something to see.
One of the first reblogs of course, was “No one wants to see that.” Here I was, a baby on both boobs, exhausted from not sleeping in months, trying to boost morale amongst the small group of moms I mutually followed on Tumblr and this jackass who ran a blog specifically for “calling out” plus-size mothers who dare to say something nice about themselves was going to say my body was unacceptable. I was not amused. So I replied, got a bit ranty, but nothing too epic:
“Art isn't always about what's aesthetically pleasing. Sometimes you need to show people reality. This is real sh*t. This is what life is after partying and being a wild thin teen and reading bullsh*t books about werewolves. It isn’t clear skin and skinny bodies and free time forever. It's stretch marks, wrinkles, sh*tty baby diapers and laying in weird ass positions to keep your children happy because you love them more than your comfort or your smooth pert body. It's being overweight and having sex, wrinkly fat sweaty real sh*t adult parent long term relationship sex and then trying to slip in half an hour of sleep before your kid flips sh*t at 1am. And it's poetic and awesome. F*ck your skinny smooth boring ass ideal of what life should be that you ripped out of some dumb ass teen Cosmo. My life is goddamn beautiful even if my belly is a wreck.”
The notes that followed were a surprise, a hundred, and then a thousand. I was flattered and then someone sent me a link to a Facebook page. They had taken my image and response to my hater and posted it claiming the owner had submitted it. It had spread like wildfire and gone viral. Somehow it was now about breastfeeding, and some people took offense that I was rubbing my ability to do so in formula feeding moms' faces, ironic since at the time I was supplementing with formula.
I saw dozens of “Is that a man?”, “Is her belly hairy?” hundreds of “Ew,” “Aren’t her babies too old to be breastfed?”, “This isn’t art!” and thousands upon thousands of “I support breastfeeding…BUT-", “I had a baby and I'm thin!” and the ever present “But what about skinny women!”
I even got people trying to reclaim my body for sexual consumption by stating my boobs were totally hot and that they wished they were my kids. Thankfully among them was a treasure-trove of thank you's, people saying I was beautiful, compliments on my daughter’s robust cheeks and heartfelt stories of other women’s struggles with their bodies. It was horrible, it was stressful, and it was fantastic.
Given the chance, I would do it again, and since then have posted several images of my belly on my Tumblr and countless images of my kids latched on to my breasts for dear life. Every message I receive from someone saying they love themselves a bit more because of something I did is worth a million judgmental comments.
I posted an picture of my body that “no one wanted to see” and if the urge strikes, so should you.