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The Lines On My Body Tell My Story

A week ago I shared a photo I considered to be very intimate, a photo of what my stomach looked like after carrying two children and having major surgery on my kidney.

I had read about the project #Loveyourlines and found it to be liberating and beautiful. I knew I wanted to participate in sharing what my lines looked like. It was interesting how afraid I was to post this photo, though. I was basically frozen in fear.

I realized I was afraid, because I never see bodies like mine, especially at age 27. Most bodies I see have smooth flat stomachs, even the moms who have had children. They are without stretch marks, while mine is completely covered. It's not that I was embarrassed by my body, but I knew that I didn't fit into a beauty standard. I reminded myself that I believed in coming up with my own definition of beauty, and I couldn't be alone in this thought.

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I loved being pregnant. Every single moment. Even in the 38th week, the week when everyone says you hate being pregnant, I didn't hate it. I loved my belly. I loved looking at myself in the mirror, admiring my body for carrying a tiny human. I was in awe, in a way I had never been with my body.

So yes, according to society, my body isn't one that should be shown. It doesn't fit in.

When the stretch marks began to show, I was proud of them. Once my babies had arrived and my stomach had lost its tightness, and the only thing remaining were the lines as reminders, I was still proud and in awe of what my body had done. Yet, everywhere I looked, moms in media had perfect stomachs with no evidence that they had ever carried a baby. Moms around me complained about what their bellies looked like post-pregnancy. It was hard to find any positive messages around stretch marks and the change that occurs with your body after kids. I wanted to feel differently, I wanted to feel proud and share in that with other moms.

So I posted the picture, took a deep breath and put my phone down. When I checked it 20 minutes later, the image had already acquired 10 comments and a bunch of "Likes." I was surprised that people responded so quickly. Almost every comment was an affirmation, not just of me but of every woman whose body had some remnants left over, not just from pregnancy, but surgeries, weight-loss, accidents. There was something unifying in the sharing of my body.

Something stood out to me though, the comments that used the word "brave." I got texts from friends saying they could never be as brave as I was. At first, I was just responding with "thank you!" because I didn't really know how to process that.

It's a body they come to for comfort, for love, for safety. A body they climb on and wrestle with. It's a body they kiss and hug. A body they look for in a crowd and celebrate when its found.

When I think of what being brave means, I think of someone who puts their own fear aside, like someone who would fight for our country or someone facing a disease. Someone moving across country alone, THAT is brave. I don't consider me sharing what my body looks like to be brave. Women do it all the time, but my body carries scars, it's not toned, it's soft. So yes, according to society, my body isn't one that should be shown. It doesn't fit in. But I refuse to agree with that or accept it. That standard, that made-up, ridiculous, pointless standard of beauty and perfection, it doesn't apply to me. Or anyone like me.

That image I posted received over 100 comments and 1,000 likes, which is weird to share, but all that to say that the "standard" doesn't apply to any of those people. As a parent, I think we are constantly getting told that who we are isn't enough, how we parent isn't good enough, what we look like isn't pretty enough.

My fellow parents, hear me: Our bodies are beautiful vessels. Perfection does exist, in the fact that we grew humans, beautiful little souls. Little souls that love us, completely and wholly. They only see us as perfect, even in our weakest moments. Their hands love our soft bellies and find comfort in skin that isn't as tight as it once was. Their eyes only behold beauty and the same awe that some of us had for ourselves when we appreciated our pregnant bodies.

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I want to see and appreciate my body the way my children do. It's a body they come to for comfort, for love, for safety. A body they climb on and wrestle with. It's a body they kiss and hug. A body they look for in a crowd and celebrate when its found. My lines are only part of the story, but a wonderful story. They make up who I am, what I'm about. I appreciate each and every one of them. They are perfect. They are what were left behind from one of the most beautiful times in my life.

And for that I am grateful. We dictate what beautiful is, and bodies that have had journeyed? That's beautiful.

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