I've never been thin. I'm certainly not tall. And I've never fit into society's definition of beauty, though I don't consider myself to be obese, "too" short, or unattractive. My whole life I've struggled with body-image issues, and much of my youth was wasted on self-esteem crises. As I grow older I find I'm growing in my self-acceptance, and my view of my physical self is being healed. I'm pleased that I'm maturing in this respect (and of course the unconditional love of my husband is very helpful).
When I'm pregnant, however, it's a totally different story. When my belly swells as baby grows, I can't help but feel beautiful. I guess it's a result of feeling fulfilled in my femininity.
When I'm pregnant my skin clears up, my hair gets shinier and more manageable, my nails break less, and my eyes change colour ever-so slightly. So far, through a pregnancy and a half, I've been spared stretch marks (surprising, since I have many faded ones as a result of puberty). And I just plain love pregnant bellies.
My body, of course, has not come through pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood un-scarred. The scar from my c-section is, superficially speaking, ugly. It's purple-ish/red and raised in several places (a result of it opening a week and a half after Norah was born). My breasts bear many scars from a horrible early breastfeeding experience and subsequent infections in the cracks. And, of course, I didn't get to my pre-pregnancy weight until getting pregnant a second time, when horrible "morning" sickness caused me to lose 14 pounds.
But I wear my scars (and even the extra pounds) as a badge of honour - a testament to what my body has done for the sake of my family. I love the look of my large belly, especially towards the end of my pregnancy with Norah when she ran out of space and my belly looked like it had corners.
Whenever I see pregnant women in the mall, the grocery store, church or anywhere else, I just want to affirm them on their beauty. In our weight/body-obsessed culture I know it's easy for many women to feel less attractive as their body changes. I just wish every woman, every mother, could know how gorgeous the pregnant body is on every level.
(This picture was taken just 30 days before Norah was born. I wanted to have something to celebrate the way I felt about my pregnancy, so Francis set up his camera on a tripod and set the timer. I love the way it turned out.)