You like to roll the soft skin of my belly between your fingers as you gaze up at me and crinkle your blue eyes with happiness. When your daddy touches my belly I tend to push his hands away, self conscious of the skin that used to be taut and socially acceptable. Society has filled my head with nonsense about how my body should look. With you, though, I smile back and say “Yes. It’s soft.” I know it is because I’ve pinched it myself and felt the softness of it. So different from its former texture. I’ve let go of the dismay and have tried to feel it the way you must feel it. Soft and pliable. Thinner closer to my belly button with that funny little wrinkle where I used to have a navel ring.
I know that to you at this age now I am nothing short of perfect. I am lovely. I am beautiful. I am comfort. I am everything that you need. And it feels so funny and strange to say this and to just accept it. You see, babygirl.. So many women are so full of self loathing and after we have babies our bodies are “damaged” and we have to get ourselves back to what we were before our babies were born.
You know none of that. To you my belly is just soft and wonderful, a sweet comfortable part of your mommy. It is perfect. It is beautiful. It is where you used to live. It stretched out as you grew. And now it is something to knead and play with the way you might play with a soft blanket.
How can I dislike something that you love so much? Something that you find so much comfort and joy in? How can I take the opinions that others write down in magazines as something more important than yours?
Yes. I love my body and the softness that you have given it. I love the reminder of where you grew. I love that this softness is your safe place in the dark of the night when you are having a hard time sleeping. I love that you find comfort there.
As you grow older you might choose to change your views to match the way this culture thinks. You might tell me that I am ugly and you might fear that your body will one day resemble mine. I won’t mind, because I held those same thoughts in my head before my first child was born.
One day if you choose to have a child.. You’ll hold that child on your belly and you’ll breathe in a startling deep truth. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. And no beholder is more important than your child. You’ll realize that no other opinion matters as much as that of the little human in your arms.
Yes, little one. It’s soft and wonderful in your hands. Yes, little one, it squishes as you push your feet against it while you nurse. And yes, it’s beautiful to you. And it’s beautiful to me as well, because it brings you joy.
As you grow you may find me less than beautiful. That’s okay. That is how this society works, there’s a single “beautiful” stage that you grow into and that you swiftly pass out of. As a baby you taught me that this is a lie. You are beautiful as you are born-wrinkled and covered in vernix. You are beautiful as you grow, small and uncoordinated. You are beautiful as you toddle about covered in jam and sand. You are beautiful when you are young. You are beautiful when you are older and softer with bags under your eyes from long nights with a child that you love. You are beautiful as your children grow. You are beautiful as you hold your grandchildren. And you are beautiful as they grow.
The thing that makes you beautiful isn’t taut skin and dark eyelashes. It’s not smooth hair and dimples. It’s not the flawlessness of youth nor the marks of age.
Joy is what makes you beautiful. You have given me this.