Renn Faire Privateer Gone Mom.

Friday, June 7, 2013

It's Not Just a Belly

 This post contains bare bellies, women in their skivvies, and partial nudity.  
If you are not a fan of the female form, click elsewhere.

When I met the Captain I was a smoking, bulimic 17 year old working in an ice cream shop.  I had grown up being taunted about my size, height, skin tone and texture, nose... you name it.  My nicknames were 'chicken skin' and 'amazon.'  Being taller than most boys did nothing to make this girl feel feminine, and by the time they were finally taller than me, they had seen me through all the extra awkward stages and had written me off.  And to a developing girl, that was devastating.

Before getting pregnant with Cabin Girl at 19, I had overcome my bulimia and quit smoking thanks to the Captain, but I gained weight.  Once Cabin Girl was born, I was consistently hovering close to 200 pounds and I was ashamed and embarrassed of my post-baby body.  Truth be told, I considered bulimia again.  I researched miracle stretch mark creams.  I mentally beat myself down a path of self destruction that destroyed the tiny bit of self esteem I had gained from the Captain's steady strength and love.  At a point of rejuvenation I walked into a Victoria's Secret hoping to get a bit of feel-good back into my everyday life and was turned away, told that "larger women generally have bigger breasts, so we don't carry anything in your size."  The wash of high school feelings of insignificance returned.

After a miscarriage, a year of totally messed up hormones, varying levels of depression, and a round of Clomid we conceived Cabin Boy #1.  Still overweight, I let my body take the lead and gained even more weight, but I didn't stress too much because that's what my body was supposed to be doing.

I didn't take bare belly shots during either of those pregnancies.  I was ashamed of my expanding body.  Disgusted by my purple stretch marks.  Embarrassed that I had to wear XL/XXL sized maternity clothes.  I was the exact opposite of what I had learned to be attractive.

Cabin Boy #1 had serious allergy issues and failed to thrive on breast milk alone.  I changed my diet to see if it would help him and subsequently lost a lot of weight.  I felt good.  I started running.  I felt happy.  I started to enjoy the curves that motherhood had bestowed upon me.  Captain and I enjoyed rediscovering the connection we had without the fog of my insecurities getting in the way.

Once again, we miscarried.  Then, we unexpectedly became pregnant with Cabin Boy #2.  We were anticipating more hormonal troubles and weren't as careful with birth control as we could have been after deciding to wait a few months longer after the miscarriage.  But, we were happy.

During my pregnancy with Cabin Boy #2 I made a new friend.  A friend that *gasp* took pictures of her BARE BELLY.  While pregnant!  With stretchmarks!  She was PROUD to show the world the amazing feat her body was going through.  

She encouraged me to do the same, so I did... and I've never looked back.

My very first belly picture (Cabin Boy #2) and my most recent belly picture (The Kraken).

This pregnancy, I am OWNING my belly.  Because, you know what?

39 weeks with Cabin Boy #2
I'll be wearing a bikini to the beach and spray grounds.

I talk to Cabin Girl about how awesome I think it is that my body keeps growing as The Kraken is growing.  How proud I am of each and every purple mark that my body made while stretching to fit her, her big healthy brothers, and this baby we're all eager to meet.  We talk about how strong my body is, being able to make this 4th life while caring for the other three it carried.

Because I don't want her to be ashamed of what becoming a woman means.  I don't want her to be devastated by the changes her potential future babies may bring to her body.  I want her to glory in the beauty that is pregnancy, whether it's hers or the women surrounding her.

Most especially, I don't want her to think that I blame them for any issues I have with the body that motherhood has bestowed upon me.

And I am not alone.  These moms are also choosing to bare their bellies.  Every one of them has a perfect reason why!
"Cherishing my belly because this is our 4th pregnancy, and we finally made it to the second trimester!"
"I chose to bare my belly because I was proud of what my body was doing. I was growing another human being in my belly! It still blows my mind a little. I've never felt more beautiful than when I was pregnant. I don't ever want to forget my big, gorgeous, belly-button-stretched-flat belly, because it gave me the greatest gift in the world - it started my family." Sara blogs over at You Are A Good Mama. Check her out!

"I'm a photographer and get a lot of women wanting maternity pictures, but they don't want their bare bellies to show. It's as if they are embarrassed of them. I hate it! I think every pregnant belly is perfect and wonderful, no matter how small, big, hairy, lumpy or if they have stretchmarks.  Now that I'm pregnant, I love lifting my shirt and showing family and friends my awesome, amazing miracle. I am so blessed to be 18 lbs heavier and covered in dark hair, and I am not afraid to show it."
"I wanted my baby to have the photos later in life... However, on a deeper level, the strength and capability of the female body is absolutely amazing. We are vessels of life, there is no job more important. So why not be proud and show it off?!"
"Being pregnant has been a very humbling experience for me. The body I used to have, and had all sorts of body image issues with, is gone, and it's not coming back. Which is freeing, as all those issues are now a moot point. I have a new body now, and after I have this baby, I'll have other issues to contend with. It's like getting a fresh start, and I'm taking advantage of it by getting used to my new skin and celebrating it." Chae is the burlesque performer "Kitty van Tassle" and blogs over at Bird Hearts Bear.  See some awesome pictures of her pregnant burlesque show (bra and undies) here.

"I want every woman to know that being pregnant is the most beautiful and amazing thing our bodies are capable of and I am not ashamed of how I look. I'm proud to say I'm over 200lbs and am growing these babies as best as I can! We as women have a tendency to compare ourselves in every arena and I want you all to know that I love and support every one of my beautiful and pregnant friends no matter their size. This is me being brave and showing you all of me...I love every inch and pound as should you."

"I think it's beautiful when women bare their bellies during their pregnancies. It is something to embrace and share with the world, and it doesn't matter what size, shape, or condition your belly is in. I chose to bear my belly because I want everyone to feel like it's a beautiful thing, a beautiful step in our lives as women, and it should not be hidden!"
"I wanted to take this pic because I have always been ashamed of my body. This pregnancy I realized how beautiful the process of creating life truly is, and wanted to remember how gorgeous my body was, full with child."  Aubrey blogs, too!

And last, but not least, my belly-love 'coach':
"I am a belly bearing mama because I feel that the female form is beautiful in all shapes, sizes, and stages of life. To me, my baby belly is beautiful and perfect and something to savor." Cynthia is a doula in Eastern Washington, providing pre and post-natal, breastfeeding, and birth support for new and expecting mothers.
Teaching our kids to love themselves starts with loving ourselves.  What better time to accomplish both than during the beautiful miracle that is pregnancy?


  1. I love it!!! All these women are so beautiful and your story is so inspiring. Thanks for letting me be a part of it!

    1. Aren't they?! Thank YOU for being a belly baring momma!

  2. Yay! So, beautiful! Each and every one of them <3

  3. Awesome, beautiful. Way to speak truth! Momma bellies are the most beautiful truth in the world. Earning our belly shapes us as women, we face fear, the unknown, change, and are rewarded for our trials 10 fold in a way that only the Mommy can understand. I love stories of growth. Thank you for your story. Very inspirational.

  4. I LOVE all these beautiful bellies!!!

  5. Great post Jessica. I love how you are teaching your daughter to appreciate the female body and all it's glory, stretch marks and all. Good for you!

  6. This is great! I LOVE looking back at my belly pics from when I was pregnant, and I wish I had done a professional pic. It is absolutely something to treasure and celebrate!!

    1. Thanks so much! I totally regret not taking belly pictures with the first two Cabin Kids, and that's something I can never make up for!

  7. This is a really beautiful and amazing post! I LOVE belly pics, there really isn't anything more gorgeous than a baby growing inside you!
    Also, congrats!

    1. Thank you! It's amazing the 180 I've made, and very liberating. If I can make 1 expecting momma feel better about her growing body, then my job here is done!

  8. You go, mama! Pregnant bellies are wonderful bc they carry little babies. And little babies are awesome! :)
    Visiting from the Party With Me Friday! :)

    1. Thanks for checking me out! Little babies are my favorite part of motherhood (so far). If only they could stay that way forever... :)

  9. Love it. Baby bellies are all beautiful. I felt like a whale at the time but I'm glad I took the pictures anyway, because looking back and thinking about my little girls growing in there makes me feel all warma and fuzzy.

    1. Good for you! I hated the idea that I would have to look back on those pictures and relive the negative feelings I had about myself, and my belly, and just couldn't do it! Totally regretting it now, because it's not the negative feelings I want to experience again... I want to remember how I felt about my baby. We have other positive memories to look back on, though, so not all is lost. :D

    2. WOW,what a find!!!I am indeed a FAN of the female form and when that form is a BIG ROUND BEAUTIFUL pregnant belly,you WON'T find anyone who's more GRATEFUL and APPRECIATIVE as I am to all of the moms-to-be who so willingly share such a WONDERFUL part of themselves with all of us!!!THANK YOU Domestic Pirate for your TOTALLY AWESOME blog!!!!!!!!!!!