We assume a lot about people, and especially about their bodies. Maybe it seems more reasonable to make assumptions about the things we can see. What do we assume when we see a woman? Her body? There are stories behind those bodies, and they deserve to be honoured.
Did you ever hear that little spelling trick about the word assume? When you assume you make an ASS out of U and ME (if you haven’t heard that, you now have the same trick handed to me by my 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Dibble).
We make assumptions about people based on race, religion, sex, gender. We assume that if someone is fat, they must be unhealthy. If they are thin, they must be healthy. If they don’t have any children, they must not want any. If they have 19 children, they must be stupid. If they stay home, they love their children. If they chose career, they must be selfish/can’t stand their children/are greedy.
We assume a lot about people, and especially about their bodies. Maybe it somehow seems more reasonable to make assumptions about the things we can see. What do we assume about a woman? About her body? There are stories behind those bodies, beyond the assumptions. Do we honour them?
I’m sharing some bellies. Several. You know nothing of these bellies, or the heads attached to them (unless one of them is yours, and if that is the case, thank you!). These women are my friends, my village, and they are willing to share their stories with you, so that you may honour them.
This belly belongs to my friend Val. She has two beautiful baby girls. Her first baby was born without complication. Her second pregnancy was normal, but her birth was not. Val hemorrhaged and underwent an emergency hysterectomy. She nearly lost her life due to severe blood loss. Val is alive. And she is living with a tangible reminder of her experience, and the truth that she won’t birth any more babies. I am grateful to Val for sharing her story and allowing me to share it. She is a kind and gentle soul, and strong as nails.
Val’s belly is part of her story.
This belly belongs to Keli. Keli has three babies. Keli’s first daughter was born perfectly healthy at term. At 35 weeks into her second pregnancy, Keli experienced a placental abruption. Her daughter was delivered by emergency C-section, and is very healthy. Keli's third baby, a beautiful boy, was born via C-section at 39 weeks due to polyhydramnios. Keli fought hard through her fears around birth. And she won. Keli is a runner, a mom of a child with epilepsy, and one of the kindest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.
Keli’s belly is part of her story.
This belly belongs to Kina. Kina has had two pregnancies. Before she became pregnant she was diagnosed with an ovarian teratoma. She had surgery to remove it and found it weighed 4 kilos — that's more than most babies! This left Kina with an asymmetrical abdomen. She went on to carry her twins full term. Forty weeks! Twins! And then, despite physician insistence, she delivered those beautiful babies vaginally. She is a wonderful mother, not afraid to fight for her babies. She is an advocate and an activist and I am honored to know her.
Kina’s belly is part of her story.
This belly belongs to my friend, Kat. Kat and I went to high school together. When Kat was 23, she was diagnosed with endometriosis and PCOS. She was experiencing severe menstrual bleeding. Not long after, Kat was diagnosed with both endometrial and uterine cancer. Twenty-four hours after her diagnosis she underwent a full hysterectomy. And after her hysterectomy Kat developed breast cancer. TWICE. She is a fucking warrior. I love and admire her deeply.
Kat’s belly is part of her story.