My sister used to say that when we were asking questions she didn’t want to answer: “MYOB!!” (Mind Your Own Business) Who could say what inspired her. I can’t remember if she would have been old enough to be familiar with the acronym BYOB, but I’m guessing so.

We used to laugh and ignore her. At least, I don’t remember paying much attention, busy and snobby older sister that I was. Still, her silly acronym stuck with us, or with me, I should say, not able to speak for the rest of my siblings.

I had a conversation with a friend earlier this week, about an experience of hers that falls under the category of topics to which one might wish to reply with an indignant and more-than-a-little-impatient “MYOB!!!!!” (to all of my friends who are mothers: this is a third-party rant, her experience, as shared with me, embellished perhaps a tiny bit, not me claiming first-hand knowledge!)

Lu is pregnant, due in August. Like most women who are expecting, her belly is expanding, along with some other womanly parts.

Because pregnancy has to do with the miracle of life and everyone loves babies and if a woman can’t have her own she wants a piece of someone else’s and if a woman has already had her own she thinks she knows everything there is to know or even if a woman hasn’t had her own but her adopted daughter has she is entitled to claim the experience as her own and therefore freely dispense advice and unsolicited comments, Lu often gets told she’s big. And that she looks bigger today. And they thought she’d look bigger by now. And wow, that top makes her look so big!

Then there are the well-meaning but perhaps slightly overbearing grandparents and older siblings who insist she needs more onesies. And a high chair. And those special educational toys. And a set of bottles of all shapes and sizes, just to be prepared. And thingamabobs and whatchamacallits and whosits and whatsits galore!

(insert breath here)

Don’t let me forget the day she threw on a maternity shirt she’d purchased a few years ago, just to have something to cover her growing belly with. Everyone told her she looked cute in the flowered baby doll top which definitely covered her growing belly. Feeling un-cute, she however decided to accept the praise for what it seemed to be and feel cute as well. Imagine her chagrin when she caught a glimpse of herself in a shop window, only to find that the garment in question made her look like a mix between a beached whale and a 12-year-old. Cute? What were they thinking?!

And just once, couldn’t someone please start a conversation with her that isn’t solely inspired by her thick middle? Or ask her how she’s doing, instead of simply using her as a channel to get a baby fix?

Despite the miracle of procreation, people, shame on us for forgetting the woman in our haste to welcome her offspring.


The Reality of a Mother’s Shape

Never having been pregnant, I’m fascinated at the shapes the bodies of mothers take after giving birth. For the last few hours, I’ve been wandering through a site that praises motherhood and the shape bellies take while pregnant and afterwards. These pictures and posts have become addictive as mother after mother bares her stretch marks and added flesh to the world, finding satisfaction in exposing her true form to others who have experienced the joys (and ravages) of pregnancy and birth.

Many, many women have shared their stories and photos of their journeys on this website, called The Shape of a Mother, and just as many share how grateful they are that other women have shown the reality of their post-baby bodies. This site has created a community of women who struggle to look at themselves in the mirror, yet are proud of being mommies. Thanks to The Shape of a Mother and its host, Bonnie, a community has been created where women are able to be real about who they are and how they look.

I selfishly find myself hoping my own body doesn’t scar or sag, but why should I be exempt from what my mother, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, sister-in-law, and best friends have experienced? Also, if these mothers’ testimonies are to be trusted, being a mother and seeing and loving the fruit of your womb are totally worth the pain, the discomfort, and the “belly battlefield”. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to encounter my own motherly belly someday!

Perusing these stories and pictures could be quite an enlightening pilgrimage for you, so I’ll share the link to the site. However, I do need to warn you that the photos are not for the squeamish, the prudish, or for all audiences. Some pictures are quite graphic (they’re the honest truth, with little left to wonder about), but they are beautiful in their own right, the right of reality.

The Shape of a Mother

Dedicated to K. and thanks to H.