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The Shape of a Mother
October 14, 2006 2:25 PM   Subscribe

The Shape of a Mother There are a lot of sites out there that document the changes a woman's body goes through during pregnancy. The goal of Shape of a Mother (picture-heavy, NSFW) is to document what also happens afterwards. Women from all over the world submit stories and pictures of how their bodies changed after giving birth and how it affects their self-image. From the site's creator: "It occurred to me that a post-pregnancy body is one of this society's greatest secrets; all we see of the female body is that which is airbrushed and perfect, and if we look any different, we hide it from the light of day in fear of being seen."
posted by LeeJay (53 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great post. My wife is due any day now.
posted by Frasermoo at 2:31 PM on October 14, 2006


Congrats on the impending new arrival, Frasermoo!
posted by LeeJay at 2:36 PM on October 14, 2006


Hawt.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:52 PM on October 14, 2006


I hope you beat Camilla to the punch this time.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 3:21 PM on October 14, 2006


I'm glad to see this... I'm not a member of the Cult of Parenthood, but it has always mystified me that we demonize the completely natural changes a woman's body goes through at various stages of her life. Their bodies look like that because they are *supposed* to look like that!
posted by pocketlama at 3:21 PM on October 14, 2006


Unusually for American women, my mom -- best described as "willowy" at maturity -- seemed *not* to keep on any postpartum weight, and if anything must've gotten slimmer with each of the six of us. (Of course, dealing with half a dozen kids from first-grader in age down through newborn militates against keeping pounds on.)

Watching my own, non-child-bearing bod also change through the onset of middle age -- despite diet and exercise -- is helping me gain a fresh appreciation that although damn few of us are porn-site fodder, we're all pretty beautiful anyway when you pay attention and make realistic allowances.
posted by pax digita at 3:34 PM on October 14, 2006


Awesome reality check. Thanks.

After my son was born, I waited for my body to go back to "normal." And waited, and waited. It's been twenty years now, nearly, and I have a feeling that it might just not happen.
posted by jokeefe at 4:03 PM on October 14, 2006


I love Marrit Ingman's take on becoming a MILF.
posted by paulsc at 4:04 PM on October 14, 2006


My wife was the "airbrushed ideal" when I met her and is now, after three kids, a classic painterly Reuben. She jokes about lifts and tucks and asks me if she looks fat. But she really is happy with her body. Maybe because I'm ecstatic about it.
posted by hal9k at 4:16 PM on October 14, 2006 [5 favorites]


The image shown on advertisements is sadly what generations of research and trial-and-error experimentation have shown to sell things. It has no bearing on reality nor should it. I would say anyone who buys goods and services advertised using unrealistically beautiful supermodels have no right to bitch and moan about what it's doing to society, but what ISN'T advertised by unrealstically beautiful supermodels?

People fear it's changing society, mostly people who then turn around and buy said goods and services because said advertising works. People think that other people think what is real is wrong because of the absurd imagery, and it's setting up unrealistic expectations. However, as much as advertisers would like to control and manipulate reality, the stark truth is more apparent than any Vanity Fair cover. Men may all want Cindy Crawford or Penelope Cruz, but most of them know better, most of them know that when not under the hot lights and surrounded by fifty crewmembers fawning over every follicle, Crawford and Cruz and all the rest secretly look as dumpy and ill-proportioned and awkward as the rest of us.

It's not genetics alone. There's more gravy than grave to that ghost. Julia Roberts does not wake up that beautiful, and she'd probably be the first to admit that.

Mothers are not suppposed to be hot foxy mamas that can sell sand to a camel and water to a fish. They already attracted a male and had childbirth, thus fulfilling their duty towards humanity. Besides, in those rare instances where the marriage is actually a happy one, the mothers are super to their hubby and kids. Why would anyone want to be super to complete strangers in Hoboken or Cleveland or Maui?

There's no reason why a mother can't sell sand to a camel, anymore than there's a reason why they shouldn't. All they need is a production company and an advertiser with enough money to throw at her inseam & incisors.

I appreciate Ingman's take, but it also underlines why I don't bother with the dating scene at all anymore. At my age, most available women are single (or married) mothers with more than enough on their plate already, and I don't ever want to be that guy who comes on to her with the inevitable rejection. Had enough of that in high school.

MILFs are nice, but one has to jog after me and stop me on the sidewalk before I get the clue that they're interested. I don't chase after them. Fortunately for me, on not so rare occasion, they do. It's much more fulfilling and rewarding in the long run when you let them tell you if they're interested, as opposed to being that guy. What really makes a woman attractive to me, is that she's funny, clean, smart, interested, and available; and not necessarily in that order. As for looks, if that's all I wanted, I could look at a Cosmo cover. Where's the thrill in that?
posted by ZachsMind at 4:32 PM on October 14, 2006


I once had a pseudo-one-night-stand with a divorced mother of three... the first fling she had (almost) had, apparently, since her divorce. Beautiful woman. She backed out at the last second (really... the last, half-clothed second) because she was so self-conscious about stretch marks. Of all things. That just blew me away. She was on the verge of tears. Crazy. We became friends after that, but I never got over the horror she felt about her own goddamned body.
posted by brundlefly at 4:48 PM on October 14, 2006


Losing fat and gaining muscle aren't the most difficult things in the world. Removing stretch marks is pretty much impossible. I don't think you should consider these things to be the same.
posted by rxrfrx at 4:52 PM on October 14, 2006


That Marrit Ingman article is great, paulsc--thanks for reminding me about it. And I, for one, cannot wait to improve my own waist-to-hip ratio with the crude forcing tool of a giant cherub-cheeked head.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 4:53 PM on October 14, 2006


but what ISN'T advertised by unrealistically beautiful supermodels

I'm not. And I can't say I'm happy about it.

That said, fascinating post. Very educational for the unspawned.
posted by Sparx at 5:16 PM on October 14, 2006


I love MILF's for their tragically unavailable, deer in the headlights "What'd I do?" selves, which is suddenly-gorgeous-and-completely-spontaneous in a way that makes the angle boned, air-brushed cover girls shot from low angles seem like pitifully dry and frail waifs. Show me a girl who can sling a 40 lb two year old, a big ass purse, and a diaper bag on one arm, and reach for groceries with the other, and I'll show you a girl who will know what the hell to do with a baby sitter, a warm bath, a bottle of wine, some good takeout and 4 hours in a quiet room of a respectable hotel.

She'll know, but 99.995% of the time, God love her, she won't go, and on her typically wistful common sense lies the hope of civilization. But the hope that springs eternal in every man's heart, that feeds love and lust and occasional wonder, is ministered to by the other .005%, who make grocery store day dreams on short odds a worthwhile endeavor.
posted by paulsc at 5:21 PM on October 14, 2006 [9 favorites]


"I never got over the horror she felt.."

Women need a reason (to or not to). Men just need a place. Women think stretch marks are ugly. Guys don't really care. We don't usually notice unless you point it out.

I've dated MILFs who had stretchmarks and some are more self-conscious about it than others. Didn't bug me none. I thought they were cool. A part of who she was. There's people who pay to have tattoos put on their bodies to mark a rite of passage. Stretch marks are Nature's Rite of Passage. They shouldn't be shunned or considered a disfigurement.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:34 PM on October 14, 2006


"Show me a girl who can sling a 40 lb two year old, a big ass purse, and a diaper bag on one arm, and reach for groceries with the other, and I'll show you a girl who will know what the hell to do with a baby sitter, a warm bath, a bottle of wine, some good takeout and 4 hours in a quiet room of a respectable hotel."

One of the best metafilter quotes I've read!

And, good post, thanks LeeJay
posted by HuronBob at 5:34 PM on October 14, 2006


My kid sister has had six kids. She was a rail before the first one and is a rail now. I figure it's because the kids have sucked the life out of her like vampires.

As for me, I like a little body fat, and I'm so blind I wouldn't know a stretch mark if it bit me. I've had girlfriends who've pointed theirs out. "Where? What are you talking about?"
posted by solid-one-love at 5:48 PM on October 14, 2006


Women need a reason (to or not to). Men just need a place.

Having trouble parsing this, ZachsMind. Help? I agree with the rest of your comment.
posted by brundlefly at 5:49 PM on October 14, 2006


Show me a girl who can sling a 40 lb two year old, a big ass purse, and a diaper bag on one arm, and reach for groceries with the other, and I'll show you a girl who will know what the hell to do with a baby sitter, a warm bath, a bottle of wine, some good takeout and 4 hours in a quiet room of a respectable hotel.

She'll know, but 99.995% of the time, God love her, she won't go, and on her typically wistful common sense lies the hope of civilization. But the hope that springs eternal in every man's heart, that feeds love and lust and occasional wonder, is ministered to by the other .005%, who make grocery store day dreams on short odds a worthwhile endeavor.
posted by paulsc


Quit looking at my wife.
posted by shnoz-gobblin at 5:57 PM on October 14, 2006


Yeah, this is about 25% of the reason my tubes are tied.
posted by pieoverdone at 6:48 PM on October 14, 2006


Where the hell have all you guys been the last eight years?
posted by jokeefe at 6:52 PM on October 14, 2006


"Where the hell have all you guys been the last eight years?"
posted by jokeefe at 9:52 PM EST on October 14

Gettin' some work done, and learning a little gratitude.
posted by paulsc at 7:17 PM on October 14, 2006


I would argue that a majority of women only get finer with the the gorgeous patina of age, experience and confidence.

And life without scars? Well, it's just not living.
posted by loquacious at 7:30 PM on October 14, 2006


I've recently attained A Certain Age (I've been a mother since 1983, and strongly resemble jokeefe's comment) and have been feeling rather self-conscious about it. Not anymore.

Thank you so much for posting this.
posted by Space Kitty at 7:51 PM on October 14, 2006


are there such things as FILFs?
posted by wumpus at 8:22 PM on October 14, 2006


are there such things as FILFs?

Depends. Are you catholic?
posted by hal9k at 8:30 PM on October 14, 2006 [2 favorites]


Show me a girl who can sling a 40 lb two year old, a big ass purse, and a diaper bag on one arm, and reach for groceries with the other, and I'll show you a girl who will know what the hell to do with a baby sitter, a warm bath, a bottle of wine, some good takeout and 4 hours in a quiet room of a respectable hotel.


Ok, but make it 6 hours. Because any woman with a two year old will be in need of some make up sleep.

I do kinda think my stretch marks are cool. They sort of form a bullseye around my belly button...kind of like one of those children's menu mazes at Denny's. Nature's tattoo, indeed.
posted by emjaybee at 9:44 PM on October 14, 2006


One of the participants in last year's (I think) series of Kink had had her stretch marks filled in with black ink-- making them dramatically visible and, of course, even more permanent. She said she was proud of being a mom.

I thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen.
posted by jokeefe at 9:53 PM on October 14, 2006


...I have a feeling that it might just not happen.
posted by jokeefe


I understand that feeling. I guess I got over it.
posted by taosbat at 10:07 PM on October 14, 2006


Thank God my wife went back to super sexy after our babies. Those ladies...
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 10:31 PM on October 14, 2006


One of the participants in last year's (I think) series of Kink had had her stretch marks filled in with black ink-- making them dramatically visible and, of course, even more permanent. She said she was proud of being a mom.

I thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen.
posted by jokeefe


You and me both.
posted by Jilder at 12:49 AM on October 15, 2006


This is the best Mefi post in a while, if you ask me. I'm 20 weeks. I started out as a size 14, so pretty big but normal, and somehow got it in my head that now was the time to start working out. I've been going to the gym every day and doing moderate exercise. I've managed to not gain a pound so far during the pregnancy. I feel stronger and happier than I have in years, and even though my bod will never be the same (my hips are already doing their permanent widening), my Bod Will Never Be the Same, and I'll finally have a Baby! It's really cool.
posted by pomegranate at 4:08 AM on October 15, 2006


when not under the hot lights and surrounded by fifty crewmembers fawning over every follicle, Crawford and Cruz and all the rest secretly look as dumpy and ill-proportioned and awkward as the rest of us.

Just because you may really want to believe that, doesn't make it true :)

Now I don't have forensic evidence regarding those two cases, but you can't deny there just are men and women, lots of them not famous and not subjected to any lights and makeup tricks, who are more beautiful than the rest of us even in their worst just woke up with a hungover moment. Nothing wrong with it. It's not to be put on some 'ideal' pedestal, looks alone don't do anything, sexiness and interestingness sure don't require conventional beauty standards, but it's not something to be resented either.

Insecurities come from somewhere deeper inside, not from seeing photos of models.

They already attracted a male and had childbirth, thus fulfilling their duty towards humanity.

Ouch!
posted by pleeker at 5:38 AM on October 15, 2006


Great link, but isn't it kind of sad that a site reminding women that they're beautiful has to exist at all?
posted by tommasz at 5:40 AM on October 15, 2006


tommasz : "Great link, but isn't it kind of sad that a site reminding women that they're beautiful has to exist at all?"

I dunno. I find the whole idea that folks tell themselves that they're all beautiful, or interesting, or smart, to itself be kinda sad. "Beautiful" means "better looking than average", "interesting" means "more interesting than average", "smart" means "smarter than average". Most people are neither ugly nor beautiful, neither smart nor stupid, and neither interesting nor dull. Most people are average. It seems like a lot of people find that hard to accept, and hence all the "if it weren't for the media, we'd all realize that we're all beautiful" style of self-delusion.

No, you aren't beautiful. You aren't ugly, either. You're average. And there's nothing wrong with that. You don't need to flee into delusions of grandeur.
posted by Bugbread at 7:43 AM on October 15, 2006


Not, I should clarify, that I think there's anything criminally wrong with saying that everyone's beautiful. It's just that it seems a little pointless, because at some point you're going to notice that Jill is very beautiful, and Jane is less beautiful than the other people, in which case you've just replaced the word "average" with "beautiful".

What's important is realizing subconsciously what everyone realizes consciously: that the average media portrayal of people is the average of the beautiful (generally), and that if you fall below media average, that doesn't mean you're ugly. To the extent that calling everyone "beautiful" reminds you of that, well, that's great, but you could just skip the middle-man and say "just because we aren't as beautiful as media portrayals of women doesn't mean we're ugly, it means we're average". Doesn't have as good a ring to it, but it also provokes less snickers.
posted by Bugbread at 8:03 AM on October 15, 2006


I find this post and this discussion a bit confusing. Maybe it's my age? Although I'm not a parent I don't find mothers exotic. Most of the women I know are now mothers. In my mind, the changes to womens' bodies due to aging and motherhood are just contrasts to the teen ideal. And it's been a very long time since I dated teens. This is what women look like, I'm well aware of it. Is there an age and subculture where this is a revelation?

And if there's a subculture where thirtysomethings and fortysomethings mostly look like magazine models with trim, youthful bodies...well, honestly, that frightens me. I'd be very uncomfortable in that environment. It seems unnatural.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:30 AM on October 15, 2006


I find the whole idea that folks tell themselves that they're all beautiful, or interesting, or smart, to itself be kinda sad.

Oh god you just made me think of that Christina Aguilera song. Yeah yeah Christina 'we're all beautiful no matter what they say', but look who's talking! Shut up! Oh yeah and then it was the Sugababes' turn to come up with the same kind of corny feelgood song. Imagine Robbie Williams singing 'we're all millionaires, no matter how little money we have'.
posted by pleeker at 9:02 AM on October 15, 2006


No, you aren't beautiful. You aren't ugly, either. You're average. And there's nothing wrong with that. You don't need to flee into delusions of grandeur.

In order to get at what women are really attempting to affirm by saying "I'm beautiful (despite all culturally determined evidence to the contrary)" simply replace the word beautiful with the word "powerful." That more closely approximates what the discourse is about, i.e. an oppositional stance to the social rewards and punishments dealt out to women purely due to "beauty" (or the perceived lack of it).
posted by jokeefe at 10:22 AM on October 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


Thank God my wife went back to super sexy after our babies. Those ladies...

And exhibit number one in this thread of what it is that women are afraid of.
posted by jokeefe at 10:28 AM on October 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm 39.5 weeks pregnant and finally I have big brown nipples, chin hair, and freckles, but none of this has rocked my world. Like bugbread says: nothing to be proud of, nothing to be ashamed of... it's like watching a plant grow. Except with gassy heartburn.

Oh, and I'm really, really sick of pastel colors, belly pride*, baby sanctity, the term "orgasmic birth" and modernist infant gizmos. In fact, I don't care if I ever see another cute baby again in my life... except for mine, next week, please.

* Okay, it's true, we're making a plaster bellycast this afternoon, but mainly because we require a fruitbowl in the house.

posted by DenOfSizer at 10:35 AM on October 15, 2006


jokeefe : "In order to get at what women are really attempting to affirm by saying 'I'm beautiful (despite all culturally determined evidence to the contrary)' simply replace the word beautiful with the word 'powerful.' That more closely approximates what the discourse is about, i.e. an oppositional stance to the social rewards and punishments dealt out to women purely due to 'beauty' (or the perceived lack of it)."

I'm not disagreeing, but uncertain of what you mean: what do you mean by "powerful"? You mean "I am about to mold a human who will someday vote or lead protests or hire and fire people"? You mean "I have the power to fuck this baby up royal just by drinking a few shots of tequila"? You mean "I am now in a demographic that politicians go after"?

(I'm not being facetious, I just don't understand what/which power you're speaking of)

DenOfSizer : "Oh, and I'm really, really sick of...modernist infant gizmos."

That's one of the things that really makes me feel the gulf between Japanese and US society. Reading MetaFilter, or any other US or UK site about child-birth, the whole thing seems so damn complicated. I don't mean the birth part itself, that's actually complicated. But the whole "5000 types of baby bottles, dizzying arrays of baby formula contents, the wide range of USB dongles for unlocking extra features in your baby", etc. that sometimes appears in AskMe. My son's favorite toy is an empty plastic bottle.
posted by Bugbread at 10:44 AM on October 15, 2006


jokeefe, I think the Dove campaign ruined that whole line of reasoning forever. I look at the the pictures in the weblog and I'm thankful they're not trying to sell me some moisturizing shower gel by passing it off as female empowerment.

But it's still women who are talking about and posting pictures of their bodies, like those anyone can see every day around them, except with less clothes on.

Now I'm all for not giving a crap about standardized airbrushed and perfect 'ideals' of beauty in advertising and media and celebrity and so on, but I'm not sure this is a good way to draw attention away from such obsessive focusing on women's bodies as the ultimate term of value/judgement of a woman - which is what is supposedly being criticised, right?

It's a Pregnancy Pride parade, which is totally fabulous, but it's not 'empowerment' any more than the shower gel. Well at least I can't see how it is.
posted by pleeker at 11:13 AM on October 15, 2006




What's weird is how the images of perfection affect you subconsciously-- simply traveling between the U.S. and the U.K., I've become aware of how on American television, there are very, very few old or non-beautiful people.

In the UK soaps and TV movies and comedies, people of average looks fall in love, old people have relationships and can star in things, etc.-- here no one who isn't young and beautiful does, typically.

Everyone assumes that constantly viewing overly perfect people doesn't affect *me*-- but when you start looking at things like this site or at TV outside America, you become aware of how those standards affect how you judge attractiveness and the results aren't pretty!
posted by Maias at 12:47 PM on October 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


"I'm not a woman any more. I'm a Mom!"
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:51 PM on October 15, 2006


I normally have no interest in mommy sites but got completely absorbed in this one. Wonderful post LeeJay.
posted by jamesonandwater at 1:33 PM on October 15, 2006


And if there's a subculture where thirtysomethings and fortysomethings mostly look like magazine models with trim, youthful bodies...well, honestly, that frightens me. I'd be very uncomfortable in that environment. It seems unnatural.

Haven't been to Los Angeles or Boca Raton lately, huh?
posted by Asparagirl at 2:03 PM on October 15, 2006


My son's favorite toy is an empty plastic bottle.

Yeah, my son likes blocks. And the remote control. I guess it goes both ways.
posted by davejay at 4:13 PM on October 15, 2006


davejay : "Yeah, my son likes blocks. And the remote control. I guess it goes both ways."

Before we had our sprog, all of our friends mentioned how much their babies liked the remote control, even in households where the parents seldom if ever watched TV (so playing with the control wasn't "playing like mommy and daddy", but just "this is a neat piece of hard material with different colored and shaped soft bumps to play with"), so I scrounged up an old PS2 remote and took out the batteries...but he prefers the silver remote that we actually use on the TV, because it has one of those jog dials. Arrgh.
posted by Bugbread at 4:49 PM on October 15, 2006


And if there's a subculture where thirtysomethings and fortysomethings mostly look like magazine models with trim, youthful bodies...well, honestly, that frightens me. I'd be very uncomfortable in that environment. It seems unnatural.

Haven't been to Los Angeles or Boca Raton lately, huh?


Or New York City
posted by juliarothbort at 7:30 PM on October 15, 2006


They already attracted a male and had childbirth, thus fulfilling their duty towards humanity.

But don't they have to do it twice? In order to preserve the required replacement rate, I mean. Well, the occasional mom has to do it three times to make up for premature death and people who don't have children and the like.

Or were you getting at the idea that what humanity needs is every woman to have no more than one child? Because I think that might be a viable concept right there.
posted by beth at 11:55 PM on October 15, 2006


Very cool site. Also, some serious MILF action in a few of those posts :)
posted by antifuse at 5:18 AM on October 16, 2006


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