I never thought I’d have anything in common with Taylor Swift, but here I am relating to a headline about a photo of her in a bodysuit and the harm caused when people engage in body shaming.

Miss Swift is not pregnant and, news flash, neither am I. Yet I had someone comment that in a photo I’d posted to social media, I looked pregnant. I was wearing my size 8 skinny black Levis and a hoodie, with pocket pouches. But that isn’t the point now, is it?

She had no idea her words would cut as deeply as they did. It was just an observation that I was supposed to let roll off my back, or my pronounced belly. It landed flat though, like my chest, which I assure you I’ve been teased about my entire life, also by people who felt I should just laugh it off. Just joking. Just kidding. You’re still cute. Still. 

Ironically, this weekend I will mark 18 years of surviving a battle against necrotizing fasciitis, better known as flesh-eating disease or Strep A, the result of a minor day surgery reserved for those of us born with ovaries. Things went sideways. Within 48 hours, I had sepsis, toxic shock and an emergency hysterectomy before being intubated in a coma in the Centre for Disease Control for approximately 12 days. They told the Carpenter I had a 30% chance of survival and if the medicine to fight this rapid disease didn’t work within 12 hours, he should prepare for the worst. It was Father’s Day.

I woke up a week before my 35th birthday, midriff sliced open, void of all plumbing that made me a woman, and scars that destroyed the smoothness of my belly. You know what I didn’t lose? My children. My love. My life. Amen.

My family is everything to me.  I’m very proud of the two children I was blessed to carry and welcome into the world. And while I love them, they didn’t just stretch my heart to capacity; they also did a number on my body because that’s what having babies does. It changes us. It expands us. Worth it.

So yeah, as a woman whose body, mind and heart have been stretched to the very edge of life, who fought to get back up in six months of recovery, who pushed through two natural childbirths, and whose worst addiction is the occasional bag of Ruffles and chip dip, I have a belly. 

And yes, it sticks out past my small chest. I know, because most days, I get dressed about three times just trying to find the right proportion before I walk out into the world. Age offers grace. I care less and less.

Yet, I remember one day at work, a group of female colleagues had gathered in the lunchroom. Small talk around the table. I was wearing my favourite summer dress. One of the women, who was well aware of my health history, remarked that I looked pregnant. She laughed. One of the women scolded her, but the rest fell silent. 

I was embarrassed beyond words, incapable of retaliation, because I’m not capable of such cruelty. I returned to my desk, wiped my eyes and still made a deadline. Guess a belly doesn’t impact one’s humanity, integrity, brains or talent. Huh, go figure.

Miss Swift and I know the power of words. I wish everyone did. Bellies are beautiful. Amen.

WriteOut of Her Mind