This is a hard post to share. I’ve always been able to talk about how my body has changed since having children. Last year I was even able to have enough confidence to rock a bikini because, damn it, I wanted to. But it’s something else altogether, something a little more terrifying, to post it on the internet where I know it’s permanent. Some will be inspired, some will feel validation, but many will criticize.

It’s sad that our society not only shies away from but also shuns images of women and men that are not deemed physically attractive. Before I had children, I had what one would call an attractive figure. It was easy to shop and easy to be confident. There was a sense of inclusion while watching or reading ads that I never realized I felt until I “graduated” to a bigger dress size.

Then I had kids. My belly grew and so did my dress size. Slowly I began to notice the ever-apparent stigma of not looking like I could grace the cover of a Victoria’s Secret catalogue. Although more companies are beginning to hire plus-sized models or limit the amount of Photoshop used, it’s still not the norm to scroll through a website or magazine and see size 16 models with stretch marks rippling their bodies or dimples on areas other than their (facial) cheeks. I didn’t feel “included” anymore – I felt judged and inferior.

And truly, it’s Bull. Shit.

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Over the years I have come to realize that a body is simply that: a body. Like bodies of water – some are big, some are small, some are deep, some are shallow, some have marine life, some are salty. They’re all different.

Most people don’t have an hourglass, size 2, endlessly smooth figure. Why do we as a society care what somebody’s body looks like? We try dictating what a body should or should not look like when it’s really nobody’s damn business. Why is this size 2 figure any better than my bodacious size 10? It’s not. Screw you for trying to tell me differently.

I see it like this: a body is like a leftover food container. I might be an old Country Crock butter container from the 1990s, and you might be the newest and hottest from Tupperware or Gladware with some fancy fitting top, but we’re both carrying food. It’s what is on the inside that matters. In my big Country Crock body, I might be carrying the most delicious delicacy and you may be carrying week old Vienna sausages. Or vice versa.

The point is, your body doesn’t matter. And society shouldn’t judge someone based on their physical appearance. This is a lesson that I want to teach my kids. I want other women, especially mothers, to know that it’s okay that their body is what it is. Everything that a body can do is beautiful, whether it is a size 00 or a size 22.

A couple of years ago my son asked me why I had a butt on my stomach. I was taken aback and tried to hide my reaction, but I felt like I’d been slapped in the face. I’m not some circus freak and do not actually have another butt. What I do have, however, is that typical mushy mom-pouch, and I guess I was not ready to hear that reality from another person. Then, last night after my daughter’s bath, she rubbed my stomach and asked me why I had marks on it. I realized then that I was not ashamed. The answer is very easy – I have stretch marks because my body created two lives inside of it.

Seriously, that is way cooler than being on a runway.

Our bodies are magical and have the potential to create and grow an actual life. I have two amazing, beautiful, kind, smart children because my body was able to accommodate them. Hell yeah I have stretch marks – those are my damn battle wounds. Each mark represents a sleepless night, a tantrum, a high fever, a skinned knee. Those marks represent my transition into motherhood.

I want my daughter to grow up secure in her skin. Whether she has a flabby belly before or after kids, or stretch marks or cellulite or even washboard abs, I want her to be happy with what she looks like. I also want my son to know that yes, some women can crack open a peanut with their tight asses, but not all women. I want him to see the beauty in all body types. I want my children to value and appreciate people of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Our society needs to get rid of this stigma, and I hope to help change that beginning with my own children.

So, if prancing around in all my jiggly glory will one day help somebody else, then prance I shall. I will not be ashamed nor embarrassed of my body. I have created two children with this body and if society thinks my pre-baby body was any better, then I hope it suffers from nine months of heartburn, morning sickness, hot flashes, and constipation.

This article was previously published on Molly’s Tales from the Crib