“Bethan,” said the beautiful expectant goddess as she prodded her vegan vol-au-vents. “Is that Frida Kahlo on your t.shirt?”
I looked down at the t.shirt I bought in the Munich version of Zara. It was pretty plain, but on the front was a black and white image: a Hispanic looking woman, sitting on a chair, lost in thought. “Frida Kahlo? I have no idea. Who is she?”
My beautiful expectant goddess rolls her eyes and laughs. “You must know!”
“Really! I don’t.”
(I am shamefully uncultured at times).
“She’s a Mexican artist, love. She was amazing. She often used to paint little babies because she’d suffered several miscarriages. Her work is incredible. Google her.”
I said I would. Then I forgot about Frida and we started talking about the abundant twin laden bump snuggled beneath my friend’s dress. And we talked and talked. And eventually, as it often does when women and pregnancy and bodies are concerned, the conversation crept onto those things.
At this point the goddess pushed her vegan vol-au-vents to one side and we get down to the serious business of studying her belly. She’d done a good job of oiling up. There were no real stretch marks at all. Seriously. Not one.
“But how?” I demanded. “My tummy is mullered!” I pulled up Frida to reveal my exceptionally artful midriff. (I say exceptionally artful midriff because I haven’t made up a word to describe my stomach yet and a new word is definitely required.)
When I fell pregnant I was tiny. By the time my first bump was fully formed I had this amazing natural design that stretched up and around my stomach like a tree and branches. I absolutely loved it. It was my stretch mark tree of life. Now, two bumps later, my tree of life has contracted and I am left with a beautiful pattern on my skin. To everyone else this pattern probably just looks like weird crepe paper stretch marks to be covered up and Bio-Oiled away. But to me my belly pattern is like an expressionist sky, dancing with little moonbeams, silver streams and darting fish.
I can truly say that my stomach is a work of art. This is how I experience it.
Because of our “perfect beauty” culture, countless people experience their bodies, their “imperfections” as something to feel ashamed about. Yet, we hold the power to decide how we will Experience Life. We can choose to let ourselves stay conditioned or we can take back the reigns of our Experience. The questions we need to ask ourselves are;
Who does me experiencing my body as flawed actually serve – me or the beauty industry and fix-it product sellers?
Does perceiving my skin, shape, features as flawed bring me the amazing Experience of Life that I deserve?
What if I could create new language to describe my body, my life, my human nature? And what if this language supported my true gorgeousness and helped me to thrive?
I believe that a woman’s belly – once it has grown, cradled and gifted a life to Mama Juju – deserves a description that is soul nourishing, full of love and celebration. I wonder what those words could be? I think I’m going to have to make some up!
Right, I had better be on my merry way. But before I go, I just wanted add that I DID look up Frida Kahlo. I officially got myself a bit of cultural education. Frida was indeed a Mexican artist. The work above is one she painted in 1945 and is called Nucleus of Creation. From what I can gather, while Frida’s work was not always pleasant to look at, she was respected for her courage to paint “her pain, her sexuality and “views” of the word in an often brutally honest way.” She was once famously quoted as saying,
“I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration.”
I think it is safe to say that what Frida actually needed in life was a nice little WordPress blog. Google her work. Like the goddess with the vol-au-vents said, her work is incredible. Also whenever someone mentions the name again, you will be in the cultured camp. Which, lets face it, feels kind of nice.