So, this is what my belly looks like:
I don't show it public, and I never have. Well, maybe I did when I was a small child, but at some point I learned that I did not have the kind of belly that was okay for showing. Even today, fifty pounds lighter than I was a decade ago, I feel incredibly uncomfortable with the way it looks. I remain thick around the middle (though other parts of me have thinned out so much that it doesn't even look like part of the same body), and I bear both the stretch marks from pregnancy and the loose skin from weight loss. It is what it is, but knowing that doesn't keep me from moving quickly when changing my shirt, or being sure to wear shirts that reach my hips to avoid an accidental belly exposure. More than anything else, I hate that I still feel this way after so many years and personal epiphanies.
Several years ago, I wished I would have gotten a huge sunflower tattooed on my belly before I got pregnant, so that I would have been able to see the changes that have happened with my body, reflected in a beautiful sunflower. I didn't, but now I'm thinking it's time.
I have several tattoos, and they are all visible. They are all meant to be visible, part of my lifelong pursuit to decorate myself and own my own flesh. If I want to get to the point where I feel comfortable baring my midsection in public (or even in the privacy of my bedroom with my partner), perhaps a good first step is to emblazon it with something unapologetically big and beautiful. My sunflower won't be like a two dimensional drawing, because I am not two dimensional. It will droop and fold and curve, and it will continue to change as I exercise (or not), and age.
I sent this picture to my tattoo artist today. Even taking the picture, alone in a room, felt scary and humbling. Sending it made my heart race. At the same time, though, I felt like it was a move toward freedom. Who knows... maybe you'll see me in a bikini this summer.