Mum-Tum Shaming

I went to a walk in centre over the weekend, with stomach pain. (I’m fine)

During the exam, the Doctor who I was seeing told me she needed to check my abdomen. So I lay down, lifted my top slightly – and saw her eyebrows visibly raise. She asked me if I had lost a lot of weight because, as she put it , I have ‘A lot of loose skin’.
I was a bit shocked, but I managed to say (making my irritation fairly clear) – ‘I’ve had two babies!’

She continued her examination, saying again ‘There’s just a lot of skin though…’.

To which I replied, now feeling very awkward ‘Well I’ve lost over 100lb…’

Now she didn’t say ‘congratulations’ – which might have begun to make up for a completely unnecessary comment on my physical appearance. She didn’t move on, or say anything nice, or reassuring. At one point she mentioned that it was difficult to tell if there were any issues because there was ‘so much skin’ in the way. It was awful. It was embarrassing. It was upsetting.

Now here’s the thing. I have lost over 100lb. I have had two babies. I have stretch marks, and tiny scars. My body has been through a lot. But now I’m better. My skin doesn’t hang down, it doesn’t get in the way, it doesn’t cause me discomfort or any real problems. It isn’t a medical issue. I just have a stretch marked, soft, slightly wobbly ‘Mum Tum’.

Underneath that, my stomach is strong. I have worked very hard to make it strong. I eat well, I exercise a lot. The outside physical appearance is not disgusting or unpleasant. It’s just a little wrinkly. 

I don’t want to excuse your behaviour at all, Doctor, but I can understand a momentary surprise – I’m fairly slim now, and because my stomach is firm there’s no outward sign that I have a mum-tum. So I can forgive a momentary eyebrow raise, in surprise. But there is no need – no excuse, no reason – to comment. There’s no need to stare. You are a doctor, I am sure you’ve seen far more interesting and unique bodies and shapes and sizes than my normal, wobbly skin. 

So I want to end by saying that I am upset. Not because of my appearance, but because I allowed you to make me feel embarrassed by it. I wanted to apologise, almost, for how difficult my slightly loose skin made it for you to check my abdomen. That’s wrong, and it was wrong for you to make me feel like that. I am not apologising to anyone.

This is my stomach. If you don’t like it, I don’t care. This has carried two babies – it helps me sit and stand and run and laugh. This is a perfectly fine, functional, female stomach. This is my Mum-Tum. And I love it.
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