First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 29th July 2014
Nobody told me before I gave birth, that once I was holding my baby in my arms, I would also be left holding my stomach in a large pouch above my pants. In fact, in the aftermath of childbirth, I could probably have laid it on a bar and stood a pint on it.
Thankfully those days are now long gone; the pouch remains of course, but it is a smaller pouch. I had c-sections with both of my girls and so it even has its own shelf above the scar. Other c-section mums will know exactly what I am referring to.
The shock of all these bodily changes are one thing whilst we are pregnant with the skin on our huge bellies being pulled taut by the life growing inside, but afterwards, the majority of women want to hide their scars.
The layer of chicken skin that shrivels back to form your own personal pouch is lined with the silvery webs that your babies have made upon your physicality, and yet, we want to hide that away. Funny really, because surely some pride should be felt for the external reminders of how your body has created a life, almost unwittingly, like pearls in the womb?
In Portsmouth at the moment, one very clever lady, the local artist Karah Mew, has started a project for post-preggers tums, and sometimes for preggers ones too.
You may in the past have seen broken pottery on The Antiques Roadshow that has been conspicuously repaired using gold. When, rather than trying to disguise the marks that life has left, they are highlighted and celebrated as a part of that journey.
This is the Japanese concept of Kintsugi, which means ‘golden joinery’, and Karah is applying it, quite literally, to the maps of pregnancy that remain on women’s tummies. She is painting 79 bellies, because that is the atomic number for gold, and will complete the project by painting herself and her mother.
The women tell Karah their stories of pregnancy and birth, and their feelings towards their bodies, during the process, and a photograph is taken of their tummy at the end. The process is proving to be healing and therapeutic, and an empowering experience for those taking part. Presumably it is a technique that can also be applied to other scar tissue that has caused a person trauma, or in celebration of bodily acceptance.
Karah is fully booked until September, but if you’re interested in booking with her yourself then do join her facebook group page. It can be found at: Karah’s Post Baby Belly Photography Project https://www.facebook.com/groups/727749010576292/