A couple of weeks ago, I was up late with the three-year-old, who has recently decided that sleeping through the night is for wimps. He eventually passed out on my lap while watching Toy Story 3, and I took some time to reflect on how much my life has changed in the past ten years.

As I looked down, the first thing I saw was my stomach, lumpy and stretchmarked after carrying two children pretty much back-to-back. Sigh. There was a time when that stomach was flat. There was a time when I was a size 2. There was a time when I was sexy and I knew it. That time has passed, never to return again.

But then I looked just past my stomach, and there was my sleeping baby. My heart. And looking at him, a flat stomach didn’t seem like such a big deal anymore. Maybe my stomach isn’t beautiful anymore, but my life is beautiful. So, in the middle of this reflection, I snapped this picture, and posted it on Instagram with this caption:

My Fat Stomach

I don’t have the flat stomach I did when I was 19, but I’ve got something much better now.

After that, I went to bed, tired but happy.

The next day, I woke to some “likes” and positive comments from friends, which is always nice. Most of the feedback was from fellow moms, who know all too well the way pregnancy can change your body. And then I checked my email…

In  my inbox, there was an email informing me I had a new comment on the blog. An anonymous commenter had left the following message on my most recent blog post:

“I saw your ugly belly photo on Instagram. You should really be ashamed of yourself. Having a baby is not an excuse to be fat. You’re disgusting.”

Well. Ok, then.

I won’t say that comment didn’t sting a little bit, but overall the words didn’t really bother me. I wouldn’t have posted the picture if I weren’t comfortable with it, and one mean comment isn’t going to change how I feel. Truthfully? I kind of love this picture. I am no photographer, but this was one of the rare times when I took a picture that truly captured the emotion of the moment. You don’t like it? Your problem, not mine.

The thing that makes me sad is the lengths that some person went to try to shame me into feeling bad about my body. They didn’t leave a comment on Instagram, since that’s not anonymous. The sought out my blog, sought out a post, and took the time to leave a mean comment. That’s a lot of effort to put into negativity. I don’t even put on make-up most days, and this person is taking all of these steps just to put down someone they (probably) don’t know. Isn’t that sad? That fact is far more upsetting to me than what someone thinks of my belly fat.

There are a lot of things I want to say about body image and fat-shaming and all those other touchy issues women have to deal with, but there are a lot of people out there who’ve said it far better than I could. I debated even writing this post because I didn’t want to bring attention to someone who doesn’t deserve it. But I decided to respond to this attempt at shaming by being vocal. I’m not ashamed of my stomach, and if I like a picture,  I’m not going to keep it off my Instagram feed just because someone else might be offended by my flab. It’s not going to be “all stretchmarks, all the time,” but I refuse to let someone else make me feel bad about my body.

I haven’t arrived at some kind of body acceptance nirvana; I don’t look in the mirror and say, “Woohoo! Stretch marks! Muffin top…SEXY.” But I also don’t judge my self-worth by what my stomach looks like. I don’t always love every aspect of my body, but I love me. I can be a great wife, mother, and friend with or without a gut. And so can you.

And you know what? My son loves that picture. He smiles and says, “Mommy! I sleeping on your tummy!” That’s the opinion that really matters to me.

Unfortunately, due to several negative remarks, I’ve had to close the comments on this post. Thank you to everyone who took the time to leave a kind note. Each and every one blessed me and touched my heart.