I was four months postpartum with my twins when we flew to Austin to visit my husband’s sister. The day we arrived, we sat at the counter, beer in hand, catching up as she flipped through the Athleta catalog. She was in the market for a new tankini with summer approaching. “A mom suit?” I questioned. She is a runner and I assumed she’d highlight her hard work in a proper two-piece. “Yeah, you know, to hide my FUPA,” she responded.
A FUPA, as I learned that afternoon, is a “Fat Upper Pussy Area” (FUPA). She explained to me, quite simply, that the scar from a c-section creates a shelf for loose skin to collect, giving the appearance of, well, a fat upper pussy area. “Hmmm,” I said, registering this acronym in the region of my memory reserved for only the most important vocabulary words. I needed to use it in a sentence to ensure that I wouldn’t forget it, just as my grammar teachers always taught me. “Guuurrrl, is that your FUPA hanging out?”
My thoughts quickly shifted to my own mid-section. I thought of its new shape. While I still had a “baby bump” that refused to budge, I certainly didn’t have a FUPA! “That was lucky,” I told myself. I thought of all the reasons I did not and would not have a FUPA. For one, I decided I wouldn’t. It was my body and I decided a FUPA just wasn’t for me. Moving along. Hard work was all it would take to bounce back. Sure, yeah, I already had my figure back by four-months postpartum with my firstborn, but I’d get there. I was five years older when I birthed the twins and elasticity of my 20s was behind me. And you know… twins…it is a different ball game. It would just take more time. I hadn’t seen my vagina in over a year at that point, but I knew I’d see her again. Time. I just needed some time.
Turns out what I needed was a crap ton of physical therapy. Soon after my return from Austin, while trying to crunch away that baby weight, I discovered that I had a pretty ugly case of diastasis recti, an abdominal separation quite common after pregnancy, particularly with the birth of multiples. Crunches make it worse, as it turns out. That explained why my stomach looked so very pregnant many months after delivery. Can you believe most obstetric professionals don’t even check for this? I had to Google that shit to diagnose myself. I digress. As I worked diligently to rehabilitate my core with the help of a pelvic floor physical therapist and a lot of self-discipline, my “baby bump” began to dissipate. My stomach still isn’t flat by any means, but with the vast improvements in the strengthening of my transverse abdominis (those corset-like muscles that are responsible for a flatter core), I was gifted the appearance of dangly skin. Sure enough, like a moth drawn to a bright flame on a hot summer night, my twin skin found its home atop the cozy bed of my c-section scar. Yep. I have a real life FUPA, and the accompanying tankini from Athleta.
But let me tell you this? Dare I say it? I have learned to appreciate this new body of mine…most of the time. Every time I look down at that hard-earned FUPA, I remember how brilliantly my body stretched. Like my diastasis recti rehab, my acceptance of my mom-bod didn’t happen over night. That first summer I purchased that tankini from Athleta…the one designed to draw attention to my milk-filled breasts and hide my protruding stomach as best it could, and I felt a sense of defeat. I didn’t feel like I had control over my body, and I hated that feeling.
Recently, as I was scrolling through Facebook, a trailer came across my feed for a movie called Embrace, a documentary on women’s body image and our culture of perfection. The filmmaker interviewed 100 women and asked them to describe their body in one word. Just one word. A word immediately popped in my own head. And it wasn’t FUPA. It wasn’t twin-skin. It wasn’t squishy. It wasn’t any of those things I had been feeling about my body since having my twin boys. It was STRONG.
I am really freaking strong. I can lift heavy things and run pretty fast in the gym. I think I’d make it pretty far in a zombie apocalypse, but that’s besides the point. Carrying those twins full-term…that took strength. My body stretched in unimaginable directions, and I stayed upright. Breastfeeding while I could barely find the time to nourish myself…that took strength. Keeping myself and three small humans alive, and not killing anyone or forgetting to wear pants to Target, with no sleep for two years…that, my friend, is strong. And have you tried carrying a tantruming two year old across the parking lot while the other twin sits on your hip? That is strong. This body is certainly a new shape, one I’m not entirely comfortable with, but it is as strong as ever. I open pickle jars myself. I don’t need to ask for help lifting the couch to vacuum Cheerios. I am strong and that gives me pride. So this summer I bought a nice little bikini. I bought it because I thought it suited me. I bought it because it was what I would have chosen to wear before my boys. My biggest decision wasn’t IF I would wear it, it was if I should tuck the FUPA in or to let it hang out. It felt more comfortable out. And so, I put on that bikini at a pool party. I kept the towel on as long as possible, and then I took a breath, dropped it and hopped in the water. I enjoyed a swim with my kids and found myself not giving a crap about my stomach. “Gurrrrl, yaaaasss, that IS my FUPA.”
I share this with you, my fellow strong moms, so that you know that you are not alone. Those pictures of women on social media and on the covers of magazines, flat-bellied just days after birth…they are not the norm. For the vast majority of us, our bodies change. We don’t get our “body back.” How can you “get back” what has always been yours? Strive for greatness, most days. Strive to be the best you, most days. Don’t settle, most days. But certainly don’t ever let the few define the norm. Celebrate you…always.
Do you have a FUPA, too? Well, I’m here to say congratulations on that Fierce Unstoppable Pooch of Awesomeness. And you are more beautiful than ever.