There's a game my children play. It's called 'Grab mummy's belly'. It involves grabbing handfuls (yes plural) of tummy and squishing it. They particularly like to fold the flab into origami-style designs so that my belly button is entirely hidden from view. "Look mummy!" they yell. "Your belly button is absolutely, completely gone" in a Charlie & Lola-esque performance.
I suppose I could take offence to this and on particularly grouchy days, I do get a bit snippy. But mainly, I've accepted that my belly is now more jelly than six pack and it provides less messy fun for the kids than playdough.
When I first had my children, especially after my second pregancy which saw stretchmarks creep their way from my belly button downwards thanks to being two weeks overdue, I couldn't bear the sight of my stomach. It was in my mind vile. And while I knew that I was probably too old to be wearing crop tops anyway, I became obsessed with tunics or long tops that had no chance of riding up should I happen to be reaching up for something. My bikini days were gone forever and I found it difficult to feel even remotely sexy naked.
However, like all things parenting, you gradually get used to it. And amazingly, one day you accept it and possibly love it.
I remember doing a sea survival training course (as you do) and having to get undressed in a change room with a bunch of women, none of whom had had children. I couldn't help but steal furtive glances at their figures. Some were slimmer and better toned than others, but none of them had that distinctive tell-tale sign that they had carried children for nine months.
And all of a sudden, instead of feeling self conscious of my less than perfect belly, I felt proud. I realised that these women with their virgin tummies, all smooth and stretchmark free with belly buttons that don't look like a puckered prune and a without the tell-tale bulge of lost elasticity, didn't know what I knew. They didn't know what it means to be a mother. They hadn't yet experienced the depth of emotion, felt the highs and the lows, the love and the fear, the complete transformation your life undergoes.
And I smiled to myself. Because it made me see that my mummy tummy with all of it's imperfections will always be there proudly telling the world that it has performed its job. It has stretched beyond the bounds of comprehension, cocooning my babies, and has returned to do it's day job. So it doesn't look as good as it once did, so what? It is beautiful for what it has achieved.
Which is why when Justina Perry, a client of mine, contacted me last week to say that she was fed up of the body image anxiety mothers have (a 31% increase in mummy tummy tucks) and she was on a mission to change it, I jumped on board.
We have created a gallery of mummy tummies. We have taken pictures of our bellies and put them on the internet for the world to see. And we want more mums to do the same. We want to get as many mums as possible to say: 'Sod it, look at what my amazing body has achieved. It may not look perfect, but it has done a miraculous job. And it's time it got recognised for that.'
So are brave enough to join in? Head on over to here and take a look at the bellies already there. See if you can guess which one is mine. And then join in. Send in your pic and help spread the word.
It's time to show the mummy tummy some love.
P.S. My bikini days aren't over after all. I wore one over summer with pride.