Can I See Your Belly Button?


A_KelliSaturday morning always comes earlier than I hope.

Yes, it’s our day off. Yes, we have a few kids old enough to want some extra sleep. But no, that doesn’t stop their bodies from remembering what time they wake up for school on five other days of the week. 


My eyes blink open to 6:30am on the clock when the first little fuzzy-headed toddlers crack our bedroom door. They are welcomed up onto the queen-size mattress and tucked ’round with quilts and sheets, a stealth attempt to coax their eyes closed again. An endeavor for Mommy to spend her early morning drowsing among dimpled fingers and the smell of urinated diaper. Light barely winking in through the window, like the sunrise herself in the middle of a yawn.

Ah, but there’s truth in the adage: Best laid plans often go awry—and Saturday mornings are as true to this as they are to demure sunrises. The toddlers in my bed, even under best laid sheets, don’t last long. Push inevitably comes to shove, just as tiny toes always seem to find that perfect place to dig into my back. Then it’s a silly word sleepily mumbled or a half-curious poke in the eye … and the final nail is in sleep’s coffin. Time to get up. 

Leaving my husband to tickle and snuggle with them, on this certain Saturday, I got in the shower. The six-year-old came in just as I stepped out. She, groggy. Me, dripping. I didn’t expect us to have a conversation worth much. But her little voice surprised me, squeaked out over the sound of the boys now jumping on the queen-size bed: “Mom, could we give you a make-over today?”

I couldn’t deny the hope I heard in her voice. I couldn’t deny the shine in her eyes. I couldn’t say anything but, “Yes.”

Ten minutes and a bathrobe later, the girls were back. Not just one this time, but three of them. They filed into my room, arms laden with their favorite dress-up clothes for me to try on, fingers loaded with nail polish in every color, and faces etched with the many expressions of delight: make-over, here we come.

And that’s when it happened.

As the very first dress was hoisted out to me, and I grappled with it, reaching for armholes, the littlest girl—that one whose voice squeaks in the most angelic way—piped up, “Mom, is that your belly button? Can I see it?” 

Now, I’m not a modest person by nature, but when your tiniest daughter asks to see your belly? Well, it can call forth the modest in the least likely. But in the very same moment I was tempted to cringe and brush off her request, I realized the opportunity that lay before me. Here was my daughter, still firm and supple with youth’s abundance, asking not only to see my wrinkled, stretched, and saggy body, but somehow asking beyond her words, to see what I thought about my body. For I knew that it wouldn’t be only my belly button that would reflect in her eyes, it would also be my face. Not only “How does a mommy-belly look?” but also “How does a mommy feel about how her belly looks?”

This is the question that matters. This is the mirror that counts.

I dropped the dress so I could get my brave on. 

(And then I swallowed hard so it wouldn’t get snagged on the knot forming in my throat.)

Each of the girls took turns looking at my belly button. They asked questions about why my many-times-stretched skin looks different than theirs. They poked and pulled. They wondered at it and marveled aloud. I smiled at them and drew them close. I explained how large a woman’s body must become to make room for the miracle of motherhood. I welcomed their questions and told them glory stories of births and laughed at the incredulity of it all. 

And then the moment passed. I seemed to still be breathing. I pinched myself, just to make sure. Yes, I was indeed alive. I was indeed standing before them and what I saw in their eyes was not the disdain or competition of the locker room. It was not the criticism or condescension of the beach. There were no snickers. There was no raising of eyebrows.

What I saw in their eyes was respect.

In that holiest of moments, they had become divine mirrors: reflecting all the beauty of co-creation. (And what is left in its wake.) But it was more than that. Somehow my willingness to let them see my imperfection up close and personal was planting seeds inside them. Seeds that would someday bloom into female relationships characterized by cooperation and trust, not competition and manipulation. Offerings they could take with them into locker rooms and beaches and classrooms and shopping malls and all the other places where the imperfect is seen as weak and where only the fittest survive.

These are the genesis of a better tomorrow: kernels of what it means that beauty is deeper than skin.

I slid into the dresses handed me and swirled around in front of the mirror. They painted my toes lovely shades of purple and red. We talked hairstyles and eyeshadows and shoes and what spring fashions we liked best. But the beauty of the make-over had already happened. And it wasn’t in the making-up or the covering-over. It had happened in the nakedness where self-acceptance is planted deep, in the darkness of dare where love becomes our lens.

Right there in my bedroom, bathrobe around my ankles, we were standing on holy ground.

Kelli Woodford
I live in the midwest, surrounded by cornfields and love, with my husband and seven blue-eyed children. We laugh, we play, we fight, we mend; but we don’t do anything that even slightly resembles quiet. Unless it’s listening to our lives, which has proved to be the biggest challenge of them all.
Kelli Woodford
Kelli Woodford

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Kelli Woodford


  1. Harmony Strong Vuycankiat says:

    So awesome. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Nikole MacGregor says:

    I just recently had my first baby and struggled all throughout my pregnancy with my body image. My mom always instilled in me that babies ruined her body and there was a lot of shame and embarrassment around that. Now that baby is here, I couldn’t be more in love with my flabby belly and purple stretch marks. Praying that I can install in my daughter what you are teaching yours. Thanks for this piece!

    • You are part of the inception, then, my friend. Part of this new way we can teach our children to define beauty in themselves. And in others. I salute you for the brave path before you. Onward and upward!

  3. Love that very encouraging! 🙂 please check my blog

  4. Stephanie says:

    What a beautiful story. The other day my daughter said, “Mom your belly is squishy-squashy, and I love squishy-squashy bellies.”

  5. Lisha Epperson says:

    I have a vertical scar from a c-section. My only successful pregnancy left a mark. The scar is a battle wound. After 14 years of infertility I naturally conceived and birthed a child. My scar is a medal, my scar is a gift. Definitely an emotional read for me but one of shared healing and hope. I’ve experienced moments like this with my girls and always, with a smile, focus on the wonder of a woman’s body….not perceived flaws. Another bold and beautiful post Kelli!

  6. You are so brave. I am still working on my confidence when my daughter examines my belly button. You have given me thought & courage to not be ashamed by its imperfections.

  7. Oh, beauty. This is the message our daughters need, Kelli. The wonder of a body that carries life within is the loveliest of bodies.

  8. Just stunning, Kelli. May I be so brave…

  9. Sarah Joslyn Sarah Joslyn says:

    I love this to pieces. Thank you for getting your brave on.

  10. Love this, my friend! Praying for the courage to share the same with my own daughters.

  11. You are empowering a new generation of girls … Go, Mama!

  12. Elizabeth Stewart says:

    I’m actually a bit teary over this. Beautiful.

  13. Amber Cadenas says:

    Kelli, I remember moments of seeing my mom in her vulnerability, her naked skin, and I didn’t know it then, but I was looking for just what you describe here. I hungered to know what she thought of herself. But she didn’t have a mom who knew how to let herself be shown, and so she didn’t know how to give that to me. It’s a treasure of immeasurable value, to be able to show your daughters that you love yourself – your belly, your body, your ‘imperfections’ – just as you are. That this is the real beauty.

  14. Ashley Tolins Larkin says:

    Kelli. Kelli. Thank you for this. This mama of three girls with belly button stretched far and wide is most grateful for this gorgeous, sacred moment among girls and someday women that you share as you do. I love you so.

  15. Gillian Ward says:

    Oh the joy! My 2noysnwere c sections, and when they were little asked how,they were born…well I couldn’t tell them the story without making them a bit confused, so I lay on the floor and let 2 little boys check out my substantial scar and odd belly button…amazingly I have no stretch marks, but the thought of thenday sitting , kneeling, tracing, feeling the place they entered the world, in such a chatty, fascinated way is one of my most cherished memories. Cant say they would like to dicuss it now!! But such a lovely thing to share and clutch warmly to my heart,

  16. Paula Gamble says:

    This is daring greatly, friend. Your courage inspires courage in us to accept our scars, our imperfections, and see them through the eyes of a child – with wonder and respect, not disdain! You are beautiful, friend!!! And I can hear little Charity’s sweet, high-pitched voice asking you to show her your belly button. That is precious! You are such a gift, Kelli!

  17. Helen Burns helen burns says:

    How beautiful this is. Love this so much. THANK YOU!!! xoxoxo

  18. oh Kelli, I love this. when my still-nursing 18 mo. old daughter lays on my stomach, she keeps lifting my shirt and patting my belly. sometimes she even kisses it and hugs it. it makes me feel better for all the scars and the stretching and the marks.

    I love this. thank you, dear one. thank you.

  19. Kathy Owens says:

    Oh, My!!! You are a wonder!! How did you become so self-aware and so other-aware?? I love the way you think . . . the way you are, too!!

  20. Julie Cochrane says:

    This is absolutely brilliant Kelli! There’s a lump in my throat as I imagine the intrigue, the honest questions, the poking and prodding, and the wonder of your little ones! But it’s not only that – its the respect you show them in giving them the freedom to explore life, and the wisdom you have to plant seeds of honesty and God-beauty in their little souls. Respect is a most wonderful harvest.

  21. Krissy says:

    As someone who is praying to be a mama soon, this made me tear up. So beautiful.

  22. Handsfull says:

    This is beautiful, and brave, and thought-provoking. Being a mama is hard work, which is what I expected. It’s just that so many of the ways that it is hard, are so unexpected!

  23. MsLorretty says:

    You have gifted us all through this. I will live in this moment with you. Bless it!

  24. bluecottonmemory says:

    This mom of sons only loves your story, loves your moment and your wisdom- and yes – I am saying loves! To the tips of my toes!

  25. LOVE this.

  26. pastordt says:

    Oh my goodness, Kelli – such wisdom in one so young! This is a glorious story, beautifully told. And I thank you for it.

  27. Jemelene says:

    Absolutely gorgeous in every way possible.

  28. Amazing post, incredible writing. Loved this!!!

  29. carolynn says:

    That was beautiful, Kelli. So different from the message my own mother unwittingly conveyed.

    BTW, this sentence stopped me dead in my tracks and I savoured it a while: “Light barely winking through the window, like the sunrise herself in the middle of a yawn.” Exquisite.


  30. Love, love, love. My littlest one calls my belly “a snuggle belly” and that makes me so happy. This is gorgeous and empowering. Eshet chayil!

  31. Kelly Hausknecht Chripczuk says:

    Oh dear, the belly button. I think Bill Cosby does an amazing bit about belly buttons as we age. But, yes, you hit the nail on the head, the fear and the glory of loving and living the deeper truths. We’ll have to compare stretch-marks someday 🙂 (no competition involved, only beauty and awe)

  32. Yes, yes! What a wonderful read and reminder.

  33. Oh goodness! So much beauty + brave here. Love this and you, Kelli. xoxo

  34. Oh. my. goodness. My sweet friend, I just love this for so many reasons. You so totally rocked this. {sigh….} Not only do you echo all of my thoughts, but you give me much to think about as well, and I’m encouraged to continue trying to be brave for my four girls. love you so much.

  35. mkholmberg says:

    Awesome, Kelli. I’ve tried to send the same message to my own gaggle of kids by the way I hold my head full of gray hair. I’ve chosen not to color them so that they might see aging in the same positive light you’ve portrayed the aftermath of pregnancy: it is GOOD because God gave it to us. Thanks for standing proud.

  36. Anne-Marie says:

    Hi Kelli. How lovely that you show up, visible and real, to your daughters and to us. What a gracious gift. And so beautiful! That’s the paradox isn’t it? Thinking about what my ‘tummy’ might be and how to show that to my sons w/ joy, knowing they will be more able to walk in completeness later. Great word dear. Thanks!

  37. Caryn Jenkins Christensen says:

    THIS, Kelli. Beautiful moments of bravery in understanding the opportunity to teach your girls the sacredness of their bodies. Oh how I wish I had done this with my own two! Your daughters are blessed to have you as their mama. <3

  38. Rachel 'Pieh' Jones says:

    Love this Kelli.

  39. completely, perfectly beautiful….

  40. Bev Murrill says:

    Boy, you sure got that one right! Great respect, Kelli! I teared up when I got to the bit about you allowing them to enter your world in such a personal and deep way. Kudos!

  41. Amy Hunt says:

    “Somehow my willingness to let them see my imperfection up close and personal was planting seeds inside them […] the beauty of the make-over […] had happened in the nakedness where self-acceptance is planted deep, in the darkness of dare where love becomes our lens.” <– wow, Kelli! Worship, it began with your WILLINGNESS. That's the stuff of true beauty, right there.


  1. […] Tremaine’s series on blogging is full of great insights. Kelli Woodford’s essay on her post-children belly button really struck a chord with its honesty. Over here, my most popular post was on Sleep. But, that was […]

  2. […] Can I See Your Belly Button? – This made me cry the ugly cry. Warning: You might need tissues (particularly if you’re a mama of girls). […]

  3. […] beautiful” written on the top. A gentle message. A quiet message, no janitor has scrubbed off. I think of Kelli Woodford showing her children her belly button because they asked to see and they … Kelli knew how she responded was just as important as what they saw because a mom can teach nearly […]

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