As the new year has arrived, everyone’s thoughts are turning (as they usually do) to fitness and dieting and exercise.
I’m beginning to lose count of the number of people I’ve seen sharing this post on Facebook, about how having a baby means that you’ll never have your pre-baby body back again. It’s a sweet sentiment, and I get why so many moms I know are moved to tears by it, even though my own reaction was far less emotional. The conclusion is that having carried a baby is far more incredible than having the perfect body and it’s a trade-off any woman should be proud to make.
I noticed that the author of it mentions that she’s just 21, and that might explain the disconnect I felt reading it. I’m 45. I could BE her mother. Thankfully, one of the beautiful things about acquiring years is that I’ve had the time to work through that kind of body issue stuff ages ago.
It’s not like I’ve really had a choice but to reach a place of accepting this body I’ve been given. I’ve always been heavy, due to reasons I’ve elaborated on here extensively in the past. Maybe because of that, I never felt I had that much to lose to pregnancy to begin with. Or maybe I remember what it was like to be bulimic, and how that period of my late teens was the closest I ever got to thin, and I know I never want to return to that miserable self-abuse no matter what kind of slenderness it brought me.
Happiness in this life (for my adulthood, anyway) has always required a great deal of body self-acceptance. Because if I never got to the point that I could be happy with me, as I am, I’d spend my days wallowing in well-padded misery. And who wants to waste their life doing that?
Another disconnect with me regarding this piece is that there is not one molecule inside me that resonates with the idea of pregnancy leaving me ugly. I think pregnant women are some of the most beautiful things in all God’s creation. I’ve always worn my stretch marks with pride — after seven years of infertility, heartbreaking repeated miscarriages and wondering if I’d ever hear someone call me “Mama”, I wouldn’t have cared if pregnancy carved deep purple lines across my FACE. I just wanted to have a baby. And blessedly, I went on to have three beautiful boys! Every single time, it was a miracle, beginning to end and long after.
That’s not to say that I don’t carry proof of the toll of pregnancy on my physical self. My abdominal muscles are shot and I doubt I will ever be able to tighten them again without re-connective surgery. Something similar could be said for my pelvic floor. My chest more closely resembles the cover of National Geographic than Vogue.
But ask me if I care. Because from a cosmetic standpoint, no…I can’t say that I care at all.
Now, there are physical discomforts linked to the other issues, that I’d rather live without. Hopefully someday, I will be free of them. But the dark circles from lack of sleep, and the doughy belly, and sloppy ponytail are like badges of honor to me. And it makes me sad that we live in such a beauty-obsessed culture that young women even have to have epiphanies like the one linked above. Why can’t we just be free to love ourselves, inside and out — including the imperfect bodies we’ve been given? Why can’t our stretch marks, our scars, our extra pounds be exalted for what they are — proof that we’ve been somewhere, and done something, and not just anything but the most amazing thing a woman ever gets to do?
Think about it! We got to partner with God in creating another human life.
He looked at you, and me, and trusted us enough to let us do this amazing thing, and how sad to think we ever let our minds sink to a place of shame over the physical result of going on that adventure!
There’s a verse that says our names are carved into the palms of God’s hands. Zachary, Elias and Jonah are carved into my hips, my belly, my thighs.
Those faded pink and white lines spell out a love that I get to carry with me forever.
And for that, I will never, ever be ashamed.