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On Beauty, Bodies And Love: An Open Letter To My Daughter

"The greatest gift I can give you is to show you how to shine from the inside out."
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Mother and daughter having fun on sofa
Mother and daughter having fun on sofa

Dear Maddie Mae,

Yesterday, my pants didn't fit. No amount of pulling or prodding or squeezing or calisthenics would do.

In my 30-plus years on this earth I've lived in a myriad of different bodies: thin, athletic, perfectly tanned; strong, boney, heavy; pregnant and post-partum.

Throughout those years, and inside those very different bodies, I’ve had moments of feeling both proudly beautiful and, sadly, not-so-pretty. But in the months since you were born, Maddie Mae, I’ve realized that in spite of what perfections or imperfections my body might have, I feel my most beautiful in this body, as your mother.

And yesterday, as I struggled to pull up my pants, in that small, frustrating moment, I nearly forgot what mattered — like you may, too, one day — and it nearly made me cry.

But today, in spite of my clothes that just won't fit, let me make this clear: Beauty is so much more than what we look like, or pants that fit just right. Beauty is heart and soul, and a love that makes the world shine.

Yesterday, my pants didn't fit, not over these hips that birthed you, not around the belly that gave you life. Not even these arms — the ones that rock you to sleep, feed you so you can grow big and strong, and comfort you when you need them — were able to complete the task.

But as I gave up trying to button them, before a tear could fall, our eyes met and you greeted me with the most genuine smile, like all your smiles are. You, little girl, reminded me that my size doesn't define my beauty, nor does a pair of pants.

These widened hips and stretched-out belly tell the story of the hopes and sacrifices and challenges my body faced to give my little girl life. Along with stretch marks and thinning post-partum hair, they make up the heart and soul that fought so hard to make our family whole by bringing us you.

Your sweet smile reminded me that today, in this different body, I'm beautiful — not because I fit in skinny jeans, or because my hair is perfectly in place. Not because my skin is flawless, or because I have lips to die for. Not because I wear the latest trends, or because I look great in a bikini.

No, those aren't the things that make your mama beautiful. Instead, it is your mama's love for you that makes her so. Love is this voice that sings you to sleep, and will tell you daily, forever, how much you are loved. It is this body that gave you life — no matter how different it may now look. It is these arms, which keep you safe, and hold you so tight, but also know when to let you go. My soul is what gives you guidance and teaches you lessons along the way. And it is this heart that will love you through life’s challenges and rejoice in all your perfect imperfections.

Because beauty, my Maddie Mae, as cliché as it may sound, is not about fitting “just right.” No. Beauty is our heart and soul. And the greatest gift I can give you is to show you how to shine from the inside out.

Yesterday, my pants didn't fit. But it's OK; because I saw my heart in your luminous smile and that, Maddie Mae, is beauty.

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