This body of mine grows and shifts and changes and meets the demands of the ordinary Tuesday when we had pancakes for breakfast as well as the good Friday on which I gave birth to my firstborn. It climbs mountains and carries groceries and steps on stools to reach the dish on the top shelf. This body walks trails outside and walks across the hall at two in the morning to comfort a scared heart and walks my ragged self into his arms at the end of a day too heavy.
This body has said hard goodbyes and breathless hellos and held heartache and comforted grief by carrying a bowl of soup. It has spoken truth over a broken heart and dreamed new dreams and new plans and new ways to decorate the living room. This body cradled newborns and lived through the sleepless exhaustion and held an infant on one hip and a toddler on the other. This body of mine has expanded and shrank and expanded and shrank only to expand once more as yet another life grows inside.
This body has served me well.
And so, I wonder: Why is it so easy to believe otherwise?
Why is it so easy to instead see a betrayal when my body doesn't look the way they say it should or it has to get bigger once again for new life or doesn't immediately bounce back to the original pre-pregnancy weight?
Because then there are the lies from the bathroom mirror and the shouts from the magazine covers. There is the sticky obsession with the number on the scale or the number on our pants or how self-esteem and self worth and self confidence seem to be so closely tied with how small that number is or how well our body functions.
And the little voices of comparison can be so loud. The small whispers that count out the reasons for insecurity or "Less Than" or not measuring up or never being able to be what she is can all be so very piercing.
These bodies of ours shift and change over time, one of the hardest pieces to come to terms with. They aren't static, they aren't statues. They grow to meet the demands of the day and of the season and sometimes, to meet the request to build a new life.
It is this shift that honestly, actually held some very difficult moments for me. Because sometimes in the language of pregnancy I only heard lost control and gained pounds. Sometimes, if I am honest with you, pregnancy was synonymous with losing my fit body that I had worked so hard to achieve. I heard the shouts of the magazines and the media and the critics and the comparisons in my own head louder than I heard the promises of worth and purpose and beauty.I saw the growing body and the growing numbers on the scale and then after she was born I saw the numbers on the scale that didn't shrink and the squishy belly that stayed squishy.
But then. Then I look in the mirror once more. And I don't let myself turn away. I convince my mind to see my body for what it has done for me. I see hips that carry my 3-year-old and strong arms that hold my toddler and legs that carry both up the stairs. And then I look down and see them. I see the one learning to color and the one dancing across the floor I see my expanding belly and the new life and the confidence instilled deep that can now silence the insecurity and loosen my grip on the scale.
Because beauty is so much more than flat abs and toned thighs. Beautiful is simply being comfortable in your own skin. True beauty, actual beauty, is accepting and knowing who you are and living firmly within that identity.
Because we are more than the numbers on the scale. We are more than the size of our pants. We are more than that one body part we'd rather change. We are the millions of experiences that have transformed us into who we are. We are courageous and powerful and beautiful and strong and can offer up lives that tell that story rather than one of defeat and Less Than.
Why is it so hard to believe beauty when really, all of our bodies serve us well, don't they? They do their best with what they've been given. And just look. Look at what our bodies can do. They house dreams and carry babies and serve those we love and those we don't know. They dance in the kitchen and in ballet class and climb stairs and cheer from the sidelines and whisper love to those who need it.
Our bodies allow us to be in this life with our people.
If we could only stop the running commentary in our heads and our hearts long enough to see ourselves as we really are. Can we believe that we have so much to offer to this world and to our people? What if we change the perspective on these bodies of ours and instead of seeing a betrayal, see a poem? See that we are actually this ever-evolving masterpiece that is still being written.
Because really, our bodies play a central role in the story we tell.
So let's bear witness to what our poem is going to say, what our lives are going to proclaim. Let's begin to see these bodies for what they can do rather than what they can't, what they have given us rather than what they have withheld, what story they are capable of writing rather than how inadequate they seem. Whether it is birthing babies or fighting for your family or daring to step into that new dream or breaking the mold or hiking that trail or carrying that grief with hope or teaching those people or stirring that soup.
And that, my friend, is perfectly enough and perfectly beautiful.
Sarah Sandifer writes about her thoughts on life, motherhood, and marriage at www.thejellyjars.com