I had a giant sized poster of Keanu Reeves on my wall when I was younger (it was after I saw the movie Speed: I wanted Keanu to be my boyfriend, and I wanted to actually be Sandra Bullock). Before Keanu, it was Jonathan Taylor Thomas. And before him (and likely during that time too – I was a two timer), it was Daniel di Tomasso (my high school Italian Stallion “boyfriend” (we held hands) whom I adored. Fun fact: he and actress, Jessica Pare were in a theatre production of Robin Hood when Daniel and I were “dating” in high school). Before Daniel, it was Tom Roberts, the cute South African boy who lived across the street. I drew a picture of us in my diary at our wedding, kissing, and vowing to live happily ever after. I was 6 years old at the time.
With the exception of Daniel, none of those stud muffins ever became my boyfriend. And I’m sure glad they didn’t, because if they had, I wouldn’t have found Ted, and I wouldn’t have had Madison.
Why oh why does any of this matter?
Apart from it being super fun to make fun of me and my love interests from my younger and more vulnerable years, this really and truly matters most because for every one of those boys I liked, and for all the boys who came after them who actually became my boyfriends, I did a heck of a lot of trying to be and look a certain way in order to get them to like me. Whether it was a trim body, or a sexy new pair of peace sign earrings, an oversized Club Monaco sweatshirt and stirrup pants (so sexy) with a choker (a necklace that goes around your neck) to entice them, my perfect image was – in my opinion – the only way I would ever get their attention (never mind the fact that I was sweet and kind and a straight A student).
So with almost a lifetime’s worth of fashion magazines in my subconscious, who can blame a girl for being sensitive about her body at any stage of her life, and especially after she’s given birth? Things change, and according to my early teen magazines and the fashion magazines that followed, these changes are not part of the approved sexy lady curriculum.
And yet something is shifting in me these days. I’m maturing in a way that I never have before (and this is big, considering I came out of the womb trying to be an adult). As I was taking my morning walk with the babe yesterday, I had a sudden surge of self-love. Like, serious body love.
Madison in arms, I trudged along down the street, and I couldn’t help but to puff my chest out and feel like a warrior. A goddess. A strong ass woman who really and truly can do anything I put my mind to. With every stride, I felt the power flowing through me.
Nothing has really changed. I’m still heavier than I want to be. I still have a bigger-than-I’m-used-to belly. And there are some things that shall not be named that aren’t quite what they used to be. But rather than look down at my body and feel disgust, instead, I felt its power. And gosh darn it, I felt proud. Proud of my body, yes. But also, proud to be me.
Do you think I’m being full of myself? Well, I am! Why shouldn’t I be? And to loosely quote Marianne Williamson, who am I not to? I’m owning my awesomeness today, people! And frankly, you should be owning yours too! Not at the expense of anyone else, of course! But rather to the advantage of yourself and your self esteem (and funnily enough, by owning your own greatness, you’re a more delightful, productive and happy person, which makes you lovely to be around. So really, everybody wins).
I’ve spent enough time shaming and hating on my body since I gave birth (and – let’s be honest – ever since I saw my first teen magazine and realized I “should” look a certain way and should eat this and not that to stay trim. That way, maybe Jonathan Taylor Thomas would magically show up in my life and marry me and we’d live happily ever after. The end.).
I’ll be honest, I’m probably not going to love my body all of the time over night, but at least I’m going to be more aware of how I’m talking to my body, and what I’m teaching my daughter every time I look in the mirror, every time I smile at or make a look of disgust at myself, and of course – every time I verbally reference my body in anything other than a loving you’re-a-badass-mama-jama way.
So ladies and gents, mothers and fathers, friends and loved ones, this is why I love my postpartum, perfect-in-all-of-its-imperfections body:
1. It reminds me that I’m strong.
Every stretch mark, every extra pound, all the new curves, the fullness of my belly – all of it serves to remind me that not long ago, I carried a life inside me. That’s a kind of strength I never knew I was capable of, and it is the kind of strength that only a woman (those of us who are lucky enough to bare children) can ever truly know.
2. It reminds me that I’m powerful.
To feel a life growing inside you is to feel the true force of nature. We are not in charge. Nature is. If you’ve ever been in the ocean, you have felt this same truth as the waves washed over your body and you tried to either resist or to go with the flow of the current. Just like the ocean, to carry life and to give birth to it is incredibly powerful. Not just metaphorically, but also physically: to experience the forceful power of the contractions that inevitably open your body up and push the baby out of your body, well, that is true power.
3. It reminds me that true beauty lies within.
Though my tummy and body don’t look the same, my heart is still the same. And it’s really pretty! Besides, nobody greets you and measures your stomach or asks you to weigh in (unless you’re at weight watchers, in which case, that’s kind of par for the course). They measure the content of your character. Their soul scans yours and decides if you are good or not, and my soul has surely gotten brighter…and gooder too.
4. It reminds me that I created a life.
There isn’t a single day that passes where I don’t look at Madison (my daughter) and marvel at the fact that she grew from and came out of my body. It’s just…wow.
5. It reminds me to be grateful.
Grateful because half of the human race doesn’t get to experience this (men), and further still, not all women get to experience it for a variety of reasons. And further to that, some that do don’t survive the labor process. Childbirth is incredibly humbling and dangerous (every rose has a thorn, right?), and for every woman who gets to experience both it and the joys of being a mother that follow, well, it is truly an honor, one that I will be grateful for as long as I live and breathe.
6. It reminds me that nothing is permanent.
Life is an ebb and flow. Just like Madison was never meant to stay inside me, and my body changed as she grew, this postpartum piece is just another phase that my body is going through. There are more to come, and thanks to this experience, I feel prepared to meet and greet them with a healthy attitude (of gratitude).
7. It reminds me to be flexible.
If nothing is permanent, then it wouldn’t serve me to try to hold onto anything. Perhaps the greatest gift of being human is our ability to adapt, to be flexible. Childbirth and the postpartum recovery have helped me to see this even more clearly.
8. It reminds me that everything and anything is possible.
So let me get this straight. You’re telling me that a head measuring 12-15 inches in circumference is going to come out of a hole measuring a half an inch in circumference, or (in other cases) that said being will be cut out of the abdomen, and both parties will survive to tell the tale? Apparently, yes. Indeed, it’s the only way any of us are sitting here today. If that doesn’t defy the laws of what’s possible, I don’t know what does.
So whether you’re a mom or you’re going through menopause or you’ve ever read a magazine that made you feel like you had to be something other than you are in order to love and be loved, this is for you. Let every mark on your body be a reminder that you have had the privilege of living a full life. And let that feeling of a life fully lived be your new sexy.
Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.
With love, and a little help from my friend, Dr Seuss,