Like many women, I’ve had a complex relationship with my body over the years.
I’m naturally on the petite side, but growing up, it didn’t take long before I felt the need to “get in shape,” “tone up,” get rid of those (natural) rolls of skin that appear when you (when everyone) sit down. Then in college, I felt that pressure even more. I learned what calories were, I sought out food that had as few as possible, looked for the infamous “fat-free” labels, and all that jazz. I ripped out magazine articles with instructions on how to lose those last five pounds, and how to get a six-pack in 20 minutes a day (though I failed at execution — my love for college fun won nine times out of ten).
As I grew into my 20s, my relationship with my body evolved as I realized that I couldn’t sustain myself on the same diet of my college years (pizza and partying take a toll). I tried both good and bad methods: daily green juices (Liz feels amazing!), cutting carbs out completely (Liz wants to die!). I began a new journey of learning what actually made my body feel its best.
And then I had a baby and everything flipped upside down.
I had a wonderful pregnancy; I’m one of those women who really enjoyed those nine months. I loved my bump; I loved the new curves that pregnancy gave me. I overall felt fabulous. I was in awe of what my body was doing, what it was creating, but it wasn’t until I gave birth to my beautiful baby boy that I truly began the process of appreciating it all.
As I nursed my son, giving him food my own body was creating for him, I sat, almost stunned, by it all. The months and years have gone by, I’ve given birth to another baby boy just 19 months after the first, and I sit here today with a completely different view on my body.
There are a lot of side effects to motherhood (exhaustion, dark circles, new stresses, empty wallets, nonstop messes), but this new love towards my own body wasn’t one of the expected effects. I now see myself, and every little piece that makes up me, from top to bottom, in a new refreshing light.
I love my new hair. Pregnancy gave me flowing locks, postpartum took it all away, and now I’m left with hair that has decided to grow wavier by the day. As I lost strand after strand for months postpartum, I began to let it air dry in an attempt to preserve whatever was left, and in doing so, I have learned to embrace my “au naturale” locks for better or for worse. And oh my, the ease in letting it air-dry? I’m totally in love with that.
I love my eyes, the same color blue as the eyes on my first baby boy. He may look like his Dada, but there is no denying he’s his mama’s blue-eyed boy.
I love my smile that shines even on the darkest of days because, with my two little boys, nothing can keep the sillies away for long.
I love my ears that have heard the most glorious things over the past few years, from coos and giggles to first words and imaginative stories. I’m grateful for my ears for hearing the cries for “Mama” in the middle of the night so I can wake and rock.
I love my breasts despite society telling me that they’re not ideal. Pregnancy gave me curves, nursing took them away quicker than I could say “weaning.” But these two ladies did more than I could ever have imagined, gifting me with a wonderful nursing experience round one and an incredibly enlightening experience round two. They may be small, but they’re mighty.
I love my arms, as scrawny as they may appear. They’re becoming stronger by the day as I carry around two growing boys (and dinosaurs, trucks and balance bikes).
I love my stomach, my squishy belly, that housed two babies within two years. I never had a six-pack, and I most likely never will. And I’m finally OK with that; all it took was time, perspective, and some really fabulous one-piece swimsuits.
And I love my stomach for telling me what it needs these days, what it really wants. Some days, that’s a big bowl of protein and veggies; other days it’s mac-n-cheese. I listen to them both.
I love my thighs, thighs that helped to push two babies out into the world. I love my legs for holding me upright, in sunshine and storms, and for allowing me to chase after those two very active babies at playground and parks.
I love my feet, even when they were swollen in the hospital. They keep going, no matter what. Much like their leader.
I love my body’s stamina, for getting up morning after morning, middle of the night after middle of the night, despite exhaustion, despite desperation for my 11-month-old to finally, please, sleep through the night.
Now mind you, I’m no superhero of a woman who never has a negative thought cross her mind about her physical appearance. I’m normal, and the dreaded self-loathing beast still wiggles in. But after giving birth to my babies, I now feel stronger than ever to push it back out where it belongs. It is no longer welcome here.
I love my body.
According to what the mass media tells us, it’s definitely not perfect — far from it. I haven’t seen a gym in too many years to count, and don’t plan on seeing one anytime soon in all honesty. But my body, it’s made me proud. And there is no body better suited for holding and hugging and lugging around the two beautifully active boys it created.