I am writing this naked.
The kids are in bed and I am free to shed my clothes and be as I please. I look down at this naked body that has been through so much and see a story. I see my arms with tattoos. My soft stomach with scars and a stretched out belly button. My breasts that are bigger than they used to be, but also not as perky. One breast is bigger than the other from years of my children favoring one side to nurse on. I have hips and a butt that jiggle when I walk, that are covered in stretch marks both old and new. I can see the scar on my right leg, and where my real leg blends into my blue prosthetic one.
I have never before in my life been as critical of my body as I have been in the last few months. I have become consumed with the way my clothes no longer fit or feel comfortable. Consumed with plans to work out that always seem to fall through. For the first time in my life I bought a dieting book, and said no to cake. At one point I even looked up how taking diet pills would affect my milk supply.
This, my third postpartum, has been the hardest. My body didn’t do what it had done with my previous two children when it bounced back within the first year with no effort. It’s strange to look in the mirror and not recognize my own body or to go to a store and no longer know what size to buy.
Consumed by the numbers, I started to weigh myself daily. When I looked up from the scale one day, and saw that I had little people watching me, I realized some thing needed to change and that thing wasn’t my body. I needed to do something radical to change how I viewed this new body.
I looked back to figure out when and why I became so critical of myself. I asked myself how is it that I see so many flaws in my own body and yet look at other women and see nothing but their beauty and their strength.
It’s all in the messages we hear every day. I remember being 15 and going to buy new clothes because after seven and a half months of chemo I was so thin nothing fit me. I picked out some things in a size 2 and even that was too big on my body. When I told the sales clerk I needed a 0, she smiled and seemed almost excited that I could fit into such a small size. A few years later I had the flu and got so sick that I lost 10lbs in a week. When I got back to work I was complimented on how good I looked. Four months after my last baby was born I was down 5 lbs under my pre-pregnancy weight, all due to the stress of my marriage falling apart and increasing levels of anxiety. Yet all the voices around me kept telling me how great I looked, and how fantastic it was that I lost all my baby weight so quickly.
Why is it that all the times I’ve been praised have been when I was my most thin due to sickness and stress?
My worth is not measured by the size of my clothes. Discovering that truth has made me recognize this body more and more as my own. Whenever I hear the negative voices in my head telling me that it’s not good enough, I choose to change the narrative. I look in the mirror and see each and every scar and remind myself that I got them with strength. I look at my stretch marks and see the weight I gained after being sick with cancer. I see the weight I gained growing 3 healthy babies. I look at the softness in my breasts and stomach and see how much the people I love get so much comfort from these places.
I’ve grown to love my curves. To love my hips that I used to hate. To love my breasts that are lopsided, and my butt that makes it impossible to find jeans. I remind myself that I have two girls watching me and I want them to grow up looking in the mirror and seeing all their body is, instead of all that it isn’t.
I no longer step on the scale, I no longer say no to cake, I no longer care what size the tag on my clothes say. I look down at my naked body, and I know it’s mine. It’s been marked with my journey, my stories, my experiences and I love the story it tells.