If you are pregnant or have recently had a baby, you should click over to this piece by Kate Fridkis on Huffington Post right now. Seriously. It’s a great look at the external forces that make a woman question and doubt and fear the changes on her body from pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. The whole piece is wonderful and talks candidly about all the messages designed to alarm us about our bodies and the insidious message that we should do our best to erase all the changes that motherhood – or even simply time and living – wreak on our bodies. Changes that we know in our hearts are good changes. As Ms. Fridkis put it:
And at the same time, I know exactly what they mean when they tell me to make sure I get my body back. They mean the one with the least amount of evidence of life. They mean something like erasure. Erasure would be perfect. And automatically, I want that. What if I have stretch marks? What if I can’t lose the weight? What if my breasts sag and I am always a little lumbering after this? What if I have a different body then, one that I don’t quite recognize?
Well, I will have a different body then. The way we are always growing into new, different bodies, because that is the way that bodies work. That is the way it’s supposed to be. A body is a long story with twists and surprises and secret abilities almost like little super powers. I never knew my body could do the things it is doing now, which is why I am instinctively proud.
Yes! Yes! A thousand time, yes! I often joke that after I had my kids, I had all the same parts but nothing is exactly where I left it before pregnancy. My waist is a little higher, my rear end a little lower, my breast a little longer, and line of my jaw a little softer. I am softer all over, more malleable, a safe landing for children who need a place to fall in joy or sadness. My skin has the powdery feel of maturity not the dewy resilience of youth, a texture that speaks to me of comfort and peace. I look, in short, like a mother.
I could get on a treadmill or slather on products or stretch out on a surgeon’s table and try to mitigate the effects of time and birth and life. But the only result would be that I look like a woman trying to hide something. I would take on the stretched, shiny veneer of the professionally beautiful, the kind of women who stalk across the screen on reality shows about rich women who trade on their beauty. I could strive for a result where people say “I can’t believe you have two kids!”.
But why would I ever want to hide evidence of my two kids?
I want the lines on my face, the backs of my hands, my hips and my belly, to tell the story of my life. I want them to tell the stories of my son and my daughter. I want you to see the love in my body because love is at the center of motherhood. And that love is beauty incarnate.