As I was getting ready one morning I stood before the mirror, naked. I looked my body up and down and despite the 50 pounds and four sizes I'd lost thanks to nursing Theodor, I was still a little critical of what was left behind.
Henrik was busy playing in my room and I had high hopes that Theo would stay in there as well as I examined the belly pooch, the saggy breasts, and stretch marks that remained from carrying and nursing two eight pound babies. The marks were fading, but still visible after all this time. Even that dark line that ran from my sternum to my pubic bone was still visible if I looked close enough. My stretch marks never turned into that tree shape that some women get. Instead, mine were more like tears in the skin. They were evenly spaced and had irregular sides. I remember each week of each pregnancy thinking "Man, I'm going to make it through this without stretch marks". There was this sense of pride, like it was an accomplishment to not have them. But then, around week thirty, the boys grew so much that my body couldn't prevent it any more. I remember thinking that they were ugly. I rubbed my over grown belly each day with copious amounts of coco butter to try and diminish them, and I was careful to watch how much I ate even though I was eating for two, but it didn't matter.
As I started to put on make-up Theo waked in. He pulled a stool over to the counter and stood up. Fantastic. Thornado is going to knock my stuff all over the counter, I thought. I started to move things out of his reach, which really meant I was moving everything off the counter.
Instead of destruction and sass though, Theo looked me up and down a few times. Should I go put on clothes? As he searched my body, he started to gently touch each of the remaining stretch marks he gave me with his soft, warm, chubby hands. I didn't say anything. I just let him touch and look. He turned his head a few times as he really studied each mark. He stopped on one of the larger marks and placed a sweet, gentle and sloppy kiss on top of it. I smiled. He stepped down from the stool, grabbed my leg and gave it a big hug. Then he walked away.
I'll never know what he was thinking when he looked at those marks. But having him touch them gave me an instant new perspective on them.
I was working hard, eating healthy, exercising and living off the bonus weight loss program from nursing for 13 months. But when I looked in the mirror minutes before this encounter, I was shocked at how, "not young", and beat up my body looked. I got compliments on how great I looked, and I smiled and agreed. My husband told me I was sexy, and I liked it, but he had to say it. Don't get me wrong, I liked that I was now wearing a size four or six and I thought I looked good, but seeing all of my non-child baring peers look stunning as they posed in their marathon and Color Run photos made me jealous.
But when Theo touched my stretch marks, I had a change of heart I never thought was possible. I was now proud of these marks. Not everyone wants to be a mother and make the emotionally challenging, selfless way of life, and the sleepless night transition to motherhood. The thought of losing control of your body to essentially a parasite for nine months (both of my boys made me pretty sick, and made me go on bed rest) as well as lose your familiar figure can be terrifying to several woman. But I chose to do it. These marks were my medal, my tattoos, my battle scars, my reward for undergoing one of life's most wonderful miracles.
I checked out myself in the mirror again. I stood up taller. My body looked better, I was able to realize that I was more womanly than I'd ever thought before. I realized I could celebrate my new size and shape. My boobs aren't perky and fun, but they have single handily nourished two healthy, strong, and beautiful boys. They are sexy. My belly isn't taught and ribbed like some of my friends or the women I see in parenting magazines, but I grew a person. I had a human growing and twisting, kicking and punching me from inside out for nine months and now, I'm left with this pooch that provides extra padding when my boys tackle me. It's an extra step for my boys as they scale my body to get as close as they can for a hug. I can't believe I didn't see it before.
It's not that I had a bad body image, just a critical one. One that reminded me of my single days soaking up the sun in a bikini before I traded it in for the tankini to cover a growing baby belly and a one-piece that I have to wear during swim lessons and trips to the pool so my boys don't expose too much of me.
Thanks to my son, I've now got a better understanding of who I am and why I should be proud of it. You won't hear me tell my boys that I'm fat, or unhappy with my body because I've truly learned the value of self image. I still watch what I eat and exercise, but it's not to change my physical self. It's to stay fit and healthy so I can keep up with these boys. So that when they say they want to go climb a mountain, I can go. When they say they want to play catch in the backyard, I won't get worn out and now, when they say they want to go swimming, I'll be confident enough to wear shorts and remove them to show off my swimsuit body (maybe one day a bikini). My body isn't Victoria Secret Model beautiful, it's mom beautiful and I can't think of anything better than that.
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