Sunday, March 5, 2017
In honor of International Women's Day on March 8, I will dedicate my March posts to a few ways I reject the cultural pressures I experience as a white married middle-class working mother. Lord knows there are countless other pressures that I don't deal with personally because of these categories, so I will spend time reading and learning about women from other perspectives this month, too.
For the Post-Partum Bodies
When Jasper was born I decided to give up saying negative things about my body. I didn't want him to hear me disparage myself because I have the unique opportunity to define feminine beauty for him early on. If he sees me treating my figure with respect and using it as a vehicle for movement and life, he will believe it's wonderful too. If he hears me saying kind things about other bodies, maybe he will learn to do the same.
It was painfully hard work at first. I noticed how often I thought ill of myself or had to bite my tongue. But six years later, I have brainwashed myself into thinking I look amazing 99% of the time. Refraining from speaking ill of my body caused my self-critical thoughts to get bored and, at some point, they gave up trying to make me miserable in my own skin. It's changed my relationship with the parts of me that were affected by the trauma of rape and recovery so many years ago. Now this lack of self-judgment can be a gift to my girls, too.
I pulled back the shower curtain this morning and one of my daughters was standing there looking at me. While she examined me slowly, I rejected the urge to cover up and shoo her away. I want her to see me standing up straight. I want her to know that the mother of three small children can carry her body with pride and love and confidence, even if she's several pounds heavier than her glory days weight.
"Do you remember where you lived, Solveig?" She came close to me and put her hand on the lower left portion of my torso, her home for 38 weeks. "That's where my tummy got really big to make room for you to curl up in there. And then, after you were born, it got smaller but stayed soft so you can lie your head down whenever you need to snuggle."
Carrying and delivering and nursing my children has been my greatest power as a woman. How strange, then, that society pressures women to lose every pound and become firm again as if nothing ever happened. We're conditioned to shred the evidence of miracles and ferocity. My soft core isn't a symbol of weakness or something to sweat away - it is a tribute to my strength and life and three unforgettable chapters. So I reject the narrative that says I should want the body I had at 28 because my body at 35 tells a much better story - even Solveig can see that. We are not postpartum bodies until we lose the weight or find our abs again. We are forever changed by these events in ways our bodies want to remember. And call me crazy, but I think it's okay if they look like they remember.
For the postpartum bodies out there:
You are lovely and strong. Your flesh and curves tell the story of your deepest power. May your shape be a vehicle for movement and life (soccer and Cheetos!) so that your children can witness your joy and strength as their first example of feminine beauty. For your sake and for the world, do not wish yourself away. We need you, standing up straight and being seen.
Posted by Meta Herrick Carlson