This is how I came to appreciate, and yes, even love, my body.
As I lay in bed trying to brain storm ideas for a blog post about loving my body it occurs to me that my body is trying to prevent me from writing. Laying on my belly over a pillow is my preferred posture for writing in bed, but tonight I am not the only one who gets a vote. As a matter of fact my idea to lay on my belly has been completely vetoed. I don’t even get to argue my case, not that my opposition would know what I was babbling about anyway. And while we may agree on very little outside of caramel apple milkshakes from Steak and Shake, it is my opposition that has taught me to love my body.
Meet the opposition, Alice. This was taken when she was about 32 weeks gestation. She is due December 6, 2011. I marvel at her every time I look at one of these pictures. Can that be real? Is she really inside me? We found out about her in mid march, while we were trying to prepare our house to be lived in. I’d had a feeling for a couple of days… Let me rephrase that, I had known, for certain, for a couple of days, I just didn’t know how to bring it up to my husband. I knew he wouldn’t be angry, but he’d be stressed. Of course he was also really excited, so the rest didn’t really matter.
I don’t really know what prompted it, but I dove head first into learning anything and everything I could about pregnancy and birth. I felt like I was very hands off during the process, and little things like hearing her heartbeat made me bubble over. The first time I heard it I started giggling. My body did that without me knowing anything was even going on. How cool is that?! I just had to know more. I can hardly breath right now, but that is because my body is built to shift it’s contents, which are already in rather tightly, to make room for another person. Every ache and every pain is a reminder of what is going on.
One of the first pains I felt was in my hips and pubic bone. I asked people online and the only real response I got was ‘Oh, that’s lightning crotch.’ Cute, but, what is it? To the internet! Pubis Symphsis Dysfunction o_o Woah, my body was changing shape, moving my bones around, to accommodate this little thing growing inside me. I didn’t know it could do that. I was becoming impressed with my body.
Now I know that not only can my body work, without my conscious assistance, to create this little wiggler that beats on me day and night, she needs very little to survive that my body can’t provide. I mean really, if it was socially acceptable to tuck a naked baby, sans diaper, in my shirt and tie her there, she would be just fine. As her mother I have the power to completely regulate her body temperature. I can warm and cool her. I have the power to feed her for a good long time!
Not only can I feed her with the most perfect food available for her, made by my body, it will keep her pretty healthy. Sure kids can still get sick, but my breast milk will provide her with the antibodies that my body can tell she needs. I can put a drop in her eye or ear to help ward off infection. My milk will assist her in the final development her little body needs such as helping her large intestine mature. This in turn helps to prevent her from developing ulcerative colitis or necrotizing enterocolitis. It can help prevent her from being obese later in life, she will be less likely to develop breast cancer (and so will I), not to mention it will save me a fortune.
I always knew that having a baby was a pretty magical process. You hear that everywhere. I had no idea just how magical it was though. Yea, mammals produce milk to feed their young. It freaked me out, and why would I need to do it with formula on the market. Holy crap I know why now! My body has basically devoted all it’s time to making sure it is prepared to do everything the baby needs, and do it with serious flair. How could I not be in absolute awe of all of that? It doesn’t matter what I look like, how tall I am, or what I weigh, my body still has this power. No fashion magazine can take that away from me, although sometimes it seems like they try.
I have had body issues all of my life. I think most women can say that. Even in middle school, as a size 6 and a swimmer I thought I was massive. I was always a happy kid, but I never thought I was attractive, and that seemed to me to be rather important. I didn’t think unattractive women got married to great guys (such as the one I am married to) it didn’t occur to me that I had plenty of boys wanting to date me. I didn’t really even believe it when people told me about guys who were interested in me, I just went on my way, ignoring them. No
one ever asked me to a dance, I took this as a sign that there was something wrong with me. I recently found some of those old photos, I am pretty sure there was nothing wrong with me!
I never had much positive input on my appearance, at least none that I believed. I knew what I wanted to look like, and I didn’t look like that. It didn’t help matters that I am not quite 5′ 11″. I also had a few people that were ready and willing to let me know that I was, in fact, sub par. Of course I believed them. They agreed with the conclusion I had come to on my own! I had chubby cheeks, and flabby thighs. My belly was flat, but not toned, and my arms were huge! Ok, not so huge, but I wasn’t an athlete, and as such I didn’t look like one. Obviously this was a shortcoming. Right…
Well, I know better now. I was comparing myself to the exception, not the rule. If I may steal an analogy from He’s Just Not That Into You. I did find an amazing wonderful fantastic man, and somehow convinced him that he should marry me. He thinks I am beautiful, so who else really matters? Well, me of course, but I am starting to align myself more with his opinions. Now that I think I am worthy of the work it will take to get myself fit and healthy, it’s a lot easier to do it. I have found something pretty amazing about my body, and I am a happier person for it. I don’t have to constantly worry about my appearance not being socially acceptable. I simply no longer care about what other people think.
People responded to this blog fair with claims that what we look like doesn’t matter, we should be promoting loving who we are on the inside. Well, that’s really easy to say, but it’s not so easy to put into practice. It also makes absolutely no sense. Who you are and what you look like are not separate entities. What you look like can play a pretty big role in shaping who you are. So you may find yourself ugly, and not consider that a bad thing, but that doesn’t mean the outside world agrees that it’s ok. People will still treat you differently, even if you don’t think they do, and that will lend a hand to shaping who you are. To tell a little girl to disregard all outside influences, that what she looks like does not matter in the long run, and to love who she is on the inside is a really nice sentiment. It’s just not very realistic. She will want to look a certain way, she will see fashion models, she will have someone make fun of her for some trivial little thing that they think is a flaw. We live in a world where young girls are harassed both for having and for not having breasts. Seriously? You want to tell a girl to get over that and pretend like it’s nothing just because what’s on the inside is more important? Body image is something that has to be taken seriously, we all have a body, and we all have opinions on what it looks like. Saying that you don’t care, that you know you’re ugly, does not exempt you from this. In stating that you stated your opinion. Just because you have learned how to embrace it doesn’t mean it goes away. A 14 year old girl that is going into a new school as a freshman and has to wear a swim suit to gym class is not going to embrace her perceived shortcomings. Someone has to be there to tell her she is beautiful, not to worry.