10 May 2012

The Postpartum Body

Austen is nearly 4 months old now.

After all the amazing things my body has done -- two pregnancies and natural births, feeding and sustaining this little one with my body -- I still get stuck in a rut of thinking negatively about what I see in the mirror. I pinch my arms, jiggle my thighs, and squeeze the jelly on my stomach, displeased with what I see.

the postpartum body 

My husband is incredibly complimentary. I wish I could sweep out my own thoughts of what I see reflected back to me and see myself the way he does.

I have a healthy diet and with the okay of my midwife, have been exercising regularly since Austen was 4 weeks old.

But this is beside the point. This isn't about needing diet and exercise tips, or needing to find effective tips for "banishing the mommy middle."

the postpartum body

It's about how I think about what I see. It's about what I image for her. It's about tossing aside the world's lenses through which we view a woman's body, and learning to see it for the good thing that it is.

I need to be the one to image for my daughter how to think of herself in a healthy way -- to take care with her body with good nutrition and exercise, but not to pick it apart like I find myself doing, holding it up to the totally impossible, airbrushed "ideal" that will face her on the cover of glossy magazines, on the internet, in movies, and pretty much wherever she goes in the world. Lord knows she's going to have enough challenges with the messages the world will give her, telling her she's not good enough because she doesn't leave the house looking like a PhotoShopped Victoria's Secret model.

The message I want her to get from me is that she is beautiful, no matter what. 

The message I want her to get from me is that the skin she's in is good and beautiful and exactly what it was meant to be.

Looking at her now, it kills me to think that she might ever not like what she sees when she looks at herself.

mother & daughter

If I want her to know that, I've got to believe it of me first. I can't just tell her, then run back to the mirror to pinch and jiggle those places I identify as problems, scowling at what I see.

I must image right thinking about her body for her. I must learn to appreciate what I see, even if it doesn't conform to the world's (or my) ideal. Because the ideal in the minds of so many is an utterly unattainable fake.

But this is real: this body that grew, provided a first home for, and birthed two babies, this body that continues to feed and sustain her. This is the body that for all its perceived flaws, enables me to engage with those I love. The things this body is, that this body has done, that this body has given to me -- that's a beauty that runs so much deeper than the images the world holds up and that the media helps perpetuate.

This is me, forcing myself to realign the way I've taught myself to think about what I see. I need to do it for me, but honestly ... mostly, I'm doing it for her.

I want to give her this.

Sigh ... [gulp] [deep breath] ... this is a start.