Every once in awhile, I like to pause for a moment of silence and sort of mourn the loss of certain things about my body. It’s a narcissistic and masochistic practice, honestly. Certainly not a healthy one. But the fact of the matter is, after you’ve grown a human (and related extra organs) and shoved said human out of your vagina, possibly fed said human from your own body, and essentially deprived yourself from sleep, real food, and regular exercise for any length of time, you’re just not going to be the same in body (nevermind mind).
My body was sort of built for building babies. You know, “child bearing hips.” And one too many jokes from my pediatric nurses about how my swollen post-labor boobs could feed five babies, let alone one. And things got so large, stretched so easily, that nothing ever really went back into place. I thought this was the nature of my build or due to how I physically bore pregnancy. Imagine my surprise when locker-room talk with my stick-figure-skinny friend turned to the changes in her body. I don’t know why I assumed the problem was unique to me, but I realized then that all mothers are walking around changed without the time or knowledge to really learn to love their new selves.
Here is where I’ve landed though: Things are different, but I’m not really unhappy with it anymore. I won’t say that I wear stretch marks like a “badge of honor” as some women might. And I certainly wish that my boobs were smaller. (I will always wish my boobs were smaller.) But these are things that I can accept and move on from. I move on by embracing the changes and unlearning what I once knew. Instead, I learn how to work with what I’ve now got.
One of my favorite things about LaTonya’s style expertise is the way she encourages women to be present. “Buy the jeans that fit you know,” and etc. This is an important concept for women when our culture is constantly informing us of the standard we should meet. NO! You bring the standard to you.
Last month, I needed jeans. For four years, since my first baby was born, if I’ve need something like jeans—a staple, for goodness sake—I’ve just marched to my local Forever21 and grabbed whatever was good on the $7 table. That’s no way to treat a body that’s made two beautiful people! Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a little Forever21 goodness. The problem was in my attitude. The problem was in giving in to the standard and saying, “The way I am now, it’s not worth investing in.” Well, last month, I took my new body out and I clothed it with pieces that were worth something to me. Sure, I gave myself a bigger budget; but what I mean is that I looked for quality; I looked for clothes that were made to fit my body well; I looked for pieces that praised my figure for a job well done and that left me feeling beautiful. I invested in myself.
When I was 17 and vain and yet still ignorant of my flawless youth, I thought, “I will age so gracefully.” It’s a little tougher to meet each physical change in the present than it is to dream such a thing in the future though. I’ve saddened myself at how little grace I’ve given the aging process. And I always marvel at how the little things—things like buying nice clothes that fit the current you—can cast off a whole heaping hunk of nasty attitude. Sure, clothes and fashion and make-up and hair can all be whittled down into something silly and shallow. At the surface, that’s all it is. But a good pair of jeans, I recently learned, can also remind me to be present (be me now!), to be confident (yes! you do have a waist still!), and to be proud of who I am (trying to walk in heels!).
One of the best things about being a mother of daughters is that, what I do for myself now, ultimately effects their future. I hope to be the mother that wholesomely but wholly loved herself at all stages. I can model being present, being confident, and, frankly, just being human. I can show them how to set their own standard rather than having to fight to be like whatever culture’s standard tells them when they’ve grown.
“Be graceful,” is what I want them to know. “Be you.”
Sarah Ann Noel is a writer, mother, and one of my dearest friends. She is also in the process of writing her first book! I’m honored she has agreed to grace this space on occasion, with her wisdom and heartfelt words. Thank you so much Sarah.