Today I tried to get ready for church and cried, big juicy tears. Nothing fit or looked good on me. Nine years and four different pregnancies has left its mark and toll on my body. I cried in my closet looking at all of my beautiful clothes that ones fit my body. I mourned the body I had before I had children. That naturally skinny body wasn’t perfect, but it fit into all these clothes. I didn’t want perfection today I just didn’t want to look pregnant anymore and feel nice- without the baby barf smell either.
My husband was dealing with our fussy three month old baby while I closed the door and cried on the floor in the closet. He couldn’t put the baby down, so instead he sent in my six year old son. He wrapped his arms around my belly that once carried all my babies, the belly I wished was more flat. My son hugged me close and said, “Mommy I love you.” And little voice inside my head questioned- weren’t they worth it?
My Teenage Journey
Like most teens you can ride a roller coaster of emotions mixed with insecurity and for me it also included an eating disorder. Having an eating disorders is something I wish I could erase. When I look at this dark season in my life I shudder in embarrassment. I soooo wish I could go back in time to the moment I was shopping with my friends and wondered if something was wrong with my body shape when they fit in clothes I didn’t. But, when you’re almost six foot tall and bigger than all of your girl and guy friends in junior high – it’s hard NOT to feel out of place with yourself.
I remember one night my mother caught me in a lie I had gotten away with several times before. I refused to eat dinner, then brushed her off with the excuse of I ate earlier right when my stomach lurched with hunger and she heard it grumble literally across the room. Shame and guilt filled my heart as my mother started to cry recognizing her own adolescent battle surface through me.
That night my mom came into my room and opened up to me about her infertility problems. I knew my parents struggled to have children, it was obvious when I was the only child for six years followed by an adopted sister and then seven months another sister. My parents road of struggling to have children was painful and full of grief for years. I remember my mother talking about the way she felt at my age and how we mirrored each other. Then, ever so softly through her tears my mother explained to me if I continued to go on this path of body hate and mutilation – that one day I would deprive my older self of baring children-. I remember crying on my mother’s shoulder that night and plead for help.
My journey of self-love and viewing food as fuel is- quite frankly- still a working progress. I eat and drink real foods that fuel my body, purposely don’t own a scale and frequently walk the neighborhoods at midnight. When I eat and live the active life I should, you’d think I should be healthy and feel good about my body. But, what do you do with the body you don’t recognize after pregnancy? Even after all the good habits you continued through your pregnancy when that baby leaves your body, what are you left with? Tell me- what are you left with? To me- I have a beautiful gift in my arms that I adore. BUT- I also have a body in shambles and that silenced voice of self-hatred started speaking to me again.
After my first pregnancy I honestly thought once you had a baby your skin just magically slips back into pre-baby form. That’s what happens in the movies! Hollywood stars look fantastic merely hours after having their baby. How do they do it?? I called my mother a month after I had my baby in a fit of tears.
“Mom, I still look pregnant!”
“Ummm- ya, you had a baby!”
“But what about the movies? What about all those Hollywood stars? They don’t look pregnant anymore! What’s their secret.”
And she legit snickered, “well Morgan, it takes time.”
“But how much time? The Stars–”
“–that’s not real life Morgan.”
And then the reality of a conversation started: “Stars have someone else caring, feeding, changing their baby for them. Of course they have energy to work-out, they slept more than eight hours of consecutive sleep. Did you?”
I wish this was a conversation I had with my mother before I had children. The expectation of what parenthood looks like on the Stars or social media is not reality. The phrase that is burned into my memory forever is:
My mother was right, we dear friends need to be more kind to ourselves and to others. A mother isn’t simply “letting herself go” when she sports that bun and sagging stomach skin. And a mother who is often visiting the gym isn’t “ignore her children”- both these women are on their own beautiful journey of confident motherhood. Through my nine years experience of motherhood there are three ways I have identified that help us confidently have a healthy body image.
Three ways to confidently have a healthy body image
1- Separate Reality from False Reality
In the era of social media where everyone posts everything… there is a lot of false lives mixed within the picture perfect best parts of life. Truthfully- who wants to see the brutally honest pictures of parent fails, toddler tantrums and marriage hardships 100% of the time? Some people like to post it all, while others like to share only the good stuff. Whatever style of posting you do- remember as the viewer- it is your responsibility not to compare their best day to your worst day. And when it comes to comparing your life to the celebrities- don’t. You are wasting precious energy lusting after a lifestyle that in their own way- is hard too. Choose to separate reality from false reality and *choose to be happy with what you have in your life. Doesn’t mean you can’t dream for something better- but move forward in baby steps.
My journey of self-love and healthy body image is something I work on almost daily. Perspective is a fantastic tool in helping a person take a step back and re-evaluate what is important. Am I thrilled about my stretch marks? Not so much, but those stretch marks mean I grew some pretty awesome people. Other mother’s would kill for that opportunity.
Again, perspective. When it comes to actual size or fitting into the old clothes- choose to cut yourself some slack. It took time to grow that baby- it will take time to feel like yourself again. Use perspective and separate yourself from your body-self image. You are you- no matter what size or shape you are today and tomorrow. In the meantime, choose to move forward in baby steps. If you goal is to get back to the pre-pregnancy body you once had- remember it takes time, energy and patience.
3- Know that YOU are enough
Sometimes I get irritated when the baby cries. I just put him down and I’d like to take a shower! But, then there are those times where I look into those sweet, kind eyes and realize he wants me, just the way I am. Yes, you may be the buffet table express for your baby at all hours of the day and night for awhile, but they want you. In fact, did you know that a mother’s smell (even the haven’t showered in days smell) is actually a comfort to your little one? My husband and I have a joke that if we’re wearing a clean shirt- the baby will barf on us right away to claim his territory with the familiar smell… of barf. Yippee!
That baby, your kids, they don’t care what or who you’re wearing, if their home is pinterest picture-perfect. What truly matters is that you spend time with them. What our kids want is this:
Life is not all cupcakes and rainbows- I know that. I consider myself a pretty positive person, and even I *gasp* have tough days and cry in my closet. I believe the key to having a healthy body image is hinged on our choices. Choose to separate reality from false reality and have perspective when browsing through the newsfeed. Every time we glance at our phone don’t compare your worst days to someones best. Instead, applaud someone for their good work (who knows how long it took them to get where they are). Keep doing your best because that’s what matters!
Our bodies are a gift. I know how incredible my body is for growing four little humans! Most days, I know I am a rockstar, and then other days- I have to re-teach myself to be kind to my body. There is always room for improvement- but be patient with yourself because you know- you are good enough just as you are.
And for those of you wondering- I did go to church the day my husband heard me crying in the closet. In fact, I wore the cutest outfit that I felt good in, wore four inch heels and held my head high. I know my mother would be proud of how much I’ve grown to have a healthier body image and pray that I continue to set a good example for my daughter too.
Sending warm fuzzies your way dear friend,
Have you ever struggled with having a healthy body image? What have you done to turn the negativity around?