I remember when I first found out I was pregnant, there was this secret thrill inside me. Equal parts terrifying and exciting, the prospect of my changing body due to the creation of a little life brought me nothing but joy. Fast forward nine months after the birth of our first baby though, that excitement dwindled and faded, and the joy traded in for resentment of my new body. While this vessel grew, carried, and delivered a baby, I was left with a shell of a body that was foreign to me and, frankly, no longer felt like my own.
Now that I’ve carried and delivered our third and final child, my body is a far cry from what it once was. It’s softer, it’s looser, and I’d be lying if I said I was where I want to be a year from now. It is not, however, anything less than miraculous. You might have noticed on this blog that I have a habit of focusing on my children in photographs. I could easily chalk that up to the fact that most of the time, I’m doing this parenting thing solo. Half of the time, however, I have people ready and willing to take a photo of me with them. And yet, I don’t. I shy away. I brush it off.
Nobody wants to see mama. People want to see smiling babies. They want happy faces. They don’t want to see mama shrinking away from the camera, lest they find see her “bad” angles. Or do they?
“Take that picture, mama.” That’s what a dear friend said to me the other day while I held our final baby on the beach, preparing to dip her toes in the water for the first time. I hesitated. It was big enough that I put on a bathing suit without an inkling of confidence. Did I dare step into that proverbial limelight and let people see those so-called flaws? Every ounce of self influenced by societal standards told me not to, but a quiet voice told me to step into the picture again, saying simply, “you are enough.”
I don’t want to reach my latter years of life, look back through the pages of our days together, and wish that I’d had the confidence to step into the frame. I don’t want my children to think that I ever thought I wasn’t good enough to be in the picture with them. Children are mirrors. If I project the sentiment that I’m not worthy to be in the frame, they’ll see that doubt reflected back at them. I never want my children to think that they’re anything less than perfect, wonderful, miraculous little babes for whom I’d give up that dream body ten times over.
So, mama, I see you. I see you pulling that loose coverup over you and feigning happiness for the camera. I see you struggling with self-confidence and your body image. I see you living in a body that’s become a stranger to you over time…because I am you, and we still exist through this metamorphosis.
But let’s change that perception of self in motherhood. No more caveats. No more, “I look good for having given birth four months ago,” or “not bad for having had three children.” You look good, mama. Damn good. Own it. Take that picture, mama, because you’re a superhero, and you’re worth it.