"What are these?” my two year old said.
”They’re elbows,” I told him.
”Oh.” He touched them gently. “I love your elbows.”
Kasher was looking at my elbows.
I just stood there, staring down at these places called elbows with the wrinkly skin, which I’d never really seen before.
I’m a former anorexic. I starved myself for seven years of my life because I thought I wasn’t pretty enough, wasn’t skinny enough, wasn’t—enough. And having kids who squeal when I enter a room and a husband who begs me to walk in the garden with him when the kids are in bed and smell the apple blossoms—these people have taught me something about what it is to be loved.
But it’s still hard to look in the mirror.
Isn’t this most of us, mothers? We don’t look at ourselves, do we? And when we do, we cringe—our daughters seeing it all.
We lament our post-baby physique, the loss of firm muscles and slim curves and we forget, the miracle of pregnancy lost in the folds and the blue veins lacing up our legs like Crayola marker.
But what if our stretch marks were, in fact, scars we bore proudly? Because, friends, you produced life, glory-be. Life was woven within your very womb and you nourished it and held it tenderly for nine months and then broke apart so a human being could be born. That’s something to be proud of.
And yet we hide behind sweat pants and sweaters.
Rachel Jankovic, author of Loving the Little Years, writes,
You should not spend your days trying to preserve your body in its eighteen-year-old form. Let it be used. By the time you die, you want to have a very dinged and dinted body … Scars and stretch marks and muffin tops are all part of your … work.
So sisters, here are seven reasons we should love our bodies—reasons to wrap around our mirrors and any piece of glass in our home, reasons to stop and smile at our reflection:
- You’ve got a new name now. It’s Mother, and it comes with a new body. You don’t need to go back to who you were because you aren’t her anymore. You’ve been through a warzone, friend, and you wear new armor now. And it looks like a soft stomach and a flatter chest and varicose veins.
- Your children and your husband, thank you. You gave up your life so others could have one. You surrendered your skin, your nights, your waistline so that history could be woven within you. When your loved ones look at you, they look with gratitude, they rise up and call you blessed, because you are the most beautiful kind of woman: a selfless one.
- The measure of a mother is not in her dress size, but in the number of her heart rings. Like an oak, your heart rings increase with every smile, every laugh, every tickle fight with your preschooler, every coffee date with your adolescent daughter. Every tearful prayer for the runaway, every kiss you give your husband, every cuddle, every snuggle—these are the true measurements of a life, these heart-rings.
- Beauty is not found in the sharp edges, but in the soft corners—those places your family can find refuge. No husband ever wished his wife had more angles—that’s a lie the fashion magazines feed us. It’s all about soft, honey. Soft and inviting.
- Your body bears witness to all the giving it’s done. Your skin is an epitaph to compassion, your legs and arms, branches of a family tree. The lines around your eyes are maps to your soul, to your life-bearing, prayerful, caring heart.
- Your limbs perform the function they serve. If you’re looking to erase some of those weary lines, some of those dark smudges, look at yourself in the mirror and say “Thank you, arms, for carrying my babies; thank you, legs, for carrying my body; thank you, stomach for holding my family,” and soon, your skin will be glowing. Your body longs to be remembered and honored.
- And finally, we should love our bodies because they were formed in our mothers’ wombs.
Anne Lamott says she lovingly spreads lotion into her skin each night, treating her body like a friend.
Let’s do that too, sisters.
Let’s treat these well-worn vessels like beloved friends. For they’ve served us well.
This post originally appeared at Lisa-Jo Baker’s blog.
Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of five books including the memoir Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (Baker Books). She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. For more info, please visit emilywierenga.com. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.