We moms have been through an amazing experience—nine months of our bodies morphing into the perfect greenhouse for new life. Experts say the long gestation period gives us time to adjust.
Who are they kidding?
I’m still trying to adjust to my post-baby body.
With the assistance of surgeons, I birthed four lovely children. While I admired every inch of their perfect beings, I lamented the ways they seemed to suck the beauty out of mine.
Immediately post-baby I turned into a cartoon monster. Body parts went rogue. The haphazard leaking, swollen Fred Flintstone feet, hair loss, and skin changes were taxing, but (fortunately) also temporary.
Where I really struggled was with those other parts, the ones that didn’t bounce back . . .
After baby one, my arms grew two inches. Sleeves that once hung comfortably past my wrist now expose my watch. No motherhood book I read ever mentioned orangutan arms!
My feet also grew. My size 7 1/2 shoes shrunk and only the store’s size 9s would fit me. Apparently barefoot and pregnant is a detriment to one’s shoe collection.
My stick straight hair? Glad that went out of style. For decades I unsuccessfully tried perms and rollers. But after four babies I somehow have “naturally” curly hair (and no clue how to manage it!).
Then there’s the breast “enhancement” that came from nursing four wee ones. Now, I have so much more room inside my bra cups that I can carry a stylish scarf or even wads of cash! Convenient, eh? Purses can be such a drag.
And my stretch marks . . . Sigh. Aside from their unique patterns, how did they show up in all the places that I never considered putting that cocoa butter cream?
Yes. My post-baby body is different. Very different. These four little children have undeniably left their mark.
But is my body ruined?
I don’t think so.
First: Who told us to look like we never had a baby?
My preschooler puts on his Captain America costume everyday and tells me he wishes he really was “Capin-Merica.” No matter how hard he pretends, I know he’s just a four-year-old. Yet, I love him like crazy–even though he lacks super powers.
When we bemoan motherhood’s toll on our physical appearance, I wonder if God thinks the same. “Hey, I know you are a mom. I created and know the real you. I love you like crazy, you don’t have to hide!”
We live in a society where physical beauty is over-valued. We’re expected to pretend if we can’t meet it’s ever-changing standard. We strap on our Spanx and fake it—so it seems motherhood had no impact. A “successful” mom reverts back to her pre-baby shape quickly.
It’s time to question the sanity of culture’s standard! Why must we camouflage this incredible act of becoming a mother as if it never happened? Who says a mom must look like she’s not one?
Now hear me, I don’t think we have to love all the ways that our bodies have changed post baby. (Getting prideful over our birthing accomplishment isn’t God’s answer either. The Bible says love Jesus, not cellulite.) But, neither should we be ashamed of the ways they have changed to nurture new life.
Second: Motherhood changes every part of us. Maybe that’s a good thing.
I speak to groups of new moms and this is often the tension. Motherhood has changed these women in some ways they love (they’ve grown more loving, caring, and less selfish) and in other ways they loathe (these changes are mostly physical).
Yet when I hear a woman use the term “ruined,” I’m troubled. Ruined implies something is no longer fit for its intended purpose. Is that really what happened to our bodies when we morphed into moms?
There are few more purpose-defining acts than that of having a child. But, when we get lost in the media’s myths, we believe that our purpose correlates with our appearance. We buy culture’s lie that says we’ll find fulfillment when others praise our beauty.
God tells us something different. He says our ambition should be to serve and worship Him. And, during this season of active mothering–to raise children who love and follow Him, too.
When we sulk over our stretch marks, we lose sight of our purpose. We miss God’s intended path to fulfillment when we expect joy to come from a perfect body instead of a purposeful life.
Motherhood changes us—every part of us. While I’m grateful for the ways it’s altered me on the inside, maybe it’s time to offer my body some grace for the ways it’s changed externally too. Yes, my body is different. But, it’s certainly not ruined—instead, it’s fulfilling its purpose—and that’s truly beautiful.