Last week I wore a dress that had been languishing in the back of my closet. This particular dress had made the cut after my closet purge. I’m not sure why I kept it, besides the fact that it’s a pretty dress. Perhaps because it represents my pre-baby body. Probably because I have been hoping it would someday fit me like the first time I put it on. And while it didn’t look horrible when I wore it, I had to go around uncomfortably sucking in my stomach all day. And even though I have managed to lose most of my post-baby weight, my body has changed. My hips are a little wider, my tummy pooches where it held a nine and ten pound baby – things just do not fit the same. On this particular day that I wore that dress, every time I passed a mirror and caught my reflection, I would suck in a little tighter. I would exhale an exasperated puff of air as I unclenched my stomach and saw the waistband expand. And then, while I battled the inner voices of body-shaming, I saw reflected in the mirror two little pairs of blue eyes, gazing back at me – my two inexplicably beautiful daughters watching my every move.
It’s easy to drown out the body-shaming talk when I pause to think that the reason my body has changed, my metabolism has shifted, is because of those two beautiful girls. Yes, they have changed my body. But even more so, they have changed my world. But too often, I don’t nip the negative self-talk in the bud. I let myself jump on the hamster wheel of feeling inadequate, obsessing about a number on a scale, pulling at my added curves, refusing to look at my body in the mirror for fear of not liking what I see.
When I think of Zoe and Elsie someday, standing in front of the mirror, floundering in body image insecurities, it breaks my heart. To Jeff and I, they are the two most exquisitely beautiful human beings ever created. I gaze at their perfect little profiles, I nuzzle their fuzzy blonde hair, I kiss their rounded soft cheeks and breathe in. Yes, they are both truly fearfully and wonderfully made. Yet here I am, showing them what it looks like to be discontent with anything less than perfection.
At this point in their lives, they are both obsessed with being exactly like me. They want their hair straightened like mine. They put imaginary make-up on while I get ready in the morning. They wear shirts to match the colour that I’m wearing. They ask me if love their newest curated outfit. And I love it. I love having girls. I love that they already love to go shopping, that they love all the sparkle, all the accessories, all the colour. What I don’t love is the negative behaviours of mine, seen and spoken, that they are absorbing and believing to be truth.
My body image is something I struggle with every day. There are days when I’m so proud of my body, what it has done and what it continues to accomplish, regardless of size or number. And then there are very bleak days where my whole day is darkened simply by stepping on the scale in the morning. I wish there was a way that I could force Zoe and Elsie in this instance to do as I say, not as I do. I wish that as the years pass, I could make them trust that they have been knit by inextricably Divine Hands, in the image of the Very One who breathed their existence.
Each night, as I tuck them in, I cup their innocent faces in my hands and whisper, “Zoe Scarlett, Elsie Adaline, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. God made no mistakes when He made you. I wouldn’t change a thing about you. Nothing you could do would ever make Mummy stop loving you. I am SO proud and SO blessed to be your Mummy, and I love you to the moon and back.” The very words that I murmur into my daughters’ ears, land on my own heart and I wrap them around my imperfect, yet somehow perfect, body.
So perhaps that dress needs to be donated in order to embrace my own fearful and wonderful imperfection. My heart craves it, and the two pairs of eyes watching me in the mirror deserve it.