I’m writing to say I’m sorry.
You and I have been at odds for a while now.
In the past year, I have eaten more and eaten healthier than I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve felt happy. I’ve hiked mountains and I’ve waded streams and I’ve done all of this while carrying a baby on my back and with many children scrambling and laughing alongside me. But in the past year, I’ve also stopped nursing and have gained weight…a lot more than I hoped to.
So, when I should have been loving you every moment, I’ve loathed you. I’ve secretly hated you. I’ve been embarrassed to be seen with you. Why? Because I’ve bumped up a couple of pants sizes and my belly has gotten poochy.
You probably already know this, Body, but I am finally coming to grips with the fact that I have a problem. Somehow, long ago, I allowed myself to believe that at least some of my worth was attached to the size of my waist. I’ve been through many roller coasters with that battle in my life, and though I thought it was over, I’ve recently realized that it wasn’t.
I’ve hated you. I’ve punished you. I’ve starved you. I’ve overfed you in despair. I’ve tried to trick you. I’ve said cruel things about you. I’ve done anything and everything but love you.
Even when you were giving me everything I could have ever dreamed, I never just loved you.
When did I stop seeing all that you’ve done? When did I stop seeing all that you are? When did I stop noticing all that you give me?
When did I forget what true beauty was? Did I ever know?
I guess this is also a thank-you note.
You’ve carried six beautiful, darling babies. You’ve delivered them safely to my arms, in spite of all that you had to face in doing so. I’ve cursed my pooch and my love handles, all the while forgetting that each roll, each stretch in my skin, each new layer to my ever-softening belly was a reminder of my six beautiful gifts from Heaven. Thank you.
You’ve nursed abundantly and fed six little darlings. I didn’t realize until recently what a gift that actually was. So many women would give anything for a body that would do so much. I’m sorry I complained about how you looked when nursing. Just thank you.
You have strong, steady legs that have carried me miles up mountains, and a strong, straight back that has carried a large, healthy baby along with me. Though I cursed you for never having the slender, twiggy legs that I always wanted, I should have thanked you. You have long, strong arms that have held hands and carried children when they were tired. Instead of crying about “bat wings,” why have I never thanked you for arms that can hold so much? Thank you.
The other week, when my little five-year-old was laying on my lap, she said, with all the sweetness and contentment and love and innocence in the world, “Mom, I’m so happy that you’re fat now.” You remember? I went into my room and cried and hated you more than ever. I felt that if even a five-year-old was noticing, I must have a bigger problem than I thought. And this brings us to the day I started to change. Her perfectly innocent comment struck at the ultimate loathing I had for you: my tummy. I’ve been doing so many of my tried-and-true tummy flattening poses, more than ever. But somehow, Body, you’ve been responding so much slower these days than you used to and have decided that you’re going to be better friends with gravity than you are with me. And you know what? Thank you. Over the past few weeks, as I’ve tried to stop hating you, I’ve noticed something. My children don’t just hug me these days. They hug me and stay. They sink into your softness and they feel peace. Because my daughters aren’t looking for a supermodel or a six-pack to hug. They are looking for a warm, gentle, soft mother.
So I’m asking you to forgive me. I’m sorry for thinking that my value as a woman was in any way connected to a number or a letter on a piece of clothing. I realize now that so much of my value has been tied up in you all along, but not in the ways that I thought.
I’m not over this yet, but I’m going to try hard to finally get over it, and to love you. I will exercise because I feel happy when I do, not to try to achieve a smaller dress size. I will eat plenty of good food and give you what you need. I will enjoy the sweet abundance of the earth…the sweet fruits, crisp vegetables, and dear, abundant grains. I will not be afraid to let you be happy. I will climb mountains and splash in rivers and I will love you and be grateful that you are healthy, alive, and able to do all of it. And most of all, I will hold my husband and my babies and let them fold into my new softness, because giving them that joy is the greatest gift of all.