I’ve never been skinny.
I’ve been smaller and I’ve been bigger. There have been two times in my life when I was very unhealthy, lots of anxiety and not a lot of self care, and I got down to my smallest sizes then.
Still, though, my ‘smallest’ is what many people would consider big, chubby, thick, overweight.
For whatever reason, my size stopped bothering me after high school. In high school, because I was painfully unpopular and teased so much about my body, I was super aware of my size. I was frustrated that my booty was like twice the size of everyone else’s. I hated that I had big boobs because it only drew unwanted attention. I remember sitting in desks wishing I could just shrink away. I’d try and make myself smaller: pull my legs in, hunch over. I didn’t wear the same clothes as anyone else primarily because the cool clothes didn’t come in my size.
I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin.
Then something just clicked as I got a little older.
I started to love my body. I started to think of myself as pretty. I felt really, really comfortable in my skin.
I dated a little and that obviously helped my body image. My hips and booty didn’t stop boys from liking me (…it was the opposite and this eventually got me into a lot of trouble and a ton of heartache). I was never once teased. I didn’t try and shrink away or worry about wearing the right clothes or feel like I stood out negatively.
Over the next decade, my body and I had a relatively good relationship. At some points, I took really good care of it and it me. And others, not so good. There have been lots of times I’ve been annoyed or frustrated while trying on a pair of jeans and lots of times I’ve felt really happy and attractive while trying on a pair of jeans.
Overall, I’ve felt more positively toward my body than negatively.
And then I got pregnant with Shepherd. And how I felt about my body, which wasn’t negative at all, but also wasn’t appreciative by any means, changed entirely.
My pregnancy was generally unremarkable. The first fifteen or so weeks were pukey and sleepy, but other than that I wasn’t really sick. I didn’t gain an obscene amount of weight. The last month was pretty uncomfortable. I never really felt huge. I never felt particularly sexy, but I never thought I was fat. I had cankles for a few weeks, but that didn’t bother me. I loved feeling Shepherd move. I loved putting the Belly Buds on while I read and journaled. I loved that Stephen would read to him. All normal things.
And then Shepherd was born. And everything changed about how I viewed my body.
Shepherd’s labor and birth weren’t what I wanted, but nothing dangerous happened and we got a healthy baby. I say that because I wasn’t on some high after he was born. Maybe the opposite. I was scared and defensive and nervous.
But the first time I saw myself in a full length mirror after he was born, I was just shocked by how beautiful I was. I saw pictures taken later that day when family came to visit, and I remember thinking, wow, I look really good.
The couple weeks after he was born were some of the best body weeks of my life (until Valor was born). Yes, I was sore and tired and leaking many things (everything was covered in pee or breastmilk…#glam), but the overall feeling I had was, wow.
Wow, look what my body did. And without me! I didn’t tell it what it to do, it just did it!
Wow, look what my body is doing! It’s keeping this thing alive. Look at my brain, loving this baby.
This body. Wow.
I just felt so appreciative and impressed and proud of my body. My body, not someone else’s. And man, those couple weeks after Shep was born, I was like, who the heck am I to ever disparage this body? This body is not fat, it’s strong and healthy.
I am so lucky to be surrounded by amazing, strong women. I don’t have a lot of friends that are body haters. I don’t have women around me that are constantly dieting or complaining they’re fat. But I don’t live in a hole, either. It’s like the female gender in general is dieting/at war with their body. I know women who think they’re fat and are not even close to ‘fat’. I know women who hate being pregnant and use social media to talk about wanting to get the baby out so they can get skinny again. I mean, also there’s Kim Kardashian.
I credit the women I’ve been surrounded by for the ease into which I fell in love with my postpartum body. Women who didn’t shame other women. Women who never once made the focus on getting fat or a bump gone after that baby was born. Women who were honest about their struggles and feelings, but whose main focus was on the baby their body just delivered.
While my labor and delivery with Valor wasn’t exactly what I wanted either, it was much quicker and there were no drugs. I say this because I did feel all warm and high and romantic after he was born, and I had those same feelings toward my body. They may have been more intense because of a natural delivery, but they were still there with Shepherd, and #allthedrugs.
I think this appreciation and perspective came from both those women around me and from just choosing to see myself as God sees me. It really, really was a choice. It was a choice not to stress out or be disgusted by what my body was doing. It was a choice to celebrate my body and the gift it gave us. And the choice to do that, the practice of it, made it a habit. Gratitude and awe are muscles for me that were strengthened in postpartum.
Women, stop shaming your bodies. Stop. If you have sons, you’re teaching your sons all sorts of jacked up things about women and what beauty is. If you have a daughter, you’re handing your baggage neatly to her. You are neither serving or helping anyone, yourself included, by talking poorly about your body, focusing on your appearance/weight during/after pregnancy or by disparaging yourself. Get free for yourself, yes, but if you have children, the stakes are so much higher.
We all hate body shame. No one who thinks, “Yes, I enjoy being in bondage like this. I love negativity. I’m glad I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin.” It hurts ourselves, and what’s more, it hurts everyone around us watching. When I, Katie who is size 14-16, has cellulite and stretch marks, hears you, visibly smaller/more fit calling yourself fat or the like, what am I supposed to think about myself? Just call me a cow, friend. When we share our postpartum weight loss publicly on social media, can we please ask ourselves what the motivation is? Because I can nearly guarantee that some other woman, who has not or cannot get the extra weight off, is going to read/see that and fall a little deeper into her own shame.
And that’s not your goal, right? You’re not actually calling me a cow and you don’t actually want your acquaintance to hate herself a little more.
But it is what we do to each other.
No, we are not responsible for everyone. Yes, you should be able to celebrate and be proud of yourself, but why does that need to happen in a way that is shaming for others? It doesn’t.
Let’s help each other get free. Let’s encourage each other in the miracle of making it. Making it through the pregnancy, the labor. For every stretch mark or stitch, there are women dying (literally) to have a child grow and develop in their body. How dare we complain. It’s dark and sad that we’re in a culture and a world where we have to practice and tell ourselves and encourage each other to focus on the baby, not our body. But we do.
So let’s be brave and bold and ask God to give us eyes to see correctly, both ourselves and our situations. That we would see how beautiful we are and how insanely blessed we are to have babies. That we would stand next to each other, and in the safety of relationship, examine why we spend so much time and energy talking about or posting about our bodies. That our kids would grow up knowing what beauty is and what freedom feels like.
Let’s actually love.