to my daughters, on our bodies

23 Jun

Ari & Evie,

I’ve reached that time, over a month postpartum, 10-12 lb heavier and a lot softer than my standard, generally not quite comfortable in my own skin.  I’m hyperaware of the angle of my face in pictures, trying to avoid the double chin.  Our tender moments in the bath after our beach explorations were interrupted when I gripped handfuls of doughy flesh around my midsection.  I’m feeling particularly insecure, vulnerable, weak, sloppy, less capable, and frankly less attractive.

I’ve been here before, and I keep telling myself to be kind to myself, to fight against these sinking emotions that creep in the first couple months after birthing a child.  I’m eating well.  I’m exercising my body when possible (i.e. when John is available for all parenting needs and I’m not overwhelmingly exhausted).  And I’m breastfeeding.  Last time, despite efforts, it took me over four months to shed a pound, but eventually the weight came off, the muscle mass returned, and my non-maternity clothes fit again.  My body will get back to “normal” but, in the mean time, I’d like to go over a few things with you two.

I am your mother, a mother of two sweet, healthy daughters now and, as such, I embrace the increased responsibility to be good to my body and to demonstrate thoughtful body awareness and image.  Sure, there might be others to whom you look as examples of how to view your body, but (and maybe I’m being cocky or naive here) I think there’s a good chance that I’ll be one of them.  If you treat your body unkindly or carelessly because of something you’ve seen me do, utter, or suggest, I will have disappointed you and myself.  So, here’s what I’m thinking:

  1. I will love my body and celebrate its abilities, always.  I will encourage you to do the same.
  2. If there are aspects of my body that I would like to change, I will do so with the goal of improved health, not simply fitting into a smaller dress size.  And I will be reasonable and flexible with my expectations, I will not allow myself to be consumed by them, nor will I be demoralized if they veer from plan.
  3. I will use weight as only one marker of change, and only when appropriate.
  4. When anyone–your father, family and friends, members of the crossfit community–comment positively on my appearance, I will respond with gratitude and subdue the urge to add some deprecating remark or disclaimer.  (It’s a defense mechanism: I want people know that I’m acutely aware of my “flaws,” so that they judge me less–kind of sad, isn’t it?)  A simple “thank you” and a sincere smile are all that’s needed.
  5. I will do my best of demonstrate healthy eating habits by enjoying a wide range of foods aimed at nourishment, consumed mostly in discrete meals with maybe an afternoon goûter, as in France, but of course also allow for inconsistencies.  (We don’t need our meal times or rituals to be ruled over by a jail sergeant.  For instance, when your father has worked a string of evening shifts and it’s the hottest day of the year, it’s okay to celebrate with an afternoon yogurt, just ’cause.  It’s even okay to use two spoons.)photo 1 photo 2 photo 3
  6. I will never starve myself or join some ridiculous food fad that will leave me deprived.
  7. Two vague mantras that I’ll try to practice regarding consumption: a) Everything in moderation, including moderation. b) Spent more, eat less.
  8. When it comes to your bodies, please know that I am hardwired to love them as part of your whole package, unconditionally.  You’re in the life stage now where I just want to nibble your toes and smother your bellies with kisses.  I’m sure I’ll be less inclined to do so in 13 years, which you’ll appreciate, but I won’t adore and respect your bodies any less.

Some of these points will be easier said than done.  I’m a work in progress, but know that I’m trying.  Thank you for unknowingly encouraging me in these pursuits.  I love you both, my sweet, brave, beautiful girls, to the stars and back, and I will always strive for you to feel that love, and the support for mind and body that is an implicit component of it.

xoxo

mama

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14 Responses to “to my daughters, on our bodies”

  1. Erica June 23, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

    This is so sweet and I love you very much 🙂

  2. shamaness22 June 24, 2014 at 12:56 am #

    They’re very lucky to have a mommy like you =)

    • annaojesus June 24, 2014 at 11:34 pm #

      Thank you! I’ll try to live up to your kind comment 🙂

  3. phantomdiver June 24, 2014 at 6:22 am #

    Amen, amen! Three of my children, my husband, and I were built thin. (Well, my husband and I were before we hit about 50.) My husband and I were very very careful to tell each child how handsome/beautiful they were. We wanted to make sure that the child who was built bigger also thought she looked good. In her early twenties, that child wrote that she was the only woman she knew whose parents hadn’t told her at some point that she needed to lose weight. Whew! I knew a young woman at TJ who was about 5’2″ and weighed maybe 105; her mother told her she should lighten her hair and lose some weight. I hugged her and told her how beautiful she was just as she was right then. Poor kid. Everybody deserves to feel comfortable in his/her skin.

    • annaojesus June 24, 2014 at 11:37 pm #

      What a wonderful, safe, supportive home you created for your children–we’ll try to do the same. I was quite the chunk as a kid, and I feel lucky that I grew up in a similar home…though I understand my mother wasn’t always as supportive with my sister as an adult :/ Thank you for sharing!

  4. margaretfelice June 24, 2014 at 8:49 am #

    Amen! They’re lucky to have such a role model.

    • annaojesus June 24, 2014 at 11:37 pm #

      Goodness you’re kind! Thanks so much, Margaret!

  5. Alexa Chavez June 24, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

    This is such a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing.

  6. xtinehlee June 24, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

    LOVE.

  7. serend1p1ty June 25, 2014 at 10:18 am #

    This is absolutely beautiful!

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