Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What are our bodies for, anyway?

This post is for all the amazing women in my life (and the people who love them):

I was partly inspired by The Shape of a Mother, a website dedicated to displaying pictures of real mothers' bodies, "so we can finally see what women really look like sans airbrushes and plastic surgery." Bonnie, of SOAM, hopes that we will "begin to cherish our new bodies which have done so much for the human race."

I was provoked by this recent post in particular, by a mother who is proud of her body and is challenging other women to love themselves just the way they are, and stop being so hateful. One of the commenters to her post says "I really get angry when I see people say things like I would never have had kids if I [had known] it would ruin my body". I talked about this statement at length with my mom the day after I read it, which happened to be just 3 days after I had given birth to my son. I looked down at my body, which had just completed the amazing job of growing an entire human from two single cells (not to mention the task of birthing that baby in our spare bedroom) and I couldn't imagine feeling like my body was ruined. Then I looked at my sweet sleeping baby, who I'm still falling in love with more and more each day. I couldn't imagine ever wishing I could go back in time and not have him, even if I did feel like my body was ruined.

Here's the thing about our bodies: whether or not we grow babies inside them, we will not stay young forever. Our bodies will change and sag and wrinkle, and there's not a whole lot we can do about it. Why spend our time and energy worrying and beating ourselves up over the natural process of living inside these bodies? It happens to everyone! And not one of us is getting out of this life—well—alive! So what are our bodies for? Are they primarily for display, as so many women seem to have been convinced? Are they for the pleasure of our lovers/partners/spouses?

I believe our bodies are meant to be used. Yes, we should take care of ourselves, nourish our bodies with rest and good food and physical activity, but why should we obsess over every little stretch mark and bit of fat or loose skin? My body was changed by pregnancy, and it continues to change each day as it returns to its non-pregnant state while making milk for my child. But that is not a bad thing! We can't look like we're 16 or 18 or 21 for our whole lives—and who would want to!? We are not stagnant and unchanging creatures; we are dynamic, multi-faceted, and ever-evolving. What a gift that is!

My body has done some really impressive things recently, and it will continue to impress me throughout my life. I believe it is more beautiful now that Daniel is in my life. Anything that can produce something as wonderful as a precious baby boy (or girl) deserves to be loved, respected, admired, cared for and—most of all—treated gently.

My child(ren) will know a woman who loves herself. This culture of self-hate, especially based on physical appearance, is simply not ok.

I'd like to finish with a video I've posted before:

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