An Open Letter to Every Mom on Body Image

We recently returned home from a weekend vacation. Everything went great, except for one thing. Guess who packed the kids’ swimsuits but forgot to pack swimsuits for mom and dad? So, there we were at a super center 400 miles from home, quickly buying swimsuits so we could take the kids swimming at the hotel.

Now, nothing invokes panic quite like the thought of being in a swimsuit. Needing to buy one in 15 minutes makes it all the more difficult. I was tempted to just forget it. To sit by the pool fully-clothed. To stay in the hotel room and enjoy a little peace and quiet. But then I would have missed out on seeing the sheer delight on my children’s faces. On hearing their laughter and shrieks of joy. So I bought a swimsuit and decided to think positively about my body.

My eyes are surrounded by dark circles. I look tired, even if I don’t feel tired. 3 kids and years of interrupted sleep will give you that effect. But it’s worth it. Because these eyes have stayed open just to watch a newborn breathing in the middle of the night. These eyes have seen all the “firsts”…first time rolling, first time sitting, first time standing. These eyes have seen toddler art masterpieces and checked under beds for monsters. These eyes have lit up with joy and excitement, cried from stress, and finally closed in fatigue, sometimes all in the same hour. The dark circles will soon fade away and sleep will someday be uninterrupted, but for now I am thankful for the chance to have dark circles.

My arms are not toned. My fingernails are not polished, and no rings or bracelets adorn my hands. But these arms have cradled a baby into the wee hours of the night. These hands have lovingly caught a wobbly toddler, built a tower out of blocks, and poured tea at a tea party. My arms may not look like much, but they hold the most precious treasure on earth.

Three pregnancies and over 18 months of nursing has a way of changing your breasts. The weight gain and loss over the years, not to mention just the normal change that comes with getting older, has made bra shopping an ordeal and swimsuit shopping a nightmare. But these breasts have literally sustained life and offered both food and comfort. I’ve been fortunate enough to not only be able to breastfeed, but to enjoy the experience as well. So while I need a bra in three different sizes depending on if I’m pregnant, nursing, or not, I am thankful for the experiences that these changes represent.

My stomach has never been completely flat, and I’ve never had six-pack abs. Now there is a permanent layer of flab decorated by stretch marks. But my stomach has felt the tiny flutter of newly formed life. Felt the kicks and jabs of a healthy, growing unborn babe. This stomach has been stretched to the limit in order to make room for a 7 lb bundle of joy. These stretch marks and few extra pounds are a reminder of how miraculous pregnancy is, and I’m thankful that I have been blessed with three babies.

My thighs are not muscular, and there’s cellulite. Mom shorts are much more practical and comfortable now, and you won’t find me in a short skirt. But this lap has bounced a chubby 6 month old. This lap has comforted children while they were sick or upset. It has held children while reading books and singing songs. I wouldn’t want to trade those moments for anything.

So Mama, next time you feel self-conscious about your body, or wish you could get your pre-kids body back, or feel like hiding away, remember all of the good that this new body has experienced. Get out there and enjoy life; make memories with your children. Because when it’s all said and done, you won’t care what you’re body looked like. You’ll care that you were there.

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