As a teenager I naturally had a slim figure. I had the luxury of being able to eat what I wanted – body issues never really crossed my mind.
It wasn’t until I got pregnant for the first time that everything changed. I developed insecurities about my body. I wasn’t one of those pregnant women who looked like they had a cute little basketball belly. Instead, I looked about six months pregnant when I was only four. On several occasions, strangers came up to me saying “wow you must be due soon”, when I still had months left to go. The changes were dramatic and I really struggled to accept my pregnant body.
After I gave birth I found the first few weeks emotionally difficult. My once-flat stomach was left with loose skin and stretch marks. I still looked six months pregnant when I walked out of the hospital! No one warns you about that. At the time I had no idea how long (if ever) it would take me to get my body back. Of course, over time my body did recover and most of the pregnancy weight naturally came off, but it wasn’t the same as before. I was left with scars, with a new shape.
But as I struggled to accept my new, post-baby body, I remembered back to when I was a young girl.
I would beg my mother to sit me up on the bathroom counter so I could watch her put her makeup on. She would always check over her bare face before carefully applying her foundation and I use to love watching her purse her lips together after applying her lipstick. To me she has always been the most beautiful woman in the world and the most loving mother, but behind her warm heart has always been a very shy and insecure woman. I remember on several occasions while growing up catching her in the mirror looking at herself, pinching her hips, and dragging her hands down her face saying, “Gosh I’m looking old” or, “Eww I look terrible today”.
I felt like no matter how many times I told her that she was beautiful she never truly believed me.
Reflecting on my own childhood and the way my mother felt about herself brought up a lot of old emotions within me. It saddened me that my mother struggled to see her own beauty and I wished that she were more positive about herself.
It was then that I made a conscious decision not to follow in her footsteps and feel the same way about myself. Not just for me, but for my new baby girl. I started to see my body as a vessel that carried life into this world and developed a new love and respect for myself. I began telling myself that I would no longer be told by society what is or is not beautiful and stop comparing myself to others. By doing this over and over I started to change my thinking and started to love the body I was in.
Of course, I still have days where I catch myself in a negative thought pattern, but I am so much more aware of it now and able to redirect my thinking to something much more positive. I now have two beautiful children and I would rather spend my time focusing on them than on what my body looks like.
My wish for both my children is that they grow up to be kind, generous and confident people who respect their bodies and love themselves as they are. I want them to know that they are loved no matter what size or shape they are. And it’s my job to teach them how to do that – by being a positive role model and showing them by example that they should love the skin they’re in.
Becoming a mother may change you on the outside but it also changes who you are on the inside. It’s one of the most enriching experiences we could ever go through.
So no matter what size or shape you are, be proud of yourself and love the body you are in.
Life’s just too short for anything else.