“How much do you weigh, Mommy?” asked my 5-year-old girl today.
“I weigh about 120 pounds, but I don’t know exactly. That’s what I weighed last time I went to the doctor,” I replied.
“WHOA. That’s a lot more than I weigh.”
Uh, yeah, because you weigh like 30 something pounds soaking wet… I thought.
“Yep. People come in all shapes and sizes. And bodies change over time. I look different than I did before I had you and your brother, and my body will continue to change as I get older. It’s how God made us. Want to see something cool?”
I lifted up my shirt and pointed to the lines on my still soft belly.
“When you and your brother were in my tummy, my skin had to stretch a lot as you grew bigger. These are called stretch marks. They are reminders of the awesome things my body has done in carrying you, and bringing you into the world, and then feeding you. I’m very grateful for this body that has been healthy enough to do all these things!”
“Wow! That is cool!”
Then she skipped off to continue packing small backpacks with towels and sunscreen for a beach trip that isn’t happening for several more weeks.
I wasn’t anticipating having that conversation today, but kids throw all sorts of things at us when we don’t expect it. One day my daughter wouldn’t take the old “babies come from their mommy’s bellies” explanation and wanted to know exactly how and where they get out. Another day she asked why we talk about the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit being in different places sometimes, and I found myself trying to explain the Trinity to a preschooler. Prayers appreciated, please. (I did my best, and then said it’s one of God’s mysteries that we won’t ever fully understand until we’re with Him forever.)
Back to the body conversation. I’ve done and am doing a lot of personal work to get to the place where I could honestly say those things to her and believe them. That doesn’t mean that thinking about my body today and what it looked and felt like 7 years ago didn’t make my heart hurt a little. Going from being a super fit gym rat to having diastasis recti and pelvic organ prolapse has not been easy physically or emotionally.
I’ve been making a conscious effort to not hold my stomach in and breathe down into my abdomen, instead of sucking in and breathing up into my chest and shoulders. I know it’s better for my body that way, but that doesn’t mean I’m completely confident walking around every day with my stomach fully relaxed.
I’ve recently made a decision to reject diet culture completely, and instead eat intuitively. But that doesn’t mean I don’t catch myself judging my meal or thinking that I ate “badly” one day. I’m still learning to talk about food with my kids and explain in a value-free way why I won’t let them eat ice cream for every meal.
I’ve accepted that some of the clothes I loved and that made me feel great pre-kids, no longer fit or make me feel great. But that doesn’t make it easier to donate those clothes or pack them away. And it doesn’t make it easier to pick other clothes that make me feel comfortable and confident in the morning.
I pray that one day I’ll have the time and physical ability to safely exercise and feel strong and healthy again. But even if I don’t, I’m making sure that my daughter never hears me say a negative word about my body or anyone else’s. I’m intentionally working through my own issues because as Richard Rohr said, “If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.”
What I look like is not an accurate reflection of my soul. Regardless of the number in a medical record or the tag of my jeans, my identity is fully secured by Jesus. And He certainly does not base His love for me on the state of my physical body in a lost, dark, and broken world. I want my kids to take care of their bodies, yes, but not put an undue focus on anything that is temporary, and that includes their looks. But for that to happen, I have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.