Yesterday I wrote about the process of coming to love my body that lasted up until Dylan’s birth. But what happened next?
Well, you know that great big pregnancy belly? Once the baby isn’t there anymore, there’s nothing to hold up all that growth, and I’m left with a giant, hanging, wiggly, wrinkly lower stomach. Now, I had that somewhat before. In the Big Bare Beautiful Baby Belly post, I even photographed it and told how Joshua and I jokingly referred to it as my waddle. At that time, I loved it. I’m a fat woman, and I expect to look like one when looking at individual parts.
But I had a c-section, which means I have a big scar and internal scar tissue. So here’s what happened with my belly: immediately after the birth, all that hugeness fell into one area where it then comes to an abrupt stop at my c-section scar and then folds over. Ack! The horror! Body hate! Oh no!
I would look in the mirror with a sort of confused disgust. This is not my stomach! Where did my stomach go?! I considered how I had months and months to get used to my growing pregnant belly, but this belly just appeared out of nowhere like the features of a stranger instead of the well-known curves of my own skin. And it folds over. How strange! I’d never had a fat body part fold over onto itself before, and I just couldn’t love it right away.
A few weeks ago, Joshua saw me looking in the mirror at my new belly (which I do a lot, trying to get used to it), and he started talking about how my body and my belly gave us Dylan. At first I felt receptive to this: Ah, yes. I love my body because it gave me my baby. The idea is seductive. But I think it’s the easy way out. This type of thinking makes it possible to give lip service to body acceptance while still staying rooted in body hate. It could be saying, “Yes, stretch marks are ugly, but I wear them with pride.” It could be saying, “I’d rather not have sagging, but I guess I’ll put up with it to have a child.” That’s a far different attitude than just loving your stretch marks or enjoying the way your body sags.
I hear the “I love my body because it gave me my baby” thinking frequently, and it’s part of a larger message of body achievement. My friend Jessica recently posted Ten Reasons to Love My Body, which is about physical achievements she is proud of. I love her list, and I agree that her body does fantastic stuff! I’m wary of achievement as the hook to hang self-love on, though. If you love your body because it can do X, Y, and Z, what is your opinion of bodies who can’t do X, Y, and Z? And what happens to your opinion of your body when you can no longer do X, Y, and Z?
This kind of thinking is pretty common, and I’d hate to come down on it too hard. Any effort to love ourselves more for more kinds of reasons is a winner in my book. And, it’s great to be excited about achievements! I do love my body for many of the things it can do (like breastfeeding! Talk about a super-power!) But I don’t want to stop there. I want to go beyond the allure of achievements.
At the end of the day, when I look down at my new folding belly, I don’t want to think, “Well, this sucks, but at least I got Dylan.” I don’t want to love my body for the things it has done or the things it can do. I want to love my body because it’s my body. In a very real sense, my body is me. My belly is not my belly; it is me. My body is not an object from which I am separate and want to judge and measure and consider. It is just me. And I want to love myself – I do love myself (mostly, as I can) – just because I am me. Not because of any particular me I am on any particular day in any particular mood or in the face of any particular action.
I love my body simply because it’s my body. I am my senses, which are my body; I am my thoughts, which are my body. I am the entire world, because without me I have no perception of the world. My body is my entire existence; without my body, I have no existence.
I love my body because it is my body.
Because I am never not here.
It is (I am) my space, my self, my origin, my home.
Whether it folds or wrinkles or wiggles or bloats or hurts or falls or breaks, I stand with myself, of myself, in myself and say ecstatically, “Yes! This is my body!”