Motherhood changes our bodies. At least for most. There are some who shrink right back, but I was not one of them. Not my weight, but my size. My feet are, and always will be, a full size larger and full width wider. You know, like a hobbit. There is no diet on the planet that will fix that. My hips are wider, too. They’re the definition of “birthing hips.” Smush’s delivery – from the first contraction to “Hi baby!” lasted 1 hr 20 min, and that’s because I had to wait for the midwife to get in the room. Birthing hips.
Before I had kids, I was a flat-stomached, hourglass figure, kinda cute 20-year-old. My pregnancy with Punkin expanded my hips – literally. My body went a little overkill on the relaxin hormone, and my hips actually got wider – and then they stayed that way as the ligaments firmed up, and I was left with hips for days. Let’s just say that low-rise jeans were not made for most women, and I’m one of them.
Most days I’m okay with all that. I mean, it’s a mass of tissue, really, so whatevs. And we’re mothers – we’re basically nature’s superheroes. But for a while I had been feeling unattractive. Having more “fat days” than usual.
(If you aren’t familiar with that term, a “fat day” is where you wake up feeling like none of your clothes fit and your husband walks in to find that he can’t see the bedroom floor because you’ve somehow tried on every article of clothing you own. And you’re still in your pajamas.)
I had been feeling flat-out ugly.
I hated my jaw line. My eyes are too close together. My eyebrows are crooked and uneven, and because of scar tissue in one from a childhood injury, there’s not much I can do about it. My nose is too big, my skin is too pale, and I’m just too squishy all over.
But getting ready for church one Sunday morning, I came out of the bedroom in a long dress and high heels. I hadn’t done my hair. I hadn’t done my make-up. I looked like the bride of Frankenstein, if she went to church. And each of my girls looked up and, eyes wide and smiles big, told me how pretty I was.
I didn’t get it. I mean, I know we shelter them from a LOT of media. We don’t have cable. We laugh at how silly magazine covers look because they’re so fake. We talk about store window displays and billboards and how utterly absurd it would be to dress in clothes that look like underwear. But c’mon, they must know I’m no supermodel, right?
And then I remembered – my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. Growing up, even after she died, I literally could not find another woman as beautiful as she was. Julia Roberts was pretty and all, but she wasn’t my mom. Nobody was my mom, and she had them all beat.
And I remembered something else. I remembered standing in the bathroom one day while she got ready for church, just like I had. I remember her touching the scar that marked her thyroid surgery, and looking at her one discolored tooth. And I remember her adding a little more mascara, and a little more eyeliner, and asking if that made her droopy eyelid any better. The surgeon who tried to remove her tumor had hit a nerve, and that left her with one droopy eye.
I also remember being so very perplexed. “Mommy, you’re beautiful. You look perfect. There’s nothing wrong with your eye.” That’s what I told her, and I meant it. I had absolutely no understanding of how a tiny scar, a darker tooth, and an eyelid made her any less beautiful. Grown ups were so weird.
A few weeks ago, Smush had her very own sleepover at Grandma’s house. She was so excited. A long-standing tradition at Grandma sleepovers is french toast – it happens every time, and it only happens with Grandma and Dodie (my aunt). Smush was dutifully helping with the french toast when she spotted a picture of me and Goo on the fridge. She paused and said, “I really love my mama. She’s pretty.”
I know the picture she saw. It’s sweet. It’s loving. And the first thing I noticed was my double chin and nonexistent jaw line.
The first thing she noticed was her mama that loves her so much.
I’m going out on a limb here and guessing that many of you have probably had those same days. The ones where you stand in front of the mirror and know that you just can’t fix it all. At least not without Photoshop. The ones where the makeup just isn’t cutting it. The dress just isn’t fitting right. And you can’t figure out for the life of you how women on magazines don’t have pores.
Here is an invaluable truth: None of that matters. You are beautiful because you’re you. No one else will ever be as beautiful as you are, because they will never have your heart. And if anyone tells you differently, kick them in the shins.
But don’t tell them I told you to do that.
The mirror tells you that your beauty is tied to your skin tone and your bone structure.
I have known some physically beautiful people who were downright ugly underneath, and I have seen burn victims and quadriplegics that radiated beauty from the inside out.
The mirror lies. The truth is that we were created in the image and likeness of God Himself. The arrangement of molecules that create our physical bodies is NOT who we are. It is a shadow of our true selves.
I know that I’m beautiful. Smush says so. You can’t argue with that.