The first time I remember thinking I needed to lose weight I was 7 years old. A thoughtless kid on the playground had yelled, “Move it, fatso!” to me as I swung on the monkey bars, and I instantly went from seeing my body as a place I loved to live to an object to be judged. And judge it I did, for the next 26 years.
I unfailingly listened to my body when it came to my gut instinct about who I should date, what major I should pursue in college, and what business opportunities to go for. Yet, when it came to food, I felt like if I didn’t give myself a set of strict rules that someone else had invented and instead let my body do what she wanted, that she would betray me and go completely off the rails, diving headfirst into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, never to recover her sanity again.
I trusted myself in every area of my life other than with food.
Food rules became a salvation, a touch point I could come back to throughout the day to measure whether I was okay or not. If I was staying on track, I was doing great. If I had veered, I had permission to beat myself up and perseverate on what I needed to do to move back toward perfect.
When I got pregnant, though, my inner knowing got so loud. It was actually impossible to ignore.
My body knew so clearly what she wanted and what she didn’t want. She was totally insistent. There was no debating with her or trying to follow any rules. She was clear, so I just followed.
Growing life within me had me trusting myself around food for the first time since that moment on the playground in second grade when my innate, innocent love of my body was first questioned.
Throughout my whole pregnancy and when I was nursing, I just ate what my body asked for and didn’t much question it. I wanted tons of ramen, so I ate tons of ramen. After giving birth I wanted tons of potato chips, so I ate tons of potato chips.
My body asked for what she wanted so clearly and unabashedly. But she also was very clear when she was done. I barely ever overate during pregnancy because, for the first time since I can remember, I knew what it felt like to be full and simply put my fork down.
I stopped nursing a couple of months ago when my daughter was 18 months old. That clear, strong voice telling me what my body needed to grow and nourish my girl got quieter.
I have felt myself wanting to slip into the well-worn groove of starting a program to “get back on track” and have rules again.
But I will not go back there. I have known what it feels like to nourish myself based on what my body truly needs. I did it for 27 months. I will not go back to following someone else’s rules.
Becoming a mother changes us irrevocably. Our inner voice gets louder. We get fiercer. Our boundaries become stronger. We get really clear on what matters.
We embrace the strength that comes from becoming mothers, but in the same breath, we diminish the very thing that made this becoming possible: our bodies.
If we’re to honor and embrace who we are as mothers, we must honor and embrace the bodies that made it so.
There is no going back. You can’t send the kid back where they came from. You can’t unstretch the stretched skin. You can’t shrink your heart back to the size it was before you welcomed this love so big you could never have fathomed it. Nor would you want to.
Though they were grueling, I wouldn’t give back all the nights spent bleary-eyed, nursing and rocking my baby back to sleep, over and over and over again. I wouldn’t give back the confusion, the letting go, the difficulties, and most certainly, I wouldn’t give back the joy or the love.
“Your new life is going to cost you your old one,” someone once said. (Multiple Google attempts have left me empty-handed as for whom.)
I have not tried to get my pre-baby body back, nor do I plan to, because we can’t go backwards in time. And I wouldn’t want it back, anyway, because with it I would have to give back my little girl and the woman I’ve become as I stepped into motherhood. And I love both of these precious beings too much to even consider a life without them.
Our words matter. Trying to get anything “back” from another chapter of life is futile. Being where we are, reveling in the gifts of where we are, and moving forward from there is the only way.
You can’t get one part back without losing everything you’ve gained since you had it.
So it goes with our bodies. So it goes with everything.
I’m interested in a life that moves forward, not backward. I’ll take my body with me, as she is, as she will be, not as she was, thank you very much.
If you’ve had a baby, how do you feel about your body now? If you haven’t had a baby, how do you feel about your body now as compared to in a different season in your life? Have you ever wanted a previous version of it back? Tell me in the comments!