Rachel Doll — book author, singer, painter, blogger, Biblical storyteller and friend — is graciously guest blogging today for our series on making our homes into peaceful dwelling places. If you’d like to learn more about Rachel, visit threadsofcreativity.com. Be blessed by her gift…
I stood naked, looking in the mirror. It was just after my second child’s first birthday, and she had just been weaned. Years of hormones from fertility drugs, three pregnancies and two births had left me with a body I didn’t recognize. I remembered arms that didn’t hang funny. There had always been a little blip of extra around my waist, but I now looked like I might be expecting again. I wasn’t.
As I stood there taking stock of all these things, my three year old silently slipped into my room. I startled as a little voice asked, “Who are you mad at, Mommy? Your face looks angry.” Thankfully, it was one of those rare moments when I saw clearly the bigger picture, and said something that would change both of us.
I slipped on my dress and pulled her into my lap as I sat down on the bed. “I’m not mad, honey. I was looking at the ways my body has changed lately.”
“Yeah,” she said, as she stroked my arm, “It’s kind of lumpy in places. Is that bad?”
I smiled and hugged her, and from a sacred place the words I needed came to be shared with her.
“When Sylvia was growing in my body, I needed lots of energy to keep her safe and help her grow, until she was big enough to come out. My body also stored up energy so I could feed Sylvia after she was born. It takes a lot of energy for a woman’s body to make milk. So my body stored up all the energy it could to get ready for all these things. Your body stores energy as fat, so you can carry it around with you and have it whenever you need it. Now I’m all done growing Sylvia and feeding her from my body, and there is still extra energy stored in lots of places. But if I exercise my body, it will use the extra energy and get rid of it.”
She snuggled me silently for a few minutes and then jumped down to go play. I decided that day, for my child, to never berate my body in front of her. It had been through some pretty amazing things and, God willing, would carry me through many more adventures. I didn’t want my hang ups to color her body image.
But a most beautiful thing happened. I consciously stopped making those degrading comments under my breath about my body. Later, I realized I had stopped feeling guilty about the skinny clothes I couldn’t wear in my closet. I moved them out of sight, so all the clothes I could see fit nicely. What a difference it made as I started my day!
Little by little, in that tiny moment looking into those trusting brown eyes of my daughter, I began to cherish myself.
This body is not perfect, but it is mine, and I am a beautiful person. My daughters see and notice that different people have different shapes. But they never hear their parents comment that someone is “fat” or “skinny.” We notice someone’s smile, or beautiful eyes. Sylvia loves to compliment ladies on their shoes and earrings. I know when hormones begin to invade their bodies, we’ll have lots more conversations about body image, and I hope for clarity on those days, too. So far, it looks like we’re all doing all right.