Thursday, July 16, 2015

An Open Letter to Mothers Regarding Body Image

I'm going to be up front with you here.  This is a series of letters of honest observation of the world around me, whether that be social media, mainstream media, big-stream stores, or the high school across the street from me.  It is not meant to condemn or offend, but perhaps open an honest conversation about the lack of modesty and what influences our view of what a woman should look like.

Other Letters in this Series:

An Open Letter to Young Women and Teen Girls Regarding Body Image
An Open Letter to Men Regarding Women's Body Image

To The Mother Who Struggles With Her After Baby Body:

(and those into fitness, trying to get your body back...or better...)

I know the struggle.  I know the insecurities, the shock, the disbelief.  WHAT in the world has happened to your body?  And how come Brooke Burke can look so amazing after 4 kids???  We all know the answers to those questions.  Nine (actually 10 for most) months of hormones going haywire to support the growth, birth, and breastfeeding of a little, precious person.  It may look like your chest has dropped into your stomach.  If you've lost your baby weight, your chest may have disappeared and gone into your biceps.  Or perhaps you are back to your pre-baby weight, but, due to one or multiple c-sections, you have that extra skin and fat that have taken residence on your lower abdomen. Things may look bleak in regards to your after-baby-body.  But, there is good news!  You don't have to identify yourself with how society all around you thinks you should look.

Pregnancy wreaked havoc on my body, inside and out, all the way to my liver not being able to handle my last two pregnancies well.  I am thankful to be alive!  I am also thankful for my health after pregnancies and the fact that even though my body isn't the same as before babies, I AM HEALTHY!  I'm stronger than before, in every way.  I am truly thankful.
Please know this:  You do NOT have to be the same as before kids.   An article on the Baby Center website states that men who were shown sketches of women and asked which ones were ideal, often pick the bigger body sizes than what women think is ideal for themselves.  Your husband or [insert label here] should love you just the way you are.  They should love you for making an effort to take care of yourself and your child(ren).  They can encourage you to get fit, but shouldn't encourage to change your body in anyway.  Stretch marks are ok, in fact they are common and normal.

Model Chrissy Teigen set off a viral hashtag after she posted an honest picture of stretch marks on her thighs.  Thousands of women followed suit in posting their honest, mostly unedited photos of their stretch marks.   Just like stretch marks, that extra skin above your c-section scar, you can accept as normal.  You don't need to replace the chest you lost in breastfeeding your babies with a DD piece of silicon.  You don't need that to feel good about yourself!

I know how it feels to go through all those body changes listed above.  I've been there.  I've gained 60 pounds twice in my life and lost more than that twice.  I gave birth to three kids in three and a half years.  I breastfed all of them, struggled with one, and had to give that up for formula feeding after he didn't gain weight because I stopped producing milk.  I know the struggle of balance of "Who am I as a mother?  Who am I as a a woman?"

It's been over three years since I stopped breastfeeding my youngest.  I can tell you my body is still changing.  For the better.  It's taken a while, but I have accepted what I have left.  It took prayer.  It took knowing that this body was not my own in the first place, but God's who gave it to me.  It took that no matter how anyone else saw me in this world, no matter how far I was from what a woman "should be,"  God saw me as a precious daughter.  HIS precious daughter.  And because His Son died for all my imperfections, God sees me perfectly.  Without blemishes, spots, or lines.

Thankfully, I have a supportive husband, who has gone with me through all these body changes and has supported me, no matter what my bra size is.  That sounds harsh, but I know there are some husbands who "prefer" their wives to be a certain size.  I have a whole message for them, so just wait!    Your chest size, no matter what it is after baby, is just fine.  Unless it is causing medical issues (back problems), is their really a good reason to change it?  If you identify yourself by your chest size, please ask yourself where that image comes from.  Does it come from where you used to be, or perhaps from what other women in mainstream media or social look like?


As a fitness blogger, I see SO many women in the fitness industry who get work done on their bodies.  Most of this work is breast enhancements.  I came across a photo yesterday of a women who "liked" a photo of mine.  I clicked on her account only to have my iPhone screen fill with photos of her in tight, low cut tank tops and sports bras to show off her perfect round and plump breast enhancement.  THAT is not what REAL women look like!  And the response to these photos?  On average, 2,600 likes and 85 comments of men who were enthralled with her chest in a creepy, not-so-romantic way.

WOMEN!  Don't settle for changing your body to be accepted by men!  Accept your after-baby body knowing that their is always room for fitness and improvement, but if that means having muscles covered in a little fat here and there, loose skin, stretch marks, and a chest that isn't the same as before, THAT IS OK!  You have done amazing things with that body!  You have grown a person in that body, gave birth, and have kept that person alive!  That is incredible.

Strive for health, not for being that fit women on Instagram with the boob job.  She's paid more than just money to look that way.  I'm not saying every addition, subtraction or change to your body through surgery is wrong, but please consider why you desire for the change.  Strive to be an example to your children of what a real woman is.  Don't feel the pressure to be like Brooke Burke or J. Lo.  Most celebrities are paid to look good, but most women I know don't have that luxury.

Mothers, you are fine just the way you are.  In fact, you are beautiful.  You are unique creation of God.  There is no one else just like you.  We find our beauty because we are created in the image of God, but because of sin, we are broken.  That brokenness can skew our view of our own bodies.  But, for those who surrender their lives to Christ, who paid the price of death for our imperfections and sin, we can know that our bodies are made for more than just man.  They are made for God.  They are His own.  They are made to bring Him glory.  What an awesome purpose for our body!  So, no matter your pant size, your stretch marks, or your insecurities of what your weight should be, if you are a daughter of God, He sees you as perfect.

" You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. 
So glorify God in your body."
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV


A Woman who Became a Mother

P.S.  Please don't take your children, male or female, into Victoria Secret with you.  Have them sit with their dad or someone else you know somewhere outside of the store.  Research shows the photos in the windows and displayed all over the store can start to shape in their minds what a woman should look like.  And it is just lies.  Blatant lies.  Protect your children.  Don't pretend it can't effect them at an early age.  I know.  My 5 year old daughter just asked me why her stomach isn't flat.  They look.  They observe.  They see.  Please be mindful of that.  Don't let your children sit on the floor of Victoria Secret while you shop for underwear.  I observed this situation last week and it broke my heart.

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