Miriam of the Bible is probably best known as Moses’s older sister — she’s the one who placed him in a basket and sends him down the Nile to safety. She’s known as “Miriam the prophetess” because, after the Israelites were being chased by the Egyptians — nearly losing their lives and witnessing the parting of the Red Sea — it was Miriam who provided hope and faith by rallying the women to play their tambourines and dance on the shore to celebrate their redemption.
Today, Miriam is revered by modern women as one of the early biblical feminists. Many people now include a Miriam’s Cup to their Passover Seder — a cup filled with water in order to draw attention to how important her role was in the Israelite’s Exodus from Egypt.
Imagine, however, if after enduring such a traumatic and harrowing chase — not to mention witnessing a miracle of epic proportion — Miriam had grabbed her tambourine and nervously asked her posse of women: “Does this tambourine make me look fat?”
Because that would be ridiculous, right? Who in their right mind would be concerned about their appearance after enduring a traumatic event, facing imminent death, and literally witnessing divine intervention at its best?
Well… that would be me. And there’s a good chance it is you, too — or other moms you may know. Let me explain.
When my first child was born, my delivery was a disaster. The short story reveals a 19-hour non-medicated delivery gone awry, with a 9-pound child stuck and in distress. It was traumatic, my life and the health of the baby were at risk, and yes, witnessing the birth was nothing short of a miracle. (Many women experience birth in different ways, some more smoothly than others. Nevertheless, no matter the ease or difficulty, all birth mothers basically witness a miracle.)
Upon my return home, however, it seems like my experience, not to mention my miracle, couldn’t override my insatiable need to get on the scale. What happened next wasn’t pretty: I had gained 60 pounds during my pregnancy, and I discovered had only lost six of them after delivery. I was a naked, inconsolable lump on the bathroom floor. I wallowed in my misery so completely that I didn’t have any regard for my creation, who was sleeping in the next room.
So, the question is, why do we focus on our weight when we should and could be focusing on things way more important, like caring for the new life that we brought into the world?
When you think about it, all moms witness an ongoing miracle for nine months. We watch the baby’s growth through ultrasounds and our burgeoning bellies; we see it move and feel it kick. We are growing humans inside of us, and yet, while we may appreciate the wonders of pregnancy, there is always that underlying concern: How will we lose the weight?
It’s hard not to think this way when every OB appointment begins with a weigh in. We see the numbers on the scale and, while we aren’t there to be judged by the doctor, we inevitably judge ourselves. It’s exhausting. We waste so much time worrying about something we ultimately can’t control instead of fully reveling in the experience at hand.
The post-partum period is when reality sets in, especially after the adrenaline has worn off. It’s hard to feel good about ourselves when we are exhausted, emotional, hormonal, and sore. On top of that, our stomachs look like lumps of misshapen dough. This is when we’re the hardest on ourselves — we worry about raising our brand-new humans and all the complexities and challenges it presents, and we also worry about looking like the people we were nearly 10 months prior. Of course, social media — filled with celebrities and others who “bounced back” after baby — only fuels our anxieties with pressure to quickly lose the weight.
But the fact is, my sisters, we are no longer the people we were prior to having a baby. But who’s to say that’s a bad thing? Like Miriam, we are better women for having witnessed a miracle. We are more purposeful in our thoughts and actions, and more capable of feeling gratitude. If we choose to focus on the actual miracle presented to us, perhaps we can quiet those pesky background anxieties that tell us we aren’t good enough, thin enough, or even worthy enough. If we can rise to the occasion that we are better than who we were — and truly begin to believe it — eventually our bodies will follow suit.
So, like Miriam, take time to celebrate your miracle. Celebrate your family, and your new identity. And…if you want to pull out your tambourine while you do it? Even better.