In baby and me yoga class, the instructor asks that we each introduce ourselves, our babies, and then share how we’re feeling today, both physically and emotionally. A small but lovely gesture–she wants to help us create a community of new mamas.
Yet, as we go around the room, I realize that the thread running through each introduction is self-criticism. Moms with babies as young as 6 weeks are embarrassed to explain why they haven’t yet been able to tighten their abdominal muscles, saying, “I want to better access my core but with everything going on in my life, remembering to hold in my abs is a constant battle.”
War metaphors for our relationships to our post-partum bodies? It’s true, it feels like it’s us against our jiggly, curvy bodies–may the stronger woman win. Six weeks post-partum and we’re already back at war. Or maybe the battles were raging throughout pregnancy, as the numbers on the scale got higher, and every part of our bodies seemed to swell.
I have been a home for another human life twice. I listened as my wise body taught me how to push a baby out. Then, right away, both times, I went back to war with the body that had just sustained my child for 10 months. Why? Why do we turn on our incredible bodies so quickly?
We learn from our parents, our friends, our culture, that our value is in our thinness, in how fast we can return to our pre-baby bodies and our pre-baby selves. That we should firm up our core, get “back on track,” get rid of the thunder thighs. That’s not to mention the recent discussion of “working through” maternity leave.
I understand the mamas at yoga, because I am one of them. In the morning, I wonder how long I can hold out until I need to eat breakfast, and then I chastise myself in my head if I eat carbs before noon. I went to a new moms pilates class last night and baby and me yoga this afternoon. I weigh myself everyday.
I have always wanted a daughter. A little girl to nurture as she grows into a woman. To teach her how awesome it is to inhabit a female body, how powerful a woman can be.
Oh Eva, my sweet baby girl, I’m scared to introduce you to this mess. I’m not sure the world is ready to teach you how to be a woman who recognizes your own self-worth no matter how much you weigh, no matter how in touch with your core you happen to be. I’m not even sure I’m ready.
Here’s what I want to teach you: be kind to yourself. You are worthy of love and respect. Your healthy body is a miracle–God-willing, you will run, laugh, menstruate, bend into downward dog and maybe one day, your body will be the home for your children, just like mine was. Love your body, Eva. Trust me, it’s beautiful.