Friday, August 9, 2013

Your Mummy Tummy

Last week, I was breastfeeding Zoë while reading the news on my iPhone, when I came across an article covering the dress Kate Middleton wore while presenting her baby to the world. Her cornflower blue dress was beautifully high-waisted and unapologetically showed off her "mummy tummy".  When I first saw the photo, I was flooded with relief. It is normal to still look pregnant for a few days after giving birth, but Western society seems to have forgotten that. America's obsession with the perfect body puts an unrealistic and, quite frankly, unhealthy pressure on women - especially postpartum moms. Most celebrity mothers these days do not make a public appearance until they have regained their figure. I have to assume that every outfit the Duchess wears is carefully picked, since no doubt her appearance is under constant scrutiny. I love that she thoughtfully chose not wear baggy clothes or stand with her newborn covering her belly.  It seems she has busted the last taboo of pregnancy - the mummy tummy.

Kate Middleton unabashedly showing off her postpartum mummy tummy. Isn't she beautiful?
This got me thinking of my own postpartum body and the issues I have with my stomach, which now looks somewhat like a deflated weather balloon. After a c-section with my first daughter, I quickly became pregnant with my second before having the chance to lose any weight. While I am grateful that my second daughter was a quick and easy natural birth, both of my babies were around 10 lbs and have stretched out my belly leaving me with a lovely hanging apron and 30 extra lbs. Looking in the mirror has become an exercise in self-deprecation. While consuming 1,500 calories and working out 60-90 minutes a day, I have to remind myself that I am doing all that I can. I mean seriously, I could kill for some freaking carbs right now. 

I took this issue to prayer and was reminded of a passage I totally glossed over in Rachel Jankovic's book Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches. Here is the excerpt:
"...Our bodies are tools, not treasures. You should not spend your days trying to preserve your body in its eighteen-year-old form. Let it be used. By the time you die, you want to have a very dinted and dinged body. Motherhood uses your body in the way that God designed it to be used. Those are the right kind of damages. 

There are of course ways to hurt your body that are outside of God's design for it and disobedient. But motherhood is what your stomach was made for - and any wear and tear that it shows is simply the sign of a well-used tool. We are not to treat our bodies like museum pieces. They were not given to us to preserve, they were given to us to use. So use it cheerfully, and maintain it cheerfully. When you are working hard to maintain the baby weight (as you may need to), think of it as tool maintenance. You want to fix your body up to be able to use it some more. It might be used for more children, or might be used to take care of the children you have. We should not be trying to fix it up to put back on the shelf out of harm's way or to try to make ourselves look like nothing ever happened. Your body is a tool. Use it."
Wow. This passage has helped me to understand God's purpose for my body and to cut myself a little slack. Motherhood can be so demanding. It consumes our time, emotions, and even our bodies. While so many women either choose not to have children or to abort the ones they have, Jankovic is spot on when she says that one of the greatest testimonies Christian women can have in our world today is the testimony of joyfully giving your body to another. So think of it this way, the scars and stretch marks are all part of your vocation. This of course is no excuse to go schlepping around in sweatpants until your children are grown, but it should help you to put things in perspective. After all, aren't they worth it?

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