Sometime within the last year or so both my boys have told me in the most matter of fact of ways that they wished their bellies weren’t so curved. They wanted instead, to look like the pictures they see of superheroes. They wanted big muscles.
The beginning of my own lifelong battle with body image began when I was younger than my boys are now. All through elementary school, adolescence and young adulthood, I fought my own reflection, and learned bad habits as if they were religious rituals.
When I got pregnant, I was overwhelmed with conflicted feelings. This body didn’t belong just to me anymore. This body was someone else’s home now. And while I was racked with fear about the changes that were coming, about what the future would hold, for the first time ever, I wanted to be better, if not for myself, for my unborn babies.
I rallied against my raging hormones and raged through prenatal weigh-ins. I pretended not to care that my ballooning belly attracted the questions and comments of strangers everywhere I went. I put aside my own issues and instead tried to foster a sense of pride that my body could grow two tiny humans, could nourish them and comfort them, could give birth to them in a show of great strength and fortitude. I tried to hold on to that.
With a growing belly replaced by growing children, my internal battle has become a game of hide and seek. Wearing my stretch marks with faux pride, I have recounted heroic stories of their adventures in my womb, as their tiny faces rest on my stomach. I have anxiously worn bathing suits, and enjoyed myself in the pool and on the beach. I have made my body, my most sworn enemy, into their biggest ally, and the most natural thing in the world in their eyes. My heart melts, when they tell me I am beautiful. But really, I’m just faking it until I make it.
This body belongs to my children, who shaped it and formed it, and believe in its beauty. I owe them its full strength, its full potential, and my full-fledged efforts in breaking the cycle.
It’s a recurring theme in our house, respecting bodies-all bodies and all appearances. I know that I am in this for the long haul, and that the battle is far from over, but by giving them the example of love and acceptance that they deserve, they have given me something I never believed was possible — all the beauty and power and perfection I see in them, they see in me…and through some miraculous kid magic, I’m starting to see it too.