After I gave birth (with liquid pain, Pitocin, but without an epidural), I thought I could do anything. My body was sorer than it had ever been and I began having grand athletic aspirations. I envisioned myself holding my six-month-old on the other side of the marathon finish line I’d just stomped over, after which I’d politely excuse myself to breastfeed my cloth-diapered baby. Then, of course, my proud husband would steer us home to our manicured, spotless house. I guess I imagined I could be Supermom – I had given birth, after all. And, honestly, I suppose I wanted it all.
But here I am 5 ½ months later with a cup size of Double D, which prohibits me from running even to the front door and a spare mountain bike tire around my waist that jiggles if I try. Our house is situated strategically in what onlookers would describe as a triathlon training village, but I’m lucky if we can squeeze in a 30 minute walk with the stroller. I’m tired. My son still wakes up to eat at least twice a night and I want to nap during the day when he does. And when he is awake, I want to play with him and read to him, but then the house ends up a mess and my husband comes home to a train wreck –dishes and laundry piled up and a wife who hasn’t showered and is sure she is a failure at stewarding her household. Meanwhile, I dream about having a breast reduction so I can run. And be fit. And look cute in my work out clothes for those times I carry my baby on my back when I meander through Whole Foods or some other overpriced store I can’t afford. I want to hurry up and have our second (maybe third) child and get my body back. I yearn for the day when I am not my child’s sole source of nutrition, when I’m not a fast food trailer.
Our little guy will start rice cereal this week, followed by solids. I can’t wait for my boobs to shrink down to, say, a mere D cup, and for my appetite to shrink with them. I don’t want to wear size large running shorts when I have plenty of mediums in my drawer.
I sulk, but then I glance at the monitor teetering on the edge of my desk and see my sweet son sucking his two middle fingers while he takes his morning snooze. He’s gotten so big. I remember when we wondered why he would require a crib so large when, clearly, he would never fill it. Now he lies sideways and reaches across the entire thing. And I remember when we got those dinosaur jammies he’s now wearing as a gift. I looked at the tag that read 6-9 mos., almost laughing because, cute as they were, he would never get big enough to actually wear them. Now I have to pull the sides together to get the zipper up! And that tells me –along with moving up from size 2 to 3 disposable, not cloth, diapers –this won’t last forever. None of it. My son has started to army crawl across the living room floor and then roll over and over like a tumble weed. He will be crawling soon and then walking. And talking. With real words that communicate preferences and desires. It seems so far away, but so did those dino jammies when he was swimming in his preemies.
Bottom line, I have been lied to. My culture and city have told me that I can have it all, be fit-tidy-eco-mom with spare time to press my own fair-trade coffee beans and then use the grinds on my edible garden. That I don’t have to let go of any of “me” to be a mom. In fact, I can toss the kiddo in a sling and keep right on trucking through my life like nothing happened.
But what if it isn’t about me? What if God is using me, not to mention my body, for some greater purpose? Just like I have watched my son gain weight and develop on nothing but my breast milk, I wonder what else God might be nourishing through this sacrifice. Because I’m pretty sure He did not put me here to look good in Lululemon. My former students drop by to visit and I wonder what they think about my imperfect body – not that it was ever anything to brag about, but I was decently cute. Then again, what message would I send to them if I did look good in over-priced athletic gear five months after giving birth?
In the end, as I sit here looking imperfect in my size Large running shorts (that I do not run in), cleavage spilling over my sports bra, and exposed arms that are anything but toned, I have to ask what is important.
So, what is important?
I want my children to seek and know the Truth. I want them to be life-long learners with an insatiable desire for their Creator. I want them to never stop marveling at the wonders around them. To participate in life, not let it happen to them. I want to cook brownies with my children, lose sleep with my children and make huge messes with them. I want people to be unimpressed with my housekeeping abilities because of the time I have taken to listen to my child or get on the internet to find out exactly why roly-polys are on earth. I want my husband and children to have my undivided attention, to know that they matter more than emails or texts or clean, paired socks. And I want all of this more than I want an enviably fit body.
And to be honest, I am fit. I run up and down the stairs all day, carrying loads of laundry and an 80 pound baby boy – I may be exaggerating by a few pounds, but the kid is stout! I cook and clean and insert and remove said 80 pounder from the car day in and day out. It’s no Cross-fit regime, but I’m not completely weak. And the most important workout I do each day is exercising my soul. I may not get to push ups, but I get to the Word. I eat of the Bread of Life and my soul continues to train for this race, even if my body only looks mediocre.
Update: Exactly a week after I wrote this – after God gave me peace about my body – I was able to zip up my pre-pregnancy jeans. I felt confident for a whole afternoon, but now we are back to life. It is becoming clearer and clearer to me that I am not my size or the brand rubbing against the back of my neck. God created me. I am His. He is my label and size!