Tell her she's beautiful. Tell her she's perfect. Tell her she deserves to feel at home in her body.
Remember the ditty "Do Your Ears Hang Low"? Well... Do your boobs sag down, do they jiggle to and fro? Do they swing to the right and then reach down to the floor? Mine do. At least, I think they're mine.
The postpartum boob transformation occurred quicker than the flick of a baby finger. My old breasts were small, perky, and fluid-free. These new things attached to my chest are droopy bags, albeit fabulous droopy bags. They fill with and distribute milk, but they're just so different and devoid of perkiness.
And "my" stomach — where did that come from? It's flattish, wide, and different. It's so different from the stomach I came to know so well. Come to think of it, the only parts of my naked postpartum body I recognize are my knee caps. They're not saggy ... yet.
I don't mind this new body; it birthed my child and I will forever be in its debt but I want to figure out how to be at home in the new structure.
I recently came across a set of beautiful black and white photos presented by The Honest Body Project. These photos were raw and honest, depicting gorgeous images of postpartum women, their bodies exposed and in their natural element of breastfeeding, supporting children, or just being — without sucking it in, or Spanxing it up. It was purely authentic.
Attached to the images were stories of joy, change, tragic loss, depression, and courage. The stories were all different but contained a common thread of sincerity — sincerity for their need to express their true essence and promote acceptance for all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages of motherhood.
The creator of the project, Natalie McCain, said, "I started this project for so many reasons. My daughter is one of them. I want my daughter to know that she is more than what size her pants are. I want her to stand up to bullies, to anyone who may talk about the way she looks, or the way her friends look. I want her to love herself. I want to show her that I'm comfortable in my own skin and that she should be, too."
Photos: The Honest Body Project
Yes, just yes! These are my people — a tribe stepping through the same identity crisis/transformation I myself am going through.
But instead of hiding, they're celebrating. Celebrating the scar that was the gateway for their child's life, the wide legs that strengthened to sustain "the sway" for hour upon hour, the weary eyes that are fearful of the unknown yet grateful to be gazing into pure preciousness. The inner smile that strives to shine through when her reserves of strength wane.
These photos made me feel understood and a little less alone. We're all exploring our new homes, learning how the appliances and fixtures operate, toying around with turning the heat on, and deciding if we want to add a fresh coat of paint to any of the rooms.
It's a secret reality that women are often the harshest critics of other women, so let's flip that norm on its head and become one another's devout admirers. I find that when I tell that judgmental voice within to shut it and I'm kind to others, the person who's my harshest critic (myself) softens a bit, becomes kinder, and doesn't flinch when she sees herself naked.
Next time we see a woman rocking her true self (especially if you find her in the mirror), tell her. Tell her she's beautiful, tell her she's perfect, and tell her she deserves to feel at home in her body.