It Took 3 Babies and All the Stretch Marks to Finally Appreciate My Body

Last week my husband and I celebrated 15 years of togetherness (we started dating at the ripe old ages of 16 and 17), which lent itself ever so perfectly to a bout of sappy nostalgia. That evening, after the kids were in bed, I found myself scrolling back through old Facebook albums from when we were just young babes in college. I couldn’t help but laugh at our “interesting” fashion choices and feel at least a little bit winsome for that carefree time in life. But, beyond that, I found myself noticing just how thin I was back in my early 20’s. Upon noticing this, I had a few thoughts:

1. I can’t believe I was ever that thin!

2. I distinctly remember feeling “fat” during the stage of life when these photos were taken.

3. The sad truth is that three kids, 40+ pounds, and a million stretch marks, I actually feel way more comfortable in my own skin than I did in my early twenties.

On the surface it makes no sense, because if we’re being totally honest, visually speaking, my body is a bit of a wreck now. My stomach looks a lot like a road map covered in highways and on-ramps. My breasts’ prime years are long gone in the rearview mirror, having been stretched to max capacity and then deflated as I’ve nursed and weaned multiple babies. Everything is just all-around more squishy and imperfect.

Of course if some magical wish-granting fairy came and offered to swap this run-down version of a 32-year-old body for the shiny, new 22-year-old body I once lived in, I certainly wouldn’t be sad about it. I would only want it back though if it meant I could appreciate it through the newfound lens of appreciation that my 30’s have offered me.

When I think back to my 20’s, I had no appreciation for my body whatsoever. I filled it with junk food, barely exercised, and spent the vast majority of my time obsessing over how imperfect said body was. It makes me so sad to think about how much of my life was spent loathing my body.

The thing about becoming older is that you also become a little bit wiser (at least in some ways) and for me that has meant a growing appreciation for my body. Yes, this vessel that takes me through each day is an imperfect model, but it really is quite amazing. It has nourished and sustained human life during pregnancy three separate times. It worked like a well-oiled machine as I pushed those babies out and it gave me exactly what I needed to keep my babies nourished as I breastfed. This body of mine does countless amazing things that I never appreciated before becoming a mother. Legs to dance in the kitchen with my family, arms to carry my babies and a voice to sing them lullabies. It is also a body that my children will see as they grow up and I want them to see that I have a healthy relationship with it. I don’t want them to constantly see me crash dieting or complaining of looking fat. I want them to see it as a body that is just as good as any other…maybe even better having been stretched to its limits to create their precious little lives.

So maybe those pre-motherhood “goal jeans” will never actually fit again, but I’ve made peace with it. I’m done focusing on all the things that my body isn’t and instead choosing to be thankful for the things that it is.