by Claire C. McKiernan
Did you know that October 11th was the first official United Nations Day of the Girl? The day was meant to call attention to all girls, whether they are up against the rules of their society, a lack of access to health care and education, a school bully, an eating disorder, or any of a number of horrors faced by girls–and women–everywhere.
This topic naturally leads me to your spider veins. Or flabby belly, or stretch marks, or that weird third eye that developed on your forehead in your third trimester. Pregnancy changes a woman’s body and instead of embracing it, we fight it, deny it, and mourn over it. What does this teach our daughters (and sons, for that matter)? What does it communicate to our partners and to society about women?
Many things about pregnancy, child birth, and post pregnancy are not sexy. They are not meant to be. You are not, after all, designed for the mere pleasures of man any more than he should be purely designed for yours. But pregnancy, child birth, and post pregnancy IS beautiful. These moments contain a beauty that is rich in their femininity as well as in their strength. And learning to love your body in spite of the weird and unexpected changes it endures can be a part of this strength. These changes depict the unique story of you and your transformation into motherhood.
I’ll get the party started and describe a few strange things that I experienced in pregnancy:
I grew a mole. Sometime in the third trimester of my first pregnancy, a protruding ugly thing, about the size of a half a currant raisin emerged on my temple. I accidentally swiped it with my finger nail during the throes of labor and bled like a stuck pig all over the pillow. I returned home with a baby in my arms and a bandage on the side of my head. Thankfully, the mole did not grow back.
I sprouted wisdom teeth. With each pregnancy, somewhere in my 2nd trimester, I sprouted a wisdom tooth: four pregnancies, four wisdom teeth. I’d like to say they provided me with extra wisdom, but they mostly required extra time to keep clean, one kept carving into my cheek and giving me canker sores, I developed a cavity in another one, and I wound up needing them all extracted.
My feet grew. After my first pregnancy, my feet grew a half size requiring me to ditch every shoe I owned and purchase new ones. Some people might see this as a great opportunity, but I hate shopping, so this was no fun for me. After my fourth pregnancy, some seven years later, my feet somehow returned to their original size. Go figure. I now own both sizes, depending on the shoe.
My hair changed. After my first pregnancy, my hair turned a darker brown. It no longer gets natural auburn highlights in the summer sun, but I like the richness of it, so, that was a pleasant change. In my fourth pregnancy it became thick and coarse, giving me volume I had always dreamed of. I never liked my limp, fine hair, and now suddenly I had thicker, coarser hairs. You know what? I hated it. It felt like I was brushing someone else’s hair. It felt rough in comparison to the hair I had always had. Less than a year after the birth, it returned to normal (still quite dark). That brief encounter with the hair I had always thought I wanted was a turning point for me. Suddenly I realized that the hair I had always seen as limp and fine might actually be seen as shiny and silky-soft. I loved it for the first time and realized I should have loved it all along.
Of course, I experienced less oddball changes, some of which are permanent features. I went through the mourning stage and the futile attempts to erase the signs that my body had been through a metamorphosis in order to produce a thriving healthy child. But then, over time (and after the hair experience), something wonderful happened. I started putting a good spin on changes that have occurred, including stretch marks, which, on a good day, I can even SMILE about because they remind me of the babies I once held within my expanding belly.
Next time you look in the mirror and see something you’d rather not see, take the time to reflect (a pun—haha!) on why this change bothers you. Should it? Or is it that you just need time to get acquainted with yourself, accept yourself, and embrace the fact that your body shows off some of your life experiences?
So, what changes have you experienced? Common or quirky, temporary or lasting, positive or not-so-positive, these changes make us beautiful, strong women. If you want your daughters to feel that way about themselves and your sons to view women in this way, then it starts with how we view ourselves. Send some emails my way at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll write a follow-up article (I won’t use names) celebrating the various changes our bodies have gone through in order to keep the human race alive!