I have been thinking about beauty a lot recently: outward beauty, inner beauty, society’s view of beautiful, motherhood’s version, and how our God sees our beauty.
To me, beauty is feeling confident with yourself–how you look, how you feel in your body, how you perceive the day. And to be honest, it’s been a little hard for me the past few months. But, I finally think I’m doing ok.
I want to start with a little anecdote. My parents spent thousands of dollars to make sure I had good teeth: braces, retainers, dentist cleanings and cavity fillings, toothpaste and toothbrushes in our Christmas stocking. And yet, did you know that I am missing a tooth? I have a beautiful smile, but somehow, my genes forgot to create one adult molar! At age 13, getting my braces, I still had one baby molar. The orthodontist had to sand the width down to match the adult molars. The dentists said it could come out the next year, in 10 years, or in my grave. Well, as much as I took care of my teeth, that lone baby tooth decided to give up the ghost in 2010, and we had it pulled. We couldn’t afford for me to get a bridge or an implant (and I still can’t). But, it didn’t bother me because I couldn’t see it.
The same applies to some of the changes my body has gone through after carrying and birthing my first child. I didn’t have stretchmarks until after labor! But, I don’t really mind them all that much. And, no one else can see them…that’s probably the main reason I don’t mind them. Like my tooth, they aren’t noticeable.
I am also actually experiencing post-partum hair loss. I have naturally thick, curly red hair. I am used to clogging up the drain and filling up the bristles on my brush every other week or so. But now, I have to do so almost every day! I already had a pretty thin hair line on my forehead, but it’s even more pronounced now. Thankfully, I have really cute accessories to mask it when I wear my hair up.
But, the biggest, and most noticeable change to me is my weight and figure. Now, you may say, “Tayler, you look great! You didn’t really look pregnant at 9 months, and you are stunning now.” I’ll say, “Thanks, but I can still feel the difference.”
I have been very thin my entire life. I am 5’7.5″ and have always had a good BMI and been on the lower end of the range for healthy weight. The heaviest I ever weighed was my senior year of high school at 150lbs. It was a stressful time–I was graduating and my family was moving. I also worked at an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. That summer, I decided to start running and work out. By the time my freshman year of college was over (10 months later), I had lost 18 pounds! Since 2009, I’ve weighed anywhere between 132-137 pounds. I was running and exercising, I was eating healthily, and I felt and looked great! I loved being able to feel thin, but notice the tone and muscle I had accumulated. I loved the fact that my husband could easily wrap his arms almost completely around me. I was confident, and I had always struggled with my body image.
Last year, working 50 minutes away, and getting pregnant, my time to work out disappeared. But, I didn’t fear. I knew that if I made healthy choices, I’d still be ok with my weight. And, during the whole pregnancy, I only put on 35 pounds! After a week or two of giving birth, I was already down to 148 pounds. And there I have stayed.
I know that this weight is pretty dang average for my height, but I’ve struggled with how I’ve felt about it. I have extra fat on my love handles, my tummy, my cheeks, and my thighs that weren’t there before. I don’t necessarily like it. I feel heavier. I don’t feel in shape. I miss being as skinny as I was. I miss relatives and friends telling me how great and thin I looked. I miss feeling like I’ve just worked out.
After I got the 6 week clearance, I started to go running again. It was much harder than before pregnancy. 1) I hadn’t gone running for a year! 2) I was now pushing a baby in a running stroller. 3) Where I live is all hills and I’ve never really ever been good at running those. But, it fit in nicely with Rhys and my schedule. Except, about two weeks ago, one of the tires on the stroller popped and we haven’t been able to fix it just yet.
Now, I still am healthy (for the most part). I don’t pig out and I do try to stretch or workout at home. But, I feel different.
A few weeks ago, I wore this outfit, saw myself in the mirror, and thought to myself, “Dang, I look good!” I had forgotten how long my legs are and how nice they look on my body. So, I started to accentuate them. Justin, my sisters, and my mom have all commented on how I actually have curves now (look at the picture of me in the skirt…I had a tiny hour-glass shape, but I was mostly a stick). Now, I have actual curves. So, I started to accentuate them. My bosom is noticeable, my butt is a little bigger, and my hips are wider, giving me a real noticeable hour-glass shape. As I walk up our stairs, sometimes I watch my shadow. I watch my hips sway back and forth. I like that. I thought to myself:
I am beautiful.
My mom says, “It took 9 months for you to gain that weight. Expect the same amount of time to lose it.” I think back to the first time I saw Gone With the Wind as a junior high student. Scarlet O’Hara had just had a baby and was trying to put her corset on so she’d have a 19″ waist again. Mammy, her slave, measured her and said that she just birthed a baby. Her body would never be the same afterward. I had prepared for that my whole life. And I was ok with that, as long as I wasn’t overweight. Then, I met my sisters-in-law, each who have given birth four times, and look astounding with beautiful figures. I know it’s possible to get my body back the way it was.
But, for now, I’m taking it slow, and I am ok with that. It is important for me to listen to my body and remember what it is meant to do: give Rhys life and nourishment. And so far, it has done a wonderful job of that, and for that, I am thankful.
Because I am still beautiful.
And, although I still miss the way my body used to be, I am finding things I like about the way I look right now and ways to like my current beautiful body.
Here are some of ways to realize you are beautiful, even postpartum:
–Listen to your family members compliment your body and believe them
–Congratulate yourself on surviving labor (or a C-section). Your body did what it was meant to do.
–Go shopping! Your body is probably a different shape now or fills out different areas. Find new
clothes that accentuate your new, beautiful areas.
–Look at how your child looks at you. They love you for being you. That’s what truly matters.
–Indulge in a nice, long, warm shower or bath.
–Do what you can to exercise: run, yoga, stretch, curl ups.
–Wear cute hair things.
–Put on makeup even if you aren’t leaving the house.
–Smile. Looking at yourself smile can be a huge confidence booster.
–Be intimate with your husband–you’ll feel beautiful, and he’ll think so, too.
–Read other postpartum blog posts on beauty, depression, and other shared experiences. You’ll realize you aren’t alone in it.
–Compliment yourself on one part of your body each day.
–Tell yourself you are beautiful.