The Baby Changes Everything: Body Image

In my efforts to understand what precisely it is that people mean when they say, “The baby changes everything”, I’ve got another to add to the list.

The Way I Feel About My Body*

Given my tendencies towards perfectionism and what more than one professional has termed “the obsessive features of my personality”, it is surprising that I’ve never had any significant body image issues. As a woman who lives in this time and this place I of course have totally whacked out ideas about how I should look vs how I actually do look (I’ve been paying attention after all), but it’s yet to cross the boundary into pathology. I’ve spent much of my post-puberty life longing to be described as “tall and willowy”, but I’ve never gone to unhealthy lengths to reach that goal. Although I’ve done more than my fair share of grumbling about it, I’ve (mostly) accepted the fact that I will never be mistaken for a ballet dancer. These hips appear to be here to stay (oh bone structure) and I’m certainly not getting any taller. So before Yogi was born I was occupying this Yeah, I like it ok. Could be better, but it’ll do. space when it came to body image.

Then I became a Mama.

My physical interaction with Yogi from his earliest days was driven by a desire to help him feel safe. I wanted to hold him close and tight and let him know that I was there. As he’s grown older I’ve become so grateful for my ability to throw him up on my shoulders and spin him around until he’s dizzy. When Monkey was born I was thrilled to discover that I can carry both boys (one on each hip) for quite a distance. I love the fact that Yogi can ride horsey on my back each night before bed and not for one second do I bemoan the broadness of my hips.

My body is perfect for the job of being a Mama to these boys!

I’m sure that many a ballet dancer could do the Mama work that I’m doing in their own fabulous way, but I don’t need to look like one to do what’s important to me. Now the only body-related aspirations I have are to be as healthy as I can be. I don’t want to lose weight and I don’t want to discover the secret to trimming inches from my hips. I want to see these boys grow and I want to use this body to nurture and create safety in their lives.


* It just seems like something that should be capitalized, doesn’t it?


One thought on “The Baby Changes Everything: Body Image

  1. I truly love this. (Though I’m jealous of your hips; I’ve finally admitted to myself that I can’t do hip carries in wraps because I don’t have hips on which to carry. Lame-o.) Anyway, this is such a delight because the traditional feminist line, of course, is that all things mothering contribute to the keeping-us-in-our-place of patriarchy. So wonderful to have such a tangible example of how mothering can actually subvert the messages we’re told about our bodies/make us love them on different terms than the ones we’re told to love them on. I sense that this is mothering’s capacity on lots of fronts, but sensing it and having such a solid example are two different things. (Also, of course, I love this for you. The political is always just a nice second layer for the work we do.)

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