I never truly appreciated my body to its fullest until I got pregnant. At first, I was more in awe — and a little terrified — of how rapidly things were changing. My breasts, which were never very large to begin with, became full and round, protruding out of the tops of my shirts. My stomach slowly started to expand outward, eventually making it look like I was smuggling a basketball around all day.
Both my breasts and hips gained new stretch marks, from having grown so quickly over a short period of time. The new marks glistened light pink as they traversed my skin, and have since lightened to a fine silver, no longer shouting at me, yet still reminding me how they got there. My pregnancy itself was neither difficult nor easy, falling somewhere in the middle. I had a few challenges including "morning" sickness that didn't let up until well into my second trimester, and intense pelvic bone pain that stayed with me through the entirety of the last third of my pregnancy. But through it all, I marveled at my body and what it was capable of accomplishing.
"There's a person growing in there!" I'd marvel, continuously pointing out to my husband every time the baby would make my belly ripple with movement.
While never having been one for sports, I have to say that my labor and delivery was definitely an athletic endeavor, and that is where the true power of my body shined through. Yes, my back ached as I rode out the waves of contractions, and yes, my legs and arms shook as I wondered if I had any energy left to power through. And sure, other parts seared with fire as they grew, stretched and shifted. But it pulled through. And after?
Days after, as I sat with swollen breasts bursting with milk, and still slightly swollen in other areas as well, I marveled at the fact that I did it. My body didn't look the same as it did 10 months prior, but it had accomplished a miraculous feat. I had grown a person and delivered him to the world.
At first I didn't have time to worry about my post-pregnancy body. I was too busy trying to snatch seconds of sleep in between cooing over this amazing, new little person in our lives. Then, I started to see how my stomach was softer, my thighs a bit jigglier and my breasts a whole new shape I never thought was possible. But this time, unlike my more self-conscious teenage self, I was proud of it. My breasts, which changed shape almost daily for the three years my son nursed, provided nutrition and comfort to my son. My stomach, which once upon a time was fairly flat, was now spongy and rounder, but provided the best, comfiest spot for my baby to rest his head. My legs, wider than ever, held me up so that I could hold my baby boy. My body — in all its imperfections — was really freaking awesome.
I had always favored one piece or tankini style bathing suits, but post pregnancy? I rocked bikinis during the summer, regardless of what others thought. My body is a machine that accomplished so much, and I am grateful for it. If a bikini is more comfortable for me in the summer, then so be it. Sure, I still have my moments of self-doubt, but who can blame me? We live in a society where we're inundated with messages of what beauty supposedly is and where entire industries make billions pointing out our imperfections and hawking products that will trim, tighten and fix. But you know what? I don't need fixing. I'd rather spend my precious time enjoying life, having fun with my family and appreciating my body for its strength and abilities, not fixating on what it lacks.
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