Here is a snapshot of my afternoon: disheveled apartment, boxes stacked in every corner, and a toddler walking around with my shirt on his head. This photograph is perfection, actually.
Notice those plastic bins in the background? Today, at 15 months postpartum, I finally took my pre-baby clothes out of storage. My little guy helped me unpack them. And by “unpack”, I mean he threw them on the floor, tried to climb into the boxes, and then threw himself on the floor when he was unable to do so.
Anyway, back to the story…
It has been almost two years since any of those clothes fit me. I tried them on today and, truthfully, most of them still do not fit. The ones that do fit are not exactly flattering. The most surprising part of this experience? I am totally okay with it.
There was a time, not so long ago, when this would have crushed me. It would have been an epic blow to my self-esteem, one that I certainly would not have publicized. Six months ago, I would have felt ashamed that I had not regained my pre-baby body and felt pressured to do something about it. Thankfully, today is not six months ago. Today, my self-worth is not measured in pounds or inches. Health and wellness are important to me, but fitting into an old pair of jeans is not.
This body grew that amazing little shirt-on-his-head human, and it will never be the same as a result. I now have an asymmetrical c-section scar, a few mysterious dents in my belly, and a little extra cushioning all around. My hips and rib cage are wider, and my gray hairs are multiplying. But, in the realm of how motherhood has changed me, these physical alterations are insignificant.
Motherhood has shown me the capabilities of my mind and body. It has allowed my heart to experience a kind of love that deserves a name of its own. It has provided me a deeper appreciation of my husband and support systems. It has taught me the beauty of vulnerability. Motherhood has taken me apart and then rebuilt a stronger and more resilient version than what existed before. I now understand that becoming undone is an opportunity more than an ending. Motherhood made this possible for me. I believe that a life well-lived is characterized by growth, and today that growth happens to be reflected in the size of my pants. The girl who fit into those clothes was not capable of being the woman who does not.
This woman is finished with pressure to “bounce back” after having a baby. Time-travel is not in my skill repertoire. Why would I want to move backward, anyway? If I am going to bounce anywhere, I hope it is forward. I am not the same person as the one who wore those jeans, nor do I want to be. If my pre-baby clothes wind up fitting me again one day, then it saves me a few dollars on a new wardrobe, but I will no longer feel inadequate if that day never comes.
Today I choose to embrace these changes as souvenirs from my journey. I choose to let my scars remind me that I have faced a battle and survived. I choose to love the body that created my laughing, dancing, mess-making miracle. If given the option, I will choose this wider, rounder, grayer, dent-ier version of myself over, and over, and over again.
Now, please excuse me as I “bounce back” down to our storage unit with these boxes…
Written by Ashley Abeles