Because I love you, here’s a little sneak peek into You Can Do This. This is a little bit from Chapter 3, where the Confident Girl Appreciates Her Own Beauty.
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I was doing yoga in my bedroom. And, by the way, you haven’t lived until you’ve tried to chaturanga with a child tickling the back of your knees. Or downward dog with a child trying to limbo underneath you. Or do the chair pose with a child trying to use you as an actual chair. All while they’re peppering you with questions like, “Why does God make us worship him? And why is our pee yellow?” It’s like yoga on steroids. And there’s no namaste about it.
Anyway, I was in a mountain pose when somebody spotted a stretch mark on an inch of my exposed waist.
“Mommy, is that your birthmark?”
“Nope, that’s from when you were growing inside me. My skin was being stretched in so many directions when you were growing, so those streaks and stripes happened.”
“Did it feel like those pains in my feet that happen at night?”
His puppy paws are growing into these great big feet, and sometimes we have to ice them at night because the muscles ache from growing so fast.
“Yes, I think it might be like that.”
I have my share of silvery stripes across my middle. Four pregnancies and two C-sections later, my wrinkled, puckered tummy looks like a “dried apricot,” as my friend L. once said. It’s true. But you know what? I love my stretch marks. They tell a story. They are victory scars. When I look at those stripes across my abdomen, I remember when my children were growing inside me, when they were just mine, when they went everywhere with me, when only I knew when they had the hiccups.
And when I look at the six-inch scar from my C-sections, I think of the moments I met them, when I first heard them cry, when I watched them meet their daddy for the first time in the operating room. I think about how amazing it is, an everyday miracle, and how blessed I am that God let me participate in bringing them into the world. He could have chosen to do it all without my involvement.
Recently, I saw a bottle of Stretch Mark Eraser on display at the mall, professing to take those stripes away with some faithful moisturizing. I didn’t even pause to pick it up. First of all, I don’t think it would really work. But more importantly, I don’t want these marks to go away. Why would we want to remove the telltale signs of the privilege of giving birth to another individual? So that we can impress someone who sees those lines as some sort of flaw? I’m not sure I could become genuine friends with that person anyway, so I’m not interested in shaping or erasing any part of my life to get their attention.
I feel the same way about wrinkles. I remember the day, in the first year after Robb died, when I looked in the mirror and realized that my eyes looked older. My spirit was aging, and the skin around my eyes had begun to wrinkle and crinkle like crepe paper. I wasn’t yet thirty-two; I felt too young to feel so old, but I didn’t even care about the wrinkles. They were bound to happen sometime. I remember thinking I’d rather give my youth to a broken heart than hand it over to sun damage. Wrinkles mean you have loved, grey hair means you have cared, and scars mean you have lived. Why in the world would any of us want the rest of us to think that we have reached the ripe age of (insert yours) without ever really living?
Anyway, my son was not so sure. He studied my dried apricot, and he said, “I would hate to be a girl.”
“Well, there’s a lot of work to being a girl, that’s for sure.”
“Yeah, like getting cut open to have babies.”
“Well, there are some good things to being a girl, too.”
His brother chimed in, “Yeah, like your bathrooms are so much nicer.”
“Mommy! That’s so true! Who needs fluffy chairs in public bathrooms? Girls, I guess.”
His brother joined him with this conclusion, “I think it’s so they can sit there and make sure everybody washes their hands.” (Yep, gentlemen, these are the very definition of womanhood: yoga pants and stretch marks and overstuffed chairs in the bathrooms. Plain and simple, you could say these are the trade-off we get in exchange for the fact that you guys get to pee standing up.)
Listen, I’m all about being healthy. (Well, I’m not all about it. I’m actually much less about it than I am about other things. Like ice cream.) But let’s remember the difference between wanting to be healthy and needing compliments on how good we look. If your workout center is wallpapered in mirrors, have you paused for a moment to consider why that might be? It’s not for admiring one another’s integrity and character. I want to be around women who look deeper into themselves, not longer at their reflections.
I am drawn to the women who admire one another for the richness of their life experiences and the wisdom they’ve earned, for the scars in their stories and the stretch marks on their spirits, for the strength of their hearts and the depth of their thoughts. I long for the days when we can each do that for the woman standing next to us.
by Tricia Lott Williford