I am 26 years old, divorced, with two daughters ages 4 and 7. I am proud to be a mother, and proud to be a woman.
Originally posted here.
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Standing naked in front of the mirror, I started with my toes. I love you, toes, I said. I like the way you’re shaped. I used to love dancing on you, balancing my entire body over you in the most beautiful, unnatural way. You’re amazingly strong. I love you, feet. You have a lovely little arch. You have taken me to the most wonderful places, places that have changed me. You will take me so much farther. I love you, ankles… Out loud, so that it would be real, I spoke to my body. I looked at myself under the soft light in the hallway and I went over everything, each part, leaving nothing out. I spent the most time on places that I usually avoid looking at, the parts of me that I have learned to hide under my clothes. I love you, stomach. Your skin tells the story of the day each of my babies were born. I was reborn on those days, too. Two entire lives began inside of you, grew there protected and warm until it was safe for them to leave and start their own journeys on this planet. You did an amazing thing. I love you, breasts. You look different than you used to, and that’s ok. It was you alone that sustained my babies in their first months of life. You were the link between their bodies and mine, the agent of the most beautiful, spiritual bond I have ever known. I love you, shoulders…
I spoke to my hands, my neck, my lips. I looked myself in the eyes and told them how beautiful they are. When I had gone over every physical part, I moved on to my mind, my heart, and my spirit. I told myself the things I have always wanted to hear someone say, and I believed them. I forgave myself for hating this body for so long and I told myself that things are going to be different, now. You see, I have spent the last twelve years hoping that I would wake up one morning and float out of bed, the weight of shame and disgust having been suddenly removed from my heart. And it’s true that I have slowly accepted parts of myself as the years have gone by, forgiving my arms for looking like gangly iron rods because of the dozens of people they have comforted in their embrace, letting go of the hatred I have always had for my hair and caring for it instead, allowing it to make me feel young and feminine. I have learned to love parts of me, but never all. I avert my eyes in the shower, washing blindly and focusing my mind elsewhere so I don’t have to pay attention to the places I’m ashamed of. As I do this I imagine my daughters grown up, healthy and strong, bathing with closed eyes so they don’t have to see their bodies. And that thought makes me cry. I need to have overcome this so that when the day comes that I find one of them weeping into her pillow over how hard it is to become a woman in a world that teaches you that who you are is never enough, I will have something to say to her. I need to have overcome this so that I can forge a new path in the legacy of my family’s womanhood and teach my daughters from a new handbook. I think it’s entirely possible that if I’m able to do this, to truly love my body and who I am, their pillows just might stay dry.
My body is my ticket here, my all-access pass to existence. I have abused it terribly. Other people have hurt it in unspeakably horrible ways. And I have let the shame of it all taint the wonder of this life-ticket, crumpling it up and shoving it deep into my pocket, forgetting that if I care for it tenderly and keep it safe it can take me to places I never even dreamed. I wish I could say that I have such a deep feeling of self-worth that I have chosen to love myself for my sake alone, and that being a better mother is just a fabulous side effect. But I’m not strong enough for that yet. Someday, perhaps. But for now, it’s enough to love my daughters so fiercely that I am willing to look at myself through the eyes of their mother, loving this life and this body because of them. I’ll mother the three of us. I’ll teach us all the things I was never taught so at the end of it all, when we’re old and withered, our tickets will stamped and creased and stained beyond recognition. They will have the markings of a life fully lived… and they will be our most treasured possessions.