The Size of the Heart, Not the Size of the Clothes
Courtesy of Stephanie Lauren Allen
Nearly six months ago, I welcomed my first baby into the world – a baby girl! The pregnancy, as well as the feeling of being a new mom, was the best experience of my life. While I enjoyed my beautiful baby girl and all of the excitement surrounding me at that point in my life, I didn’t realize that pregnancy would chew up my body and spit it back out – or at least that what it felt like.
Being a young mom at 23, I had the typical invincible – like feeling that most young people do in that I envisioned my tiny, young body returning to its tiny, young structure immediately after pushing an almost eight pound baby out of it. I convinced myself that my body would be immune to lingering “baby fat”, stretch marks, and the dreaded it-still-looks-like-you’re-pregnant belly pouch. I concluded that all of those things were for people who were older, had lower metabolism, didn’t eat healthy, etc. Obviously it was a rude awakening when I realized that being young and healthy definitely does not serve as immunity to any of the postpartum “wonders” – not a single one! After giving birth, my body was not tiny and young once more. It was more like someone began to deflate me, but unfortunately didn’t finish the job. I looked 5 months pregnant and stretch marked! I felt a total disconnect from my body. This was not my body. I refused to accept the fact that my tiny, young body no longer existed.
For the first couple of month, every time I was naked around a mirror, I felt like breaking down completely and feeling justified for doing so. I was disgusted by everything I saw in the mirror. My flat, tiny stomach was replaced with the “it-still-looks-like-you’re-pregnant” belly pouch with a side of stretch marks. My tiny perky breasts were not not-so-tiny, not-so-perky breasts, and those also came with a side of stretch marks. I was 23 and would never wear a bikini again! My size 0 pants, along with my XS tops, were only a distant memory. Nothing I owned fit, unless I wanted to display a muffin top or a spare tire hanging over my pants and if I enjoyed having the buttons of my shirts busting open. I was bitter and I felt like crying many, many times when faced with looking at my new – but definitely not improved – body.
Going through this kind of body change is something that only those who have gone through the same experience can relate to. I lived with the same body my whole life. I was always known for being tiny. Then in a mere 9 months, the body I knew and loved was completely gone. No matter how much everyone told me I looked great for just having a baby, and some even said that I looked like I had never had a baby, I still felt really upset that I had to accept this stretch marked extra fat as my new body. I thought, “My body and I had been together for 23 years, how could it betray me and change so suddenly?” Then I realized I have to stick with my body through thick and thin, literally!
It didn’t happen suddenly, but I slowly began to realize that my body isn’t what made me beautiful before and it would not be what makes me beautiful now (or not beautiful, as I felt for so long). I realized that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I had to see myself as beautiful in order to be beautiful. I realized that beauty is caring for my child, witnessing her smile, watching her grow and learn, making sure that she always knows that she is beautiful, and teaching her confidence through example. Beauty is my thoughts, feelings, emotions, views; it is my uniqueness, my disposition, my personality. Beauty is being a caring, loving, supportive mother/wife/daughter/sister/aunt. Being a confident, strong, compassionate, eloquent, thoughtful, diplomatic, sensitive, honest, sincere, genuine, witty, elegant, talented is what makes me a beautiful woman. It is the size of my heart that makes me a beautiful person, not the size of my clothes.