I debated whether or not to write on this topic because I don't want to be annoying, beating the same issue again. But then I decided that this is the myth that I feel most strongly about at this stage of my life. I figured if it carries the most meaning for me right now, then that meaning will come across in what I write, and hopefully be most meaningful to those reading.
I also don't mean for this to apply only to mothers because in life we all get 'marked'. Whether physically or emotionally, these marks become a part of who we are. Difficult or challenging experiences, even the happy ones, leave us changed forever. Marked.
The choice we have is how to view these "marks".
I can remember in my first pregnancy, my cousin mentioning how she had to buy all new jeans after being pregnant because her hips just weren't ever the same. They were wider after. Permanently wider. Even after losing all the pregnancy weight. "Hmmm....I thought. That's interesting." In my inexperience, I had never considered that pregnancy could change you forever. I had just thought I would return perfectly to who I was before.
And from the first pregnancy I mostly did, physically (although not from the second and third). But not emotionally. Nope, I was never going to be the same emotionally after bringing a child into the world and caring for that little baby and being challenged in ways I had never dreamt. I became a little more mature but also a little more serious. I think I lost some of the childlike lightness I had before. Two years post partum, I was playing beach vball with my dad and brother and we were all joking around and having fun. My sister, who was watching, made a comment about how she was glad to see "the old Kimmy". I realized in that moment, that having a child had changed me. Gradually I have brought back "lighter" pieces of myself that were a bit lost after Riley but the truth is, I'm the same Kim but also different. My very personality has been marked by motherhood.
Then after Kyla I had physical marks. Varicose veins haunted my pregnancy and remained afterwards. My core reminded me of a balloon that had been blown up, twice. That double stretch left the skin a bit loose and I now carried a bit of fat there, which I never had before. It bothered me. Just as with the veins, I found myself looking down at that part of my body, often. Wishing it would 'just go away'.
Third pregnancy has been similar to the second. The veins have been a source of constant sadness to me, as I've watched new spider veins fail and grow dark in various spots. I felt a bit helpless watching this. I was wearing compression socks on days I knew I'd be standing lots but I had this sinking feeling that I'd probably be stuck with them no matter what. There was also a nagging feeling that maybe I was doing something wrong. Making them worse by some mistake I wasn't fully aware of. Maybe my exercising was making them worse, I wondered. But I wasn't willing to give that up. Plus, the expert at the vein clinic said exercising often helps move the blood through, but I still doubted and wondered how to help my body.
These physical changes have been more challenging to me than the emotional ones. With the emotional ones, I realized that the changes were 'enriching' me, rather than 'detracting' from who I am. Giving me more empathy and compassion for others, allowing me to grow and change. Because deep down I strongly believe that if I resist and resent change emotionally, then I am resenting growth. And I love growth and change, emotionally that is. Physically, not so much. But shouldn't the same principles apply? I think so; I am enriched physically as I experience life and change because of it.
So that has got me thinking. Back when I was training for a full ironman, I was very inexperienced with clipless pedals and gear changes. Like ridiculously and embarassingly inexperienced. On hills, when my speed slowed, I often didn't gear down properly and ended up coming to a stop before I could unclip. Yep, I fell over, many times. I'm sure I was highly entertaining to the highway drivers passing by. I ended up with cuts and bruises on my legs And you know what the odd thing was, I loved them. I loved that I now had marks on my body from doing something awesome. I was training for an ironman and I now had marks to prove it. So why is it any different with motherhood marks?
A moment that every ironman athlete looks forward to is when he or she gets to cross the finish line and hear the words of the announcer say, " (insert name) YOU...ARE..AN...IRONMAN!!!! In that moment, it's like your months and countless hours of training are being recognized and appreciated and honored. You are given a title. A title that you will always have, even if you go home and get super, duper fat and unhealthy. Jokes. Many athletes get a trademark 'M' dot tattoo on their calf. A symbol to all for what they have done.
This same feeling of honor should be attributed to mothers. Even when we may not feel we are honored by others, at times, we should give honor to ourselves. Honor the sacred title, 'mother'. Honor it by carrying our marks with grateful recognition that these are an external 'symbols' of the incredible thing we have done.
Perhaps we can also be mindful in how we talk to other women about their 'marks' or lack of 'marks'. In a beautifully written email from an anonymous friend of mine:
Women are so competitive with each other. We all want to look like we "were never pregnant" at our first visit back to church with our newborns. Like the best compliment we can get from girlfriends is that we don't look like we were ever pregnant. "Oh congrats on the new baby! You look great! You look like you weren't even pregnant!" (that's an appropriate compliment?) I wish we could celebrate something else after giving birth like I don't know maybe the beautiful miracle of life you just created - and not compete with how other women "bounce back" after pregnancy and post on Facebook how soon we fit back into our "skinny" jeans. That kind of conversation with other women in my opinion almost creates unnecessary walls and or tension between the women who can bounce back and the women who can't or at least not as quickly. I have made a point never to comment on a new mom's physical appearance but focus on her beautiful baby and or her wonderful mothering. It's one thing to be healthy and happy it's another to try to meet unrealistic standards set by comparing ourselves to others. "Comparison is the thief of Joy." Theodore Roosevelt.
So in our conversations with others and even more importantly, the conversations we have in our own heads, I hope we can all give more honor to these marks. Remembering that we came here to earth to be marked up. To live. To learn and grow and offer the world something good by the fruits of our lives, including children and all other good things we give the world. Bringing life into this world is an amazing thing and to be marked up because of it is kinda special.