She looks in the mirror and quickly looks away. Her hair is thicker now, but it seems duller. A glowing face, filling in around the edges, begins to frown as she notices the rest of her body. Arms softening. Shoulders starting to slump. Breasts growing, but not in the way one hopes. Dark veins appearing. Areolas have doubled in size, already leaking. Belly bulging, itching, a new dark line travels up from her base. Staring down at her hands swollen, she wonders what she’s done wrong.
Eyeing up and down the others, wondering if she sticks out, or if she blends in. Maybe it’s all in her mind. The strangers approach with polar opposite and completely inappropriate comments and probing questions. Curiosity of her womb grows in the minds of others, but rarely to the level she needs. Her eyes beg for reassurance, rest, refuge… Instead she is met with concern and criticism. In a moment, she is marked inadequate. Her hands will be too full, days too long or short, body too big or too small, too old or too young, too few kids or too many, too involved or un-involved, to medicate or not to medicate, puffy or thin, birth plan or not, breastfed or not… Every choice measured and weighed, no longer allowed to blend in. This bump makes her stand out. This new life has brought more than she asked for.
Stepping onto the scale with the gaze of a nurse behind her, she feels watched, judged, then concerned. Gaining weight is expected, but not too much nor too little. Her doctor notes she must have been hungry lately and embarrassment burns her cheeks and she wants to run. She promises herself to do better this month. Maybe she will ease up on the size of her meals, or workout more. “I’ll be better,” she reassures herself.
That night at dinner, a man asks if she was due soon. When she replied that she’s only half way, his eyes doubled in size and jaw dropped, he quickly laughed and said “There must be two in there!” Trying to laugh and move on, she put down her fork and drank her water instead. Attempting to just make quiet conversation. Mind wandering back to the scale, and her waistline…
Struggling to get in bed, her stomach pulls and twinges as she rolls to the side. Pillows piled high, she finally is at rest from the world. Yet she feels the pull of the baby on her front, and her now squishy body, the itching stretch marks beginning to form. Her mind is rarely at ease. Confidence now under trial. Fear and comparison seem to be winning.
Oh, Dearest Pregnant Mama, If I could just lock eyes with you right now and tell you how beautiful you are.
You are gorgeous. You are. Really. From the places where I can see you are changing, down to your heart and your insides, you are so lovely. Every part of you is growing—whether we can tell or not. Everything is becoming ‘more’ and that is breathtaking. Your love, your empathy, your body, your hormones, your capacity, your stress– it is all growing. Growth is one of the most beautiful defining factors of success and it never looks the same.
Life is growing inside of you, and we cannot and should not measure your worth based on what that looks like. Whether you are carrying out front, sideways, in the back, all around– it does not matter. Mama, you are good just because you were deemed so, not because of your womb. Your baby is called beautiful and abundant, not because they are growing at the exact rate the doctors measurements say, but because they were created. Your body and heart’s sacrifice to carry and bring this to fruition will not be forgotten. There is a reason the world is fascinated– we value life. Try and hear that each time the eyes move towards you or comments are made without understanding. You carry valuable life — both yours and your baby’s. Let the misunderstanding and judgment roll off you and let the truth of worth stampede those lies to dust.
When your body aches, as it eventually will, feel free to cry. Let your tears drip into a cup of hot coffee, or draw yourself a bath, but don’t be ashamed. Let the emotions grow, because with it your love is learning that its turn is coming. And with the birth of your baby, your capacity to love will grow more and more each day. More and more is the new pattern.
Though you may be feel weaker, know this is where strength is found. This dry place, where your bones ache, and your hips have spread, and you have not slept in days, this somehow is where miracles burst through. This place of Motherhood is rarely talked of. The place where we think we are alone. Where we cannot go on. When we do not want to go on. We must stand and reach our hand out. I promise, you’ll feel another. Whether the grip of a tired mother staring down at her weary place next to you, or the story of one far away through the internet, or the embrace of God holding you, equipping you, steadying you…Right here this is where life starts. Life is spoken into the abyss. We can see new green shoots through the cracks.
Look again, Mama. Look in the mirror, again. Your scars from a growing body or your baby’s birth or maybe the ones left on your heart are beautiful because you are a warrior. Can you remember those places you trudged through mud and crawled through barbed wire and cried and mourned and wept and fought? The sleepless nights, the patient moments, the walking away to take a breath, the pouring a bowl of cereal because that’s quickest, to wiping a butt for yet another time? The aching back, the pooching stomach, the dark circles, the labor pains, or searing scar? You are a warrior. We cannot look at the battle wounds of another and compare them to our own. You mama, are lovely, and in the weakest places you will find strength somehow.
Look in the mirror, Mama. This mirror isn’t found in the comments of strangers, or even the misguided words of family. This mirror is found in truth. No angle of the camera or filter will show the depth of your life nor value, but the truth will.
What is your truth? You get to decide each day what you accept.
Will it be lies and death, or beauty, life and strength from God in those places?