I exercise almost every day. Doing so helps me feel strong (and not just physically), it keeps my mind from dominating the ever-so-precarious mind/body/soul balance, and it allows me to better embrace, make sense of, and appreciate my often-crazy life.
But no matter how fit I become, I will always have the body of someone who has carried, birthed, and nursed four babies. My belly is soft, squishy, and covered in stretch marks (you can see them here), my thighs and butt stubbornly store fat (just in case I decide to keep going with this baby-making trend, probably), and my breasts look more like those you’ve seen in Nat Geo than any other magazine on the rack.
I have the body of a mother, and given that it’s been nine years since my youngest was born, there will clearly be no “bouncing back,” no matter how many calories I burn, crunches I do, or hours I spend at the gym.
Thankfully, I’ve not only made peace with this fact, but I’ve come to see it as a truly beautiful thing.
I work with mothers for a living. More specifically, I support women as they grow, transition, recreate their lives, reclaim their worth, and heal their relationships with themselves. The more women I witness, and the deeper I journey into motherhood myself, the more obvious it becomes to me:
We’re not meant to “bounce back” after babies. Not physically, not emotionally, and definitely not spiritually. We’re meant to step forward into more awakened, more attuned, and more powerful versions of ourselves. Motherhood is a sacred, beautiful, honourable evolution, not the shameful shift into a lesser-than state of being that our society makes it seem.
The very notion that we are meant to change as little as possible, and even revert back to the women we were before we became mothers is not only unrealistic, but it’s an insult to women of all ages, demographics, shapes, and sizes. It makes a mockery of the powerful passage into one of the most essential roles a human can live into, and it keeps women disempowered through an endless journey of striving for unattainable goals that wouldn’t necessarily serve us even if we could reach them.
The world needs the transformation motherhood brings about it us. The softening, the tenderness, the vulnerability, the shift in prioritisation, the depth of love — these are some of the qualities our hurting world needs most.
But here’s the thing: awakened, empowered mothers who know their true worth (especially those of us with relative freedom, opportunities, and privilege) are a threat to so many of our current social structures and cultural norms.
- The “beauty” and fashion industries (among others) count on our dissatisfaction with our bodies and lives after babies. The more in touch we become with our inherent worthiness, beauty, strength, and purpose, the less products of any kind we need to help us feel good and love our lives.
- Our needs are not in line with “the bottom line.” Businesses and workplaces will be forced to rethink their profits-before-people prioritisation once we decide, collectively, that our needs matter. Ample maternity leave, affordable healthcare, part-time positions with benefits, and increased flexibility are more likely to become the norm once we see ourselves as worthy of having our needs met. This shift is strongly resisted by those who benefit from the way society is currently structured.
- We still live in a masculine-dominant culture in which feminine power terrifies people. Just look at how often people recoil and squirm around the subjects of birth, menstruation, and menopause, for example. Culturally, we’re not comfortable with femininity in its realness and fullness yet. We must first be tidied up, plucked, shaved, sterilised and photo-shopped before we’re seen as presentable, acceptable, and not disgusting. Though motherhood presents many reasons and opportunities to dissolve this distorted paradigm, the shame we still feel around our bodies, our vulnerabilities, and our needs often keeps us trapped by and limiting ourselves.
It’s up to each and every one of us to decide whether we will embrace the sacred evolution into motherhood in all its messy, mysterious beauty, or fight it right alongside the industries that count on our dissatisfaction and disempowerment.