Dear PostPartum Mama,
You are beautiful.
Don’t roll your eyes at me. I know. I, too, went from a waif on my wedding day to a popped can of Pillsbury Grands by my second anniversary. I, too, have nothing to wear. And my hair is thinning. And the back fat is just not the look.
But, seriously. When your baby looks up at you, stretch marks and cellulite are the last things on his (or her) little mind. You are that child’s hero. You’re my hero. And you’re gorgeous.
Charm Is Deceitful
Several months ago, I penned those words as a Facebook status. I was the new mom of a nursing infant, trying to write the reminder that I needed. Not much has changed between now and then, except that my baby is almost a year old now, and I’ve lost about fifteen pounds.
I remember how it felt, standing in front of the mirror during my last weeks of pregnancy, face full, feet swollen, back dipped from my enormous belly. I remember staring at myself for so long that I wept, hot, angry tears making their way down the mountain of my new form. A friend of mine had just rebuked me of my vanity: “Charm is deceitful!” she’d quoted from Proverbs 31. “Beauty is vain! Fear the Lord!”
[clickToTweet tweet=”‘Christ himself came to save us, and his first stop here on earth was the womb of a woman.'” quote=”‘Christ himself came to save us, and his first stop here on earth was the womb of a woman.'”]
Bless her. Seriously: bless her. But at that moment, I needed more than just a Bible verse turned slogan — I needed to have the truth of the Gospel measured with the tenderness of its implications for God’s children.
Fearfully And Wonderfully Made
I know that Psalm 139 is often used to extol the marvelous intricacy of the baby in your womb — but do you know that it also applies to that baby’s mama?
Postpartum mama, your little one is fearfully and wonderfully made — and so are you. You gave birth to an entire person. I barely passed biology, but I housed and sustained an intricate network of organs and a nervous system. The Lord used my body as a vessel to bring LIFE that he created and entrusted to me into the world. The Lord predestines souls for his divine purposes and then houses them in our bodies as part of his marvelous plan.
Let that sink in.
Christ himself came to save us, and his first stop here on earth was the womb of a woman.
It’s amazing. You are amazing. God is amazing!
A Living Sacrifice
I’ve written before about how childbearing is an intimate picture of what it means to be a living sacrifice — but it bears repeating.
Before my first pregnancy, I was 5’8″ and just under one hundred and twenty-five pounds. I was the queen of extra smalls and size zero’s, and the best at complaining about how I wished I looked more like a woman and less like a pre-pubescent boy.
If I could slap that silly little girl, I definitely would have done so either while I was verging on beached-whale status during my pregnancy, or on that emotional postpartum day where I surrendered my wedding ring because of my swollen fingers. But that girl became a mama, and 125 is such a thing of the past that I gave away every last stitch of that little clothing and started over again.
Our bodies change for our babies. Whether we have morning sickness or breezy pregnancies, natural labor, epidural, or C-section (they all hurt!), stretch marks or extra weight, postpartum depression or postbirth bliss, our lives and our bodies will never be the same. They were willingly surrendered for the lives of our children.
If that isn’t a picture of what it means to be a living sacrifice, I’m not sure what is.
Beauty is Vain
“Babe. I feel… beautiful!”
Phillip laughed at me when I said this the other day. “You have always been beautiful,” he replied (like a good husband). And as a woman created in God’s image, I believe what he said.
But the other day, when I looked into the mirror, I didn’t see thirty extra pounds, mom gut, or my sagging chest. They were all there, I promise — I just didn’t see them. I saw Wynn’s mama; the new version of me, who shepherds the heart of a little boy God has blessed her with. I saw Phillip’s wife, waif no longer, but still a woman — the wife of his youth, whether the breasts he’s been called to delight in are perky or pathetic. And I saw God’s daughter, who has needed those tender reminders that beauty isn’t only measured in a tight behind or a flat stomach, but also in service and sacrifice.
Proverbs 31:30 is true, of course. The fear of the Lord is much more important than outer beauty. But we serve a God who cares about our struggles, the same way we care about comforting our children (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). I’m so grateful for the Father’s tenderness in teaching me about himself in the midst of my body consciousness.
Old Fashioned Encouragement
Dear postpartum mama, if you are struggling with the new version of yourself, I’m sure there are many who could recommend diet and exercise regimens that might whip you right back into shape. And those are excellent ways to steward the body God has given you. I’m also sure many can remind you not to give in to vanity, that your body is just a shell for the much more important soul inside of it. And they wouldn’t be wrong.
But what I want to offer today is just encouragement, plain and simple, whether you’re a nursing mama who’s carb loading like crazy or a fit mama who’s running her third lap: you are beautiful. Be healthy — stay active, eat right, and take care of yourself as best you can while continuing to sacrifice daily for that little person who was made in God’s image (inside of another precious image-bearer). But don’t pressure yourself to look the same way that you did before you became a rockstar.
I’ve been in Atlanta all week with my husband. We’re here half for ministry (for me), part for work (for him), and part for some quality time with just us two. We left on the heels of hosting my family all the way from Zambia. In fact, seven of my siblings, my mom, and my dad are back in our eighteen hundred square foot home with our sons. I should be laying in a hotel bed binging Parks and Rec with my husband. And I will be soon. But I have something to say about motherhood and mom guilt.
A few months ago, I wrote an article for Legacy about friendship. In it, I tried to be as honest as possible about the struggle of being a transplant in Mississippi’s foreign culture, and my own hang-ups with making new friends. I hit send. Weeks passed. A couple of months. Then the article went live. And I had more than one friend reach out to me and ask me if we were okay. “I thought we were friends!” Undercover Trust Issues I’m not a journaler, and I try not to use my articles as thinly veiled diary entries. However, there…