Dear — What should I call you? Body?
I’m tempted to call you “Brittany,” but that feels wrong — Brittany is contained within you, but I am so much more than just you. At the same time, I’ve placed so much weight and value and identity in you that sometimes it feels fitting, however inappropriate, to equate “Brittany” with “Brittany’s body.”
For a long time this made some sort of sense, back when you were mine, all mine. Exploring the neighborhood and legs flying as we pedaled furiously to a friend’s house. Arms burning, cutting through the water during swim team practice. Feet pounding pavement during long training runs, the shock reverberating through our knees step after step. Dancing reservedly at first and then freely at parties and weddings and in the middle of the kitchen. Walking down the aisle (heart fluttering) and back up it (heart bursting) with Dan.
I didn’t always treat you well; in fact, during some of those moments when I was frantically trying to build your strength, I refused to fuel you in good, healthy ways. I skipped meals and skipped out on hours of sleep. I berated you for not being slim enough, fast enough, strong enough, perfect enough.
I tried to conform you to a mold you were never meant to fit, to hold you to standard you were never meant to reach, to force you to be something you were never meant to be. I tried to make you into exactly what I wanted you to be, instead of working with you to accomplish good things and enjoy this big, beautiful world.
I’d like to say that the sacred act of sharing you with someone else — our teamwork to grow and sustain another human — fixed my dysfunctional relationship with you and solved all our problems and healed my disordered, broken thinking, but it didn’t. It sure did change things though, and mostly for the better.
The truth is, I’m in awe of you now more than ever. I’m in awe of how God designed you to grow, to heal, to give, to sustain. I’m in awe of God’s good plan to grow people within people.
The whole time we were pregnant with Selah, I was struck by pure wonder week after week as I read about the growth she was experiencing. You were facilitating that whole process perfectly with no real input from me. The process went according to God’s divine hand, of course, but you did the hard work of growing and making space, because that’s how he designed for it to be, and that is good.
Selah was a blueberry and then a peach and then a pumpkin, sprouting fingers and lungs and even hair that would be exactly the same shade as ours. God designed the plan, and you carried it out faithfully, and I loved every minute of the ride.
But I also secretly cursed you for packing on weight — the weight you needed to keep Selah and me healthy while you did your sacred work. I felt deeply connected to you but also entirely out of control during pregnancy, labor, and postpartum life. I couldn’t control the weight; I couldn’t control the contractions; I couldn’t control the trauma we faced during recovery. And this loss of control felt like more than a loss — it felt like a betrayal.
Weeks and then months went by with me feeling like we were adversaries, and then I finally sought help. I believed you wanted to heal, and I came to realize that it would take learning to work with you instead of against you just to get to a point where I could feel functional, let alone empowered.
We got there, and sometimes we still take steps back. Sometimes I still feel a deep distrust toward you, skeptical that you will work the way you’re supposed to. But I keep trying to listen to you, to hear what you’re telling me to do or to stop, to give you what you need to be functional and whole and healthy.
I’d always thought that listening to one’s body was for Myers-Briggs N types, for yogis and woo-woo people, not for me. But it turns out you were trying to communicate some key messages all along, and it took me a while to realize you were speaking to me, and even longer for me to really stop and listen to what you were saying:
- Slow down.
- Work with me.
- I’m for you.
Body, I know you’re for me, even when I struggle to trust you. I’ve mistreated and mishandled you. I’ve deprived you and pushed you too hard. I’ve neglected you and compared you and wished you were someone else and tried to conform you to my will, and still you stuck by me.
I’m truly sorry I didn’t listen to you sooner, that I still say horrible things to you and struggle to see you as powerful and beautiful.
I’m trying to listen a little more carefully each day. I’m trying to give you what you need. I’m trying to fuel you and believe the best about you. I’m trying.
Please be patient and flexible and gentle with me. I’ll try to do the same for you.
BrittanyI had to learn to work WITH you instead of AGAINST you: A love letter to my #postpartum body. #motherhood Click To Tweet
This post is part of my Love Letters series. You can read other love letters here: