Scanning the piles of winter clothes still not given their proper place in my closet, I stand in frustration as I try to pick out the clothes for the day. Squeals begin over the monitor from my six-month-old whose hunger demands my presence. It is another morning in which I must find the right loose-fitting top that covers up the belly that remains from pregnancy.
I am blessed to have been able to carry two children in pregnancy and to have access to medical professionals who delivered them safely via caesarean section. My children are the ultimate source of joy and gratitude, AND YET how is it that I look at my belly with contempt now that it is empty?
Magazines zoom in on the photos of Princess Kate playing volleyball to marvel at how flat her belly is after only three months. For nine months, the paparazzi were paid to take photos of her “bump” and now they are paid to show how it has disappeared.
The pregnant belly is celebrated as one’s “bump” incites “ahhhhs” and “how cute.” But the belly after pregnancy is collateral damage. The belly that weathered the storm of first trimester nausea as it offered nutrients for my boys to grow their major organs – that grew and grew until they were ready to enter this brutiful world – is transformed into an object of annoyance, frustration, and shame.
The baby is out. The belly is empty. The body that was once an object of wonder is now an object of disdain as it retains its pregnancy shape longer than people are comfortable to admit.
I wish away the shape. I try to dress it so others won’t notice. But there’s always a feeling deep down that knows that these first inclinations towards self-loathing speak most profoundly of my brokenness as a human being.
Leaving the frustration of dressing this belly, I walk into the nursery and my eyes meet the face of my youngest whose smile beams from ear-to-ear. He lets out an infant yelp and flaps his arms. That face tells me to take it easy. It tells me to not wish away my belly for it is the tangible reminder that only six months ago, he was still tucked away safely inside me.
That face melts my feelings of disgust and instead replaces them with sadness. I realize that I have disregarded the temple that is this human body that I have been given. I have assumed that this body is mine – that its purpose is to mold to my desires and wants – when in fact, the whole act of motherhood is the giving away of self in order to foster the life of another. This body is not mine. It is merely a clay jar whose value is not its outward appearance but rather the treasure that it holds. It is the vehicle through which God comes into this world.
So I repent. I name my selfish desires to be beautiful by the world’s standards. I name my wish to be the one who has it all together. In so doing, I find God meeting me in my confession and I enter into gratitude as I see my belly as a reminder that out of death, God brings new life; into a weary world, joy is born; despite the failure we face, God.is.not.done.