As I tried on shirt after shirt, I started crying because I was miserable in my postpartum body. I hated everything about how I looked and when Jon tried to reassure me that I was beautiful I told him I have eyes and I know he's just being nice.
This is how I look on any given day:
Minimal makeup, not the most fashionable or form fitting clothes. Hair a hot mess. Et cetera. Basically my entire life I've chosen function over form. Jon and I once got in a fight because I wanted to wear sweatpants to the store and he said to me, "you're going out in those?" (don't slay him; this was early on in our marriage and he was still learning). I've bought into the notion that skinny is pretty. I've cried on numerous occasions in store fitting rooms, in my bedroom, in my car. I've dieted both in healthy and extreme ways. On more than one occasion Jon has had to force me to eat something.
Except things are different now. More than once, at least one of the older kids has seen me having a breakdown over my body. One of the biggest lessons we have tried to instill in Elden is that women are more than just their bodies (which - he also has no right to their bodies). They are intelligent. Beauty encompasses a personality. I can guarantee we didn't ever say anything about any woman not being pretty. I'm not sure if this was an innocent observation he made on his own or if he heard something like this elsewhere or if it's a direct result of me asking Jon if I was pretty with him in earshot. But when he, at four years old, told me he didn't like all girls based solely on their physical appearance, my heart sank. I did my best to use it as a learning experience and explained that while some people have physical beauty they can be "not pretty" on the inside. I also explained that there is so much more to a person than their beauty - they can be intelligent, funny, caring and a slew of other more important attributes. I'm not sure whether it stuck.
Then there's Edith (and eventually Etta). I distinctly remember her watching me during one of my postpartum episodes over clothes not fitting me. She was with me in a fitting room at Kohl's when Jon insisted we go and get pants for me that would fit the way I needed them to. She was quiet, staring up at me with concern in her eyes as I scrutinized every crease and fold of skin. When I sat down in defeat, she hugged me.
Is this the legacy I want to pass on to my 2-year-old? That she should be evaluating her appearance with a magnifying glass? That any of this really even matters? I try so hard to compliment her on more than her appearance--I always affirm her intelligence, her kindness, her humor. Yet here I am, demonstrating the very struggle I wish she would never have to experience herself. I know it is inevitable. I know we all go through this--even those who society would classify as "the prettiest." But I want to be a positive and healthy example to my girls that they need to just be healthy and love themselves. That they are unique and so treasured and so precious. That while it is important to eat healthy and be active, the number on their pants isn't important. I have everything going against me - they are bombarded with images of skinny models and clearly I already struggle with this. But if I want to stand any chance at all of giving them a healthy self esteem, I need to start by fixing myself. I need to realize that while I may not love every aspect of my appearance, I am more than my appearance. I am determined, motivated, intelligent, and compassionate. And while I don't quite believe in my value yet, I hope to get there soon. If for no one else, my daughters.