We women have our work cut out for us. Just when we think we’ve rounded a corner, another door slams in our face. Another testimony of abuse. Another man telling us what to do. Another magazine telling us how to look. It is a whole lot of suck, but our Jesus works all things for good, and I believe He has sweet redemptive plans for the ways our gender has suffered – not at the expense of men but in unity with them. Women were created to be nurturers, creators, and fighters, and it is in the obstacles, glass ceilings, and injustices of our world that are we truly challenged to use our gifts and voices for positive change. It is in the trials, common as they may be, that we are able to look at ourselves and those women around us and think, “wow- what a force to be reckoned with.”
This post may come at a good time as the #metoo movement and Women’s March were recently the talk of every town. And while elements of the Women’s March are honestly quite distasteful and displeasing to me, I stand in solidarity with its intent. Women deserve to be heard, seen, and treated in ways that value their humanity, and frankly, their badassery.
Two things have me a bit down as of late, and they both fit into the realm of women’s issues, more specifically, pregnancy:
1. Maternity leave, or the lack their of. I honor and respect my employer, and so I say these things as an address to all workplaces, as I know the injustice spans far greater a distance than one profession in one area. Society, we have messed up BIG. Legally, each woman is guaranteed 12 weeks of time off. PHEW. WE’RE ON TO SOMETHING! But wait…none of that time is required to be paid time off. AND WE FELL.OFF.THE.TRACKS. Providing a mother (WHO, REMINDER, HAS JUST BIRTHED A HUMAN) with her same steady income during a new and turbulent season learning how to CARE FOR SAID HUMAN’S EVERY NEED seems like a no-brainer. Or at the very least, a thoughtful and compassionate thing to do. But alas, we must do without. SURELY, women can make do for 6-12 weeks without an income. And if they can’t, SURELY they will be fine coming back to work after 2 weeks off with their baby (can’t find childcare for a 10-day-old? not our problem).
Chew on that a minute…
Ok. Are we calm? Becoming a mother is not the same as being sick (apparently these are easily confused…). It is not a time that calls for any more stress than the lot it comes with on its own. It is not a problem. Why then, do I begin to think that I did something wrong, that this beautiful baby is not what’s best? When the only paid leave you receive are those sick days you don’t use (and in some cases, not even that), it sends the message that your employer, your community, your country doesn’t care about you and your new role as a parent. You get the same care as a fellow employee with the common cold, nothing more. I am hurt. Entering motherhood, and fatherhood, is a time of new life and great beauty, and as such, deserves to be greatly valued. It is not the time for a workplace to make life more stressful for the family by removing the money they now need more of as they provide for their little blessing. We are at a time in history where women are encouraged to work, but it would seem that our workplaces are still catching up. Businesses, schools, hospitals, practices, etc. – you need to recognize that the women you employ may just enter one of the most natural parts of their life while working for you, and if they do, love us, support us, and please, pay us. We’re still your employees, after all.
2. Pregnancy weight gain. Before I share the struggles of this, I’d like to make it clear that 1. Pregnancy is NUTS. Women’s bodies are incredible. I am in awe of the ways my body is growing and changing to meet the needs of its new resident. I still cannot fathom how God created us to actually hold and give birth to another person, and how, in His graciousness, He’d allow us the opportunity to feel our child growing inside our body. Like I said, NUTS. 2. I LOVE my baby. All the struggle and yuck that is pregnancy is so incredibly worth it, and I haven’t even met the lil guy yet. I’m so beyond thankful for him, and I am happy to share my body with him while he prepares to meet the world.
All that said, pregnancy has been an uphill battle for my mental state. I’ve always been a fairly thin person. I am a long-distance runner, so in some ways, it comes with the territory. Being unable to (really) run for 9 months has been difficult (shoutout to running – I miss you!). But even more difficult is the lack of control I have over my own body. Seriously, if you want to experience completely giving up control, look no further than pregnancy. I eat a healthy diet (not the whole gluten free, dairy free business, but getting my essential nutrients along with the occasional bowl of ice cream). I also exercise a lot more than I thought I’d be able to at this stage in the game (5-7 times a week – walking, strength training, and most popular right now, swimming). I am doing all I can. Yet, I am putting on pounds. Like verging on, by the end of my pregnancy, being outside of the range of “healthy” for a pregnant woman. With 6 weeks left, I’ll be cutting it reeeeal close. Because gaining the “healthy” 25-35 pounds is realistic for every woman’s body, of course. I’ve read and heard people say that each woman’s body adapts differently to pregnancy, which doesn’t mean any one way is healthier than the next; it simply means that our bodies know what’s best for our babies, and they will respond. We can’t control that response. This is relieving to hear. Weight isn’t what’s most important, health is. My body is responding and preparing.
But then the first thing I’m asked to do at each OB appointment is step on the scale, and all that relief and reassurance goes out the window. Far more weight gained in the last 8 months than the last 8 years. My focus is now back to my weight. Suddenly, I begin feeling frustrated with my body instead of amazed at what it’s doing. Suddenly, I begin comparing myself to the tall women who distribute their weight so pleasantly throughout their torso, or the women who are my shorter height and seem to carry weight only in their belly. Suddenly, I find myself wondering if I’ll be able to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight after delivery, and how long it will take, and how much it will take. Suddenly (and important to note- I would never sabotage my baby’s health for my own appearance, but I would be lying if I said the following thoughts didn’t cross my mind), I wonder if I could be doing more – exercising more, eating less, resisting the cravings my body needs (no, I wasn’t the one craving kale smoothies in the first trimester). I know how dangerous this thinking can be. In the running community, I’ve seen the way the scale and the comparison game can trick the mind and lead to dangerous behaviors. I’ve never truly understood it until now, and it is not fun. I want to be both in awe of my body AND happy with the way I look. I’m finding this to be a near impossible balance. And if my focus on the weight gain, and later, the weight loss is not enough, there is the added shame of feeling bad about feeling bad about it. After all, I’m pregnant. My body is doing such an amazing thing. This process is entirely natural. Shouldn’t I wear my new poundage with a smile, a testament to what my body is doing? Some expecting women do this well, and I am impressed. But I imagine many more of us struggle with the weight that comes with baby, and wish our babes could come healthy without altering our bodies. I am not at a point of resolution in this struggle, as much as I wish I could share some triumphant overcoming. I know so many women fight the battle of body image, and I am both happy and sad to say, I am with you in this. As much as I wish I could say we are beautiful as we are, I know those words do little to heal. I think it takes undergoing a much deeper healing process to embrace our bodies in all their stages and sizes. This is my prayer for you and I. We need His eyes right now.
If pregnancy and the beginning of motherhood have taught me nothing else, it’s that women are created to be tough, and we are. If we capture God’s heart for us, we may begin to see ourselves as He sees us – fully equipped and fully deserving of His best for our lives.