This is a post that I wrote for This is a Woman a little while back. This site, and The Shape of a Mother, are two truly beautiful communities of women and mothers navigating the world of self worth and body image.
I’ve posted on SOAM before about my body and how birthing my daughter had affected my self esteem and body image. I’d like to write a little bit about some realizations I have had since then about my health issues and how I feel as a woman.
I have been ‘sick’ for most of my life. It started out as a case of mono that just never seemed to go away. At eleven years of age I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and told I would feel sick for my whole life. Whenever I tried to talk to a doctor in the years to come ( I always thought there must be something else besides fm going on with me) I was told I just wasn’t taking good enough care of myself, and that was why I felt awful. Seriously, I simply CANNOT remember a time in my life that I wasn’t tired and in some type of pain, but to put all of that on someone? It was MY fault, even though I was doing everything ‘right’, that I felt awful? I hated my body and all of its pains and limitations. I hated my small stature and pale skin that I felt just advertised to the world even more how ‘fragile’ and broken I really was. I had some anxiety that went along with this. I always felt like there was something MORE I needed to be doing. From cleaning house, to raising my daughter, I NEVER felt I had everything taken care of. I never thought I would feel like a REAL woman. REAL women were strong and vibrant, not small and weak. I tried to convince everyone in my life that I felt better than I did, never wanting to upset them or have them think I wasn’t doing ‘enough’ to care for myself. After years of having conventional medicine fail me I found an amazing energy healer who not only helped me feel ‘normal’ at last, but helped to calm my troubled heart.
I know you are probably wondering what all of this has to do with how I feel about body image, but I am getting to it I promise!
Fast forward to this year. I found out about a member of my community who was desperately in need of a kidney transplant and wouldn’t live the average three year wait on the national donor registry to receive one. I felt moved by his story and decided that I needed to get tested to see if I was a match. I researched the safety of the procedure and felt that there was probably little chance I would pass the rigorous tests I would be put through to be deemed ‘healthy’ enough for surgery. Wouldn’t you guess it? I was found to be in amazing health and matched wonderfully with him! Valentine’s Day this year I gave my kidney to my new friend. It was not only the best gift to him, but the best I could give myself! I had spent years at war with my body to come out on the other side healthy enough to improve the life of another human being. I have five little scars on my tummy from the surgery. Five little scars that seem to orbit around the network of stretch marks left from my daughter. I love they way they look and how they make me feel, my little marks that love left. No matter HOW sick or tired or any amount of pain I may have in my life in the years to come, I’ll never feel weak again. My body gave life, twice! It can do amazing things!
I woke up this morning to my daughter snuggling in bed next to me. She rolled over and put her hand up to my cheek and stoked it lovingly. “Mommy,” she said, ” I love you”. “Mommy, you are beautiful”. Strange as it sounds her tiny little voice seemed to echo a new one in me. I never used to think I was beautiful. Having potential maybe, but not beautiful. Now? Now, I know I am.