Monday, May 12, 2014

On Motherhood: Conduit

I wrote this over a year ago, and it came to mind on this mother's day evening as the erratic movements of this new woman-child inside me erupt like fireworks across my distended belly.

{2012; photo by Katie}

My daughter has transformed my body into something useful, sustaining. In utero, she stretched and grew, and my body made room for her as she displaced organs and created a conduit for her entrance into the world. Even now, a year later, my body bears her mark: widened hips, thinning hair, puckered stretch marks, loose and dimpled flesh, soft and drooping breasts. 

I no longer have the body of my lean, lithe, 20 year old self. Those days are gone. But I have the body of a mother, a figure shaped by pregnancy and nursing, arms strong from lifting and carrying, a face marked by laughter and tears. It has taken some time, but I love this body more now than I did ten years ago.

I feel God reforming my character sometimes, molding me as deftly as my daughter has--wider here, softer there--fashioning me into something different and beautiful, something useful, a conduit to bring more of Him into the world.

{Taken today, Mother's day 2014}

Thursday, May 1, 2014

In Defense of Bodies

Pictures of a few of the life-enriching experiences I've had because of my body. {Exploring England in 2007}

Kate runs toward me with abandon, short legs pumping, round stomach heaving, head thrown back laughing. Her hair flops wildly about her face; her knees are scabbed, and her face is dirty. She launches herself into my arms and I tickle her until she hiccups. We stretch our bodies as we do actions to silly songs, and she glories in the different sensory experiences available to her. 

One of the things that brings me certainty about the existence of souls--that we are more than just flesh--is the the way our bodies function with miraculous complexity without any conscious thought from us. Our cells and systems work in perfect synergy with diverse strains of bacterial flora and fungi. When we unknowingly ingest something harmful, our bodies sense the danger and purge themselves of toxins. When we become host to a damaging virus or bacteria, our bodies engage a host of defenses--fever, mucus, gastrointestinal revolt--to defeat the harmful infestation.

{Pregnancy, 2012}

Our hearts contract, our food is digested and stored and utilized, our blood is filtered and replenished, our tissues heal and regenerate, all with little to no input from us. It's amazing. This complete conscious disconnect from our bodies' automatic systems, however, comes with some downfalls: we often aren't aware when our bodies have serious problems. If we were just bodies, wouldn't it stand to reason that we would be able to sense a growing cancerous tumor? Detect the buildup of fatty plaques in arteries that slowly strangle the heart? Mentally switch our metabolisms from fat-storing to fat-burning when starvation is unlikely?

{Getting married, 2008}

But we are not only bodies. We are spirits clothed in skin and sinew. We are a divinely sparked creative consciousness entwined with a glorious mortal instrument.

{Hiking Observation Point in Zion, 2014}

Our bodies are our greatest assets. We can serve others and glorify God and enable ourselves by the choices we make regarding our bodies. They allow us to interact with the world around us, providing guiding sensory input. Our bodies allow us to experience life--to push our limits, to accomplish goals, to raise families. With them, doing becomes possible. Having a body is a glorious, full experience.

I worry about the alarming cultural attitudes we carry about bodies: that the way they look, how they're shaped, and what they're adorned with eclipses what they actually are. We obsess about the physicality of them; we focus on the fact that, since they have mass, they are objects to be looked at, judged, and acted upon, when the reality is that they're instruments we can use to be active participants in the world. We deconstruct our bodies as parts with varying desirability instead of seeing them as a glorious whole. We shrink from photographs, brush off compliments, and disparage and pick apart inconsequential things that form the beautiful uniqueness of who we are.

{Fishing/hiking Boulder Mountain, 2013}

I work to make my body a healthy, fitting home for my spirit. I feed it (mostly) nutritious foods, I stretch and exercise it, I use it to live my life as a fully involved participant, not dividing my attention between what I'm doing and how others may perceive me. I am well aware that there are many things about my body that do not meet society's impossible standard (and it is impossible), and some days that's still hard. But mostly, I love this body. I love that I can use it to accomplish, to produce, to serve, to play, to experience, to create. What I am trumps what I am not. What I can do trumps what I can't. What I do trumps what I look like while I'm doing it.

I am more than my generous hips, narrow shoulders, sturdy legs, slender arms, and curly hair. These pieces are part of who I am, but I am so much more than the sum of my parts. My identity is determined by how I choose to utilize my body to make my mark on the world, and my sense of worth is solid when I remember to honor my body as the divinely designed vehicle for my spirit. 

{Serving a mission (and hiking Multnomah Falls), 2006}

I have hope that my evolving attitude toward my own body will help my daughter keep her innocent joy in her own. 

{Completing a quilt, 2013}