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What a Rabbit Can Teach Us About Body Image
Amy Heinz wrote a piece on the Disney Baby blog last week called Learning to Love My Body in which she discusses a body that’s a bit different now than it was three children ago. And even though her body “can’t rock a bikini…or even the stretchy, but fitted clothes [Amy had] grown to love” it can still do many other wonderful things that Amy is quite thankful for.I forwarded the link to my wife because I knew she’d be able to relate to Amy’s sentiments, particularly the bit about the post-baby body. As a 43-year-old mom who’s given birth to five of them (including a set of triplets in 2007), Caroline’s experienced the same thing.
This is the part where I tell you that my wife’s in phenomenal shape. And that her figure is incredible. And that anyone who meets her has a hard time believing she really is the mother of five.
But that still doesn’t change the fact that her body doesn’t look the exact same as it used to. After five kids, how could it? And like many women, my wife sees herself with eyes that are far more critical, far less forgiving, and far less kind than they should be.
Which means like many moms who’ve experienced changes in their bodies after childbirth — be they subtle or drastic ones — Caroline is prone to lamenting such changes. She believes they’ve made her less attractive.
But she’s wrong. Because I go Velveteen Rabbit on this one. You remember the story, right? It’s about a little boy and his favorite toy — one that looks a bit different toward the end of the tale than it did at the beginning, when the youth first unwrapped the stuffed animal on a joyous Christmas morn.
What ensues is a love story of sorts, as evidenced by the quote below, which just might be my favorite passage of the entire work:
“He (the boy) loved him so hard that he loved all his whiskers off, and the pink lining to his ears turned grey, and his brown spots faded. He even began to lose his shape, and he scarcely looked like a rabbit any more, except to the boy. To him he was always beautiful, and that was all that the little rabbit cared about.”
Gee, John. If only it were that simple — if only life were a children’s book, then we’d all be okay with our bodies, right? I hear you, but while we’re on the “if only’s,” I have a couple for you.
If only Caroline, and all other moms for that matter, could be more like that little toy rabbit. If only these women could see themselves the way those who truly love them do. If only I could give Caroline that specific gift — the ability to see herself the way I see her — then she’d finally realize that these changes haven’t compromised her beauty one single bit.
They’ve enhanced it.
Because my wife, long lovely, is somehow even more beautiful now than she’s ever been. Even after all these years. Even after all these babies. She’d disagree, naturally, and she’d point to her body as one reason why. She’d say that the triplet pregnancy and the two singleton pregnancies which came before and after it have made her less attractive thanks to what she’d describe as wear and tear.
But if that’s true, if Caroline has fallen prey to wear and tear, then it’s only the wear and tear that the people who love her most have unknowingly imparted upon her. The wear and tear our love has accidentally levied. The wear and tear Caroline’s selflessly — happily, even — endured.
The wear and tear that comes part and parcel with being an incredible mom.
But it’s not true. Caroline hasn’t fallen prey to any such thing. Because there’s been no wear and tear. At least none that I can detect. For what Caroline refers to as wear is really just a life well lived. And what Caroline calls tear, I call love. And both of those things are so very beautiful to me.
Just like Caroline.