Embrace the signs of being a mother. They are a map of a life well-lived.
I’ve experienced an unintentional (but awesome) side effect of nearly a year of taekwondo and kickboxing: unprecedented weight loss.
I’ve lost 30 pounds and now weigh less than I did in high school. I wear a size six, which I haven’t worn since I was 14. My body is strong — I can see muscles in the top of my stomach, in my thighs, in my shoulders, arms, and calves. I like to get dressed now, even in swimsuits.
There are parts of my body that are unsightly. My stomach, disfigured from bearing five children, is a hopeless wreck of sagging skin and stretch marks. There are stretch marks criss-crossing my hips, and even peeking out from the underside of my upper arms.
Sometimes I look in the mirror and think desperately, I’m still not there. Ten more pounds, or 20. What if this skin never goes away? Am I doomed to look postpartum forever?
Alexa Wilding felt the same way after she gave birth to her twins. The pregnancy, plus the following year of caring for two babies while one went through chemo and radiation for cancer, left her body looking and feeling unfamiliar to her. Eventually she sought the aid of a hernia doctor for back pain, and he immediately took her to a plastic surgeon for a “Mommy Makeover” — a breast lift, tummy tuck, and liposuction.
Wilding elected to skip the breast lift and lipo, but did have the tummy tuck. A few months later, she noticed the skin beginning to sag again, and the plastic surgeon told her that she would probably have to have another tummy tuck. But she refused to go back because she realized what had really happened to her, as she told Allure for their Dispelling Beauty Myths series:
It’s this maidenhood to motherhood transformation. And we as a culture, we wanna stay in maidenhood as long as possible. So many women are trying to erase that right of passage from their bodies, from their faces, their experiences… I wanna dispel the myth that we have to go to crazy lengths to erase maternity from our bodies, ’cause it’s not gonna work. We’re still gonna be mothers. We still left point A and got to point B, and we should be proud of all the steps we took to get there.
I could diet and exercise and tummy-tuck my way to a size 2. And yeah, I could probably have the sagging skin and stretch marks surgically removed or something — but I can’t return my body to the nubile, pre-childbearing figure our culture holds up as the feminine ideal, by any means.
And really, I don’t want to. My body is a map of a life well-lived. I have sacrificed nubility on the altar of giving life, and made the irrevocable transition from maidenhood to motherhood.
The transformation I’ve found in martial arts has given me a way to reconnect with my kids and husband in the joy of movement. We are all fitter, stronger, healthier, and happier.
But I am, and always will be, a mother of five. The marks of bearing those lives are not a disfigurement. They are a testament to my love for my husband and children, and stand as witness to a sea change.
I am no longer a maiden — I am a mother. And I wouldn’t erase that for the world.