Over the course of the last 21 years I have come to both love and hate my body. I love my body when it is full and ripe with life. I love the feel of my stomach growing and looking into a mirror and seeing my face glowing. I even love the waddle that comes from my equilibrium being off balance as my tummy juts forwards and my back and hips fight to try to support it. I love that my body has housed so many little souls. I love that my body has nourished their little bodies, both while inside of me and after they have been born as well. During this time I feel truly beautiful! Yes, I have found a deep love and appreciation for my body over the years.
However, in that same time, I have come to hate my body. I hate the metabolism that just doesn’t keep up anymore. I hate that I struggle to lose weight. I hate that things jiggle and move when they shouldn’t. I hate that my breasts aren’t near as perky as they started out to be so many years ago. I hate the stretch marks that riddle my body. I hate the heavy periods I suffer through and I hate the ups and downs of hormonal changes. I hate that I am lumpy and soft.
I hate that I hate my body. I want to love it. I’ve written about my journey to change my perception about my body over at my own blog. I wrote about how my children see me as beautiful and yet I still struggle to do the same. It has been nearly impossible to figure out how to accept myself when society tells me I am not beautiful because I don’t fit the mold of beauty. I look at my children and know they see me differently than I see myself. I know they look past all those things I dislike so much about my body. They don’t look at me and see stretch marks; they look at me and just see the mother they love. They don’t concentrate on my clothes size or whether or not my thighs touch, they look at me and they love me. I want to see myself through their eyes.
A few nights ago while I was praying, I contemplated the wounds of Christ. I thought of the holes in his hands and feet, the stripes on his back, the marks around his head from his crown of thorns, and the cuts in his side from the spear that was thrust into him as he hung on the cross. All those wounds marred his body, “ruined” it, and changed it forever. All those wounds were sustained out of love for me… it was an overwhelming thought. Jesus loved me so much that he allowed his body to be wounded and to be forever changed. When he rose Thomas would not believe that He had risen until he could see the holes in Jesus’ hands. After seeing them Thomas knew this was his Lord. Those marks, those holes, told a story that no other words could convey. His sacrifice for us was clearly evident in those wounds he now carried on his body.
As the night wore on I started thinking of my own wounds. Some you can see, others are buried deep within me, but they are there. The ones you can see and touch- the stretch marks, the drooping skin, the extra weight- they are outward signs of the sacrifices I have made to give life. They riddle my body like the stripes on Christ’s back. You may think that we shouldn’t compare our stretch marks to the wounds of Christ but in order to give life we have sacrificed our bodies for the welfare of someone else. Isn’t this the same as what Christ did for us? He took on our suffering, he allowed his body to be forever changed, and he gave us life. Through pregnancy we also take on suffering, allow our bodies to be changed forever, and help bring life into the world. When I contemplated that my wounded body was indeed like Christ’s it allowed me to see myself in a different light. Suddenly I could see the beauty that my children saw. Like the story told through Christ’s wounds, each wound on my body also told a story of sacrificial love. The stories written in my stretch marks, told in the extra weight, and inscribed in my heart were the stories of my children- of how they came to be, of how I loved them as they grew inside of me, of how I chose to sacrifice a part of me so that they could have life, and in some cases they told the story of our sorrow as God called home His little ones before we were ready to return them. Yes, my body is a living book of life, the details of each child God has blessed us with written down lovingly and with care.
I know that I can never see myself as beautiful if I look through the lens that society places over my eyes. However, if I look at my body the same way as I look at Christ on the cross I can find beauty in changes my body has undergone while bringing forth life. I can find peace in knowing that my body is this way because I was blessed with a love so great I was willing to be wounded and changed forever.
Michelle Fritz is a daughter of God, a cradle Catholic, a Georgia peach, a devoted wife of almost 30 years to amazing husband Mike, and an eclectic homeschooling mother to eleven living children. She has experienced the loss of 16 babies in her call to be open to life, but knows that God is always loving and always gracious. She and her husband know that they have an army of Saints already in heaven!
In addition to her vocation as wife, mom, and homeschool teacher she also holds a Masters in Theology and has recently taken on the role of Youth Minister for both the middle school and high school groups at her parish.