Badges of Honor

I have been practicing yoga for almost 5 years now – I began on the recommendation of my family doctor, when I was struggling with anxiety.   From the moment I started, I was surrounded by teachers I connected with and have missed very few weeks without attending a session ever since.  It has changed my life; it has made a tremendous difference in improving my anxiety and mental health.  It has also tightened and toned me up a bit, which is not my purpose for practicing but is a nice added bonus.

I practiced yoga throughout our struggle to conceive, and was lucky enough to be able to continue throughout the entire duration of my pregnancy with Baby Grouch. For as much as I practice, I oddly only have one yoga shirt, which I love.  It is long and fits perfectly, so I never have to think about it, adjust it or mess with it.  Or rather, it used to be that way.  I stretched out the belly from practicing while carrying the baby, but haven’t yet found a suitable replacement so I’m still wearing the same coral shirt I’ve had for years.

The only problem with this, is that now, when I’m in shoulder stand, my shirt, that used to stay snugly on my hips, now slides up to my boobs and exposes my belly. And there’s not much I can do about it, once I’m in shoulder stand, other than stare right up at my stomach, since my hands are pinned to the floor and turning your head in this posture can damage your neck.  So, at least once a week for the past year, I’ve had a few minutes to stare at my post-baby saggy pooch.  The fat underneath my belly button has been stretched out, so when I’m upside down, the skin sort of crookedly hangs a bit over my belly button.  It’s not very pretty.

I think everyone’s heard the cliché about mothers who are “proud” of their stretch marks, their flabby underbellies.  They’ve “earned their stripes” yada yada yada. It used to annoy me, and still does, a little.  I can understand being proud of your children, or proud of who you are as a mother, or the choices you have made.  But, what’s the deal about being proud of your inability to get back into pre-baby shape?  I didn’t get it.

And now I sort of do.  Except, I still don’t think PRIDE is the correct term.  You can’t really be proud of something you have so little control over.  The timing of your conception, how easy or hard your pregnancy was, and how long you were in labor are not anything to be proud of, in my opinion, since our bodies, for the most part, are going to just do what they do.  For the most part we did not earn anything, other than being able to truly appreciate a cold salami sandwich and a stiff drink after 9 months of abstaining.

Pride isn’t the right term, at all.  But, honor is.  What an honor it is, to have the privilege of becoming pregnant, to carry around your baby as he or she grows inside you.  What an honor to feel every kick, every hiccup, every movement.  What an honor it is to give birth to a child, no matter how laborious or exhausting the process.  And a stretched out pooch is my mark that resulted from me being able to experience all of those positive things.

It’s an honor to have a child, to be exposed to her freedom, to experience her joy and to witness her little personality emerging before me.  To be humbled and honored by the process and the person does not mean that conception, pregnancy, or labor are not difficult.  And we all know that parenting is hard…..really hard.  So, it’s okay as a mother to take a moment to honor myself, and my mental sanity, even if that means exacerbating the paunch by indulging in Doritos and wine on a semi-regular basis.  There’s something to be said about making sure to honor the part of you that demands to be happy and satisfied.

So today at yoga, I was reminded not to dwell on the pooch or be disgusted by the saggy skin.  But, to embrace it and remember that I am honored and lucky to have stretched out my favorite shirt, as well as my abdomen.

What’s your badge of honor?

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