I can’t wait to get my body back.
I think this thought constantly as the days, weeks, months tick by.
I can’t wait until I’m not a slave to breastfeeding. I can’t wait until I see a normal number on the scale. I can’t wait until my clothes fit right.
And then what if I have another baby and mess it all up again? How many babies is too many? Three babies? Four babies? At what point will my body never come back again?
I want more children. It’s one of my deepest desires in the world. But I would be lying if I said these other thoughts about my body, my freedom, my own beauty didn’t lurk in the back of my mind, mixed in with my hope for a big family, a gospel-legacy and a quiver full of arrows. I want the quiver, but I want it to rest upon a toned back and shoulders that coordinate with my flat stomach and strong, slim legs.
My stretched out, weary flesh is selfish. I want my body back. I want it to look a certain way. I want it to weigh a specific amount, down to the very ounce. I want my body to do the things I want to do on my timeline. I don’t want to stoop to discipline my toddler or sit down to nurse my infant for the fifth time of the day. When do I get my body back? That is my plea.
But when I look at Jesus, I see a man who poured himself out. I grow indignant at a year of breastfeeding, while he gave up his whole body on a cross.
I am convinced that motherhood is the richest soil to practice this giving up. To give away one’s body on behalf of another needy soul.
No, I will never get my body back.
I gave my body away the moment my heart skipped a beat at the sight of the word “pregnant.”
I gave my body away in that 12-week ultrasound when they couldn’t find your heartbeat. I held my breath for a minute that seemed like an hour until they suddenly captured the whirring sound of a little life wrapped up inside mine.
I gave my body away every four weeks when I laid on that table so they could make sure your cyst hadn’t gotten any bigger. They measured you with a wand as I closed my eyes and prayed for good results.
And then in an ultimate act of giving away, I brought you forth into this world and felt the weight of you on my chest for the very first time.
Every time I have woken up bleary-eyed in the pitch black of night to feed you, soothe you, my body was not my own.
That time I stayed awake all night, watched you seize upon my bed and paced the hallway on the phone with 911, my body was not my own. While my body longed for sleep, my heart and mind were fully alert, driven by fear and love.
Each time I bend to look you in the eye, correct your behavior, scoop you up into an embrace, sigh at your too-short nap or laugh at your newfound vocabulary, my body is not my own.
And for the rest of my life I will give my body away to you. My hands will release your bike as you wobble down the sidewalk, and I will jog alongside you trying to keep up. I will stir the batter for your birthday cake and indulge in a piece to celebrate your life, no matter what the number on the scale. I will watch your sports games rain or shine, applying sunscreen to my wrinkly skin as I sit on the sidelines. I will sit beside you as you learn to drive and get down on my knees to pray as you venture off into the world. I will cry when you walk down the aisle and dance like crazy at your reception. And someday, Lord willing, I hope to bounce and rock your children just as I bounced you.
I will never get my body back. I will give my body for you until I die and, on that day, I will finally meet face-to-face the one who gave his body for me.
Jen Russum is a wife, college English professor and mom to two little girls. She shares narratives of grace on her blog www.jenrussum.com.