We’ve known one another for 28 years and have been through such a lot together and yet we’ve never been friends. Acquaintances, yes. But friends? Never.
And yet you’ve done a lot for me. You allowed me to dance from the age of 6 through to 16. You carried me through 9 years in retail, where I stood on my feet for hours at a time. You even got me through puberty, a difficult time for any teenage girl. And the most momentous thing you’ve done for me is when you carried my little girl. You carried her for 9 whole months and you then went through a lengthy 22-hour labour before you were rushed in for an emergency c-section. You then had 7 layers of tissue sliced open and then stitched back up, and as you worked to heal yourself, you simultaneously produced milk and allowed me to feed my baby as best you could. And you did this all without me ever thanking you.
Since having Lulla, my mortality is something I think about often. I hope to live long enough to watch her grow up, which means we’ll (hopefully) have an even longer journey together than the 28 years that have led up to this point. And I want to reach out and apologise to you because I’ve not loved you very much. Sometimes, I’ve not even shown you kindness. I’ve insulted you and wished you were different. I’ve even avoided looking at you in the mirror. And it has been so easy for me to hate you. What has been much much harder for me to do is to love you for all that you are, and all that you’ve done.
How you feel about yourself makes me sad because at some stage you’ve started to associate your worth in pounds, measuring it by the size of your clothes. Your cheeks have burned with shame when you’ve caught sight of yourself in the mirror. And there have been a lot of missed opportunities, times you can never get back. You’ve told yourself you’re too fat to see friends, too fat to even go outside the house. You’ve even convinced yourself that you’re too fat to be worthy of love because who could love you as you are now when you don’t even love yourself?
And I remember the first time you found a stretch mark. It was on your belly and you felt like a failure because of that one mark. You hadn’t realised you were gaining weight. You were too consumed by the darkness of depression to really be aware. So, when you saw it, it caught you off guard. A week later more stretch marks joined that single mark, seemingly out of nowhere, and suddenly your belly was riddled with tiger stripes. They were red and angry, as was your rage. You punished yourself for weeks. You made yourself feel sick every time you looked at those marks, scarring your skin. And you wished for a rewind button. To be able to go back and prevent your body from ever changing this much.
And you lost your way for a period of time. You lost sight of who you were, too caught up with who you were not. And with this, your identity got a little lost, too. You’ve changed shape and size so much over the last five years that you no longer feel like you know who you are. And you may not spend as much time doing your hair. Some days, you may even abandon your makeup bag altogether. And you may not fit into the clothes that made you feel like you. But if there is one thing that you’re not, it is a failure. You are more than just a body. More than a size. And things like stretch marks do not define you as a person.
You have a daughter. She’s currently four months old, and before you know it, she’s going to be of an age where she’s impressionable. And if you can’t learn to love yourself for everything you are, how are you going to teach your daughter to love the body she was born into? If you could view the words you speak and think about yourself, if they were etched into your skin for you and the world to see, you would realise just how harsh and ugly they are. Take a moment to remember that the words you use to speak about yourself are going to speak volumes to that young girl as she gets older. How is she meant to love her body, in a world that is already trying to tear women down for breaking the mould, when her own mum can’t even look in the mirror and be happy?
And you’ve got to be kinder. You’ve been battling yourself for such a long time, do you even know what it feels like to look at yourself in the mirror and just love yourself? Your whole life has been made up of moments when you’ve been consumed by this ideology that you have to be some type of way to be accepted, to be loved. You’ve criticised yourself for years and it hasn’t made you any happier. Have you ever tried to just accept yourself and see what happens?
I’ve not helped, I’ll admit. And I’m sorry that I ever hated you for giving me breasts that weren’t perky enough. I’m sorry that I abused you further by shoving implants into your chest. Implants that are heavy and painful and that now make my breasts sag under their weight. And I’m beyond thankful to you that, even after doing this to you, you still produced milk so that I could feed my newborn baby. It’s my own fault that you couldn’t store the milk, but you still allowed me to feed her the second she was born, and for the first two weeks of her life. And breastfeeding Lulla is something I loved doing. She latched the second I held her, and words can’t describe the bond I felt looking down at my baby as I gave her everything she needed. That first night in the hospital with my baby are moments I’ll forever cherish, and you gave those to me.
I’m sorry for the length of time I spent hating you for gaining weight so easily during my fight with depression. I ate for comfort a lot during that period and I felt that you punished me further by turning those calories into fat and making you balloon in size. You disgusted me to the point where I didn’t want to leave the house. Yet you kept me alive during a time when I didn’t have much hope. You kept my heart beating when, sometimes, all I wanted was for it to stop. And though that was a dark time in my life for me, you not only carried me through it, but you got me to a place where I’m happier than I ever was before.
I’m sorry that I doubted your strength when it came to motherhood. I didn’t think that you were strong enough to carry a baby. Hell, I didn’t think you were healthy enough to even get pregnant. Doubts plagued my mind for the entire 9 months and I was convinced that you’d lose my baby. That you’d given me the hope of becoming a mother, something I’d wanted for a long time, and you would just as easily strip it from me. And yet you not only carried my baby 6 days over her due date, but you kept her happy and healthy the entire time.
And I’m sorry for all those times I’ve ever made you feel inadequate. For those times when I’ve wanted so desperately for you to be different, to look different. For focusing on everything you’re not as opposed to what you already are. For wanting you to be toned in places where you’re soft and squishy. For your skin to be unblemished where it’s instead scarred with stretch marks. For the times when I’ve clawed at you in fits of rage, screaming that I hated you. For the nasty words I’ve used in my head when I’ve looked at you. For the years where I’ve refused to take photos of you, ashamed of how you look. For deeming you ugly and worthless, and carrying these thoughts around with me, wearing them as a reminder to myself that I’m not worthy of being loved because I don’t love you.
I’m sorry because you never deserved any of that. You’re strong, and you’re resilient. You are powerful, even though you feel flawed. And because you have already done so much for me in this life.
But most of all, because you are a body that deserves to be loved.