“Isn’t she beautiful?”
To me, a seemingly innocent question. One I am sure I have asked at least a dozen times, and probably dozens more.
At the birth of my daughter, “Isn’t she beautiful?” Okay, maybe not so innocent there because I might just punch you in the nose if you disagree.
Showing off my wedding pictures, “Isn’t she beautiful?” about my grandmother dancing with my grandfather after they won the “longest married couple” contest. At 76 and 78 years of age, they were truly stunning that day.
“Isn’t she beautiful?”, whispered to my sister, as we watched our other sister walk down the aisle on her wedding day, tall and elegant, coming to meet her handsome groom. She was floating.
“Isn’t she beautiful?”, spoken to my children while watching the cow we just “bought” munching on some grass. True story.
I am the type of person who sees beauty all around me, and oftentimes in the most unexpected of places. Just the other day, as I was driving down the street with my children, I pulled over our van, got out in the middle of the road so I could take a picture of a BEAUTIFUL, complete, double rainbow. As a Christian with a firm belief that God created the earth and all that is in it, I am in awe of the beautiful things He has made, every day.
And this. I think this is beautiful.
A few days ago, I posted this picture on my Facebook page with the caption, “Isn’t she beautiful?” Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it would garner the attention it received. I am not one of those bloggers that invites a lot of controversy. I try very hard to create a community of support and encouragement for people like me-people on a journey to physical and emotional wellness. I never, ever thought, by posting this picture that I would strike a nerve and people would take it for anything other than what it is-me saying someone is beautiful.
I am always struck by confident, empowered women who are not ashamed of their bodies. I find it beautiful. Not only physically beautiful, and she, of course, is that, but spiritually beautiful as well. She has the beautiful pregnant glow and the caption to her photo demonstrates a beautiful spirit as well-a woman who is confident and proud of what her body is doing and thrilled at the new life within her. A woman who is not concerned about what others think of her. A woman who is comfortable in her own skin and not concerned with other people’s negative perceptions of her appearance.
As many of you know, if you’ve been a reader for long, I have long struggled with self-acceptance. And not just because of my obesity. I used to be very thin and fit. I used to struggle with anorexia. I have never had much confidence or felt good about myself. In fact, I have spent most of my life hating myself. Let me remind you though, of who I was back when I spent so much time hating myself.
By the world’s definition, that is a beautiful girl. She has long, thin legs. She has a flat belly and perky breasts. She can get any guys she wants-and often does. But as I shared when I originally shared this photo-the smile on that girl’s face hides a world of hurt and pain.
This picture was taken in the driveway of my grandparent’s home. I lived there, with my grandparents, because I had been kicked out of my own home after having been encouraged to kill myself. This picture was taken on the day of my high school graduation. This picture was taken only a few weeks after I had gone an entire week without eating a bit of food to get back at a guy who broke up with me. This picture was taken just a few weeks before I was in an accident with my parents where we were hit by a drunk driver and because I didn’t sustain any injuries, I locked myself in the bathroom and hit myself over and over with a hair brush in an attempt to break my own wrist and get my father to look at me.
Okay, okay, it is no secret that I am one messed up chick. I’ve been pretty open on here about my tumultuous past. I have rarely experienced that “unashamed” feeling that Jen shows in this photo. And I LONG for that. When I see it in others I know I want what they have. I find it incredibly powerful and beautiful. I want to know what it feels like to consider myself beautiful.
Since I have started my weight-loss journey, I have seen little glimpses of that. It doesn’t happen very often, and I still haven’t quite figured out how to sustain that level of confidence that I find so attractive in others, but I know I have made great strides. I felt it on this day (LOVE that post-seriously go read it, I know you will too), when I decided that I wasn’t waiting to reach my goal weight to decide I was worthy of wearing attractive clothing. I felt it this day when my husband sent me on a day of pampering and I had a new haircut. And I felt it on this day, the day we found out we were expecting, because as flawed as I am, I am still in awe of my body’s ability to sustain life.
I won’t apologize for finding that beautiful.
After posting the picture I did, I was called absurd, irresponsible, dishonest and manipulative for “celebrating” obesity and pregnancy. However, when I posted the picture that is not what I was doing at all. I was NOT celebrating a person’s weight. Honestly? I could care less what she weighs. That is totally her business. What I was celebrating was HER. What I was celebrating was the sentiment behind the photo that just because we are obese women, we do not have to be ashamed of ourselves, NOR do we have to accept shame from others.
Isn’t it completely conceivable that it can be possible to be proud of our bodies, no matter their shape or size, AND want to work on improving them and being as physically and emotionally fit as possible? Why do those two things have to be mutually exclusive? I celebrate Jen and the confidence she has. I celebrate her completely normal pregnancy and natural birth. And you know what? Even if she had experienced complications in her pregnancy because of her weight, I still would want to celebrate her body and birth!
I never more fully understand and accept the verse from Psalms that says, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” than when I am pregnant or nursing a child. I am AMAZED at the intricate processes that are involved in growing a human being. I am in awe, that MY body, as flawed as it is, can provide the perfect nourishment for my growing babies. How stinkin’ incredible is that? And totally, completely, 100% beautiful!
Finding joy in those things and saying being pregnant and obese is a good thing are two entirely different things. The fact is, I am an obese pregnant woman. I am not going to be unpregnant. I AM aware of the increased risks that come with being obese during pregnancy. I am informed and educated and have dedicated years of research to this very subject as it is a passion area of mine. I do everything in my power to reduce and minimize my risks and work with my health care providers to ensure that I am having a healthy pregnancy. I have never been classified as high risk. I have had healthy pregnancies that have produced perfectly healthy and beautiful babies.
By saying those things am I “sugar-coating” the risks of being obese and pregnant? No, I am simply sharing my experiences. While my blog is not a pregnancy and birth blog, I do hope to show by my example that heavy women CAN have healthy pregnancies. That does not mean there isn’t a greater risk for these women. But it also doesn’t mean that being pregnant and obese is a death-wish for mom and baby. That doesn’t mean it is inherently dangerous or selfish for an obese woman to get pregnant. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do our best to support obese pregnant women and give them the information and resources they need to make their pregnancies and babies as healthy as possible. Jen’s blog is one such resource.
Since posting this picture I have had the opportunity to talk with several midwives and a couple of OBs as well. I asked each of them if they have ever had a catastrophic outcome BECAUSE of a woman’s weight. They all said no. They all said, generally, obese women are not automatically categorized as high risk. They all said, by and large, obese women have just as good a chance at having a positive outcome as a non-obese woman. I had one in particular say that over 50% of the women she treats are overweight or obese (which makes sense considering 68% of our country is overweight or obese). I can’t say with statistical certainty that this is true of most medical practices, but it makes sense that it would be given how overweight our population is as a whole. With proper medical care, a healthy diet and a moderate activity level, obese and overweight women CAN (and do, every day) give birth to perfectly healthy babies.
All that being said, that was NOT the point of why I posted the picture in the first place. It really had nothing to do with weight. It really had nothing to do with pregnancy. It had EVERYTHING to do with respecting ourselves and our bodies. It had EVERYTHING to do with beauty being found in all shapes and sizes. It had EVERYTHING to do with my personal opinion regarding another person’s intrinsic value and beauty. Doesn’t every woman, every person, deserve to be viewed that way, regardless of her size?
After this conversation weighed heavy on my heart for a few days, I did some praying and soul-searching and decided that in order to spread a little positivity around my corner of cyberspace, I would like to do a weekly feature called, “Isn’t She Beautiful” (or he!). I strongly feel that every person has beauty to offer this world and deserves to FEEL beautiful, regardless of how they look on the outside or how the scale-or other people-tell them they should feel about themselves. I hope to interview and share stories about people in my life who I consider beautiful, who have inspired me in some way or another to be a better person, but who may not necessarily fit into the world’s definition of what it means to be beautiful (though I consider them all to be physically beautiful as well).
You have a part to play as well. I want to hear YOUR stories. I want to hear the stories of those you love, of those “unsung heroes” in your life-whether it be a real life friend or family member, a fellow blogger, or even someone who is no longer with us. I think we all could use a little more beauty in our lives. Turn on the news and it doesn’t take you long to see the dark, the negative or the ugly. So, if you have a story to share, send it to me via email at fatchickfedup at gmail dot com. I’ve already gotten LOTS of responses to keep me busy for a while but I WILL get to you and email you when I am ready to do your feature.
I can’t wait to hear from you. And why don’t you go ahead and share the love today and tell someone they are beautiful! Post about it in the comments!