And now I’ve got a book with chapters and paragraphs and sentences stating that I am that very girl, the one who starved herself from the ages of nine until 13. And nine? People ask. Why so young?
But I tell them, I didn’t feel nine. I felt very, very old.
And sometimes it’s hard to remember (as I put down words like Hospital and Calories and Mirror), that I am more than that now. That I have always been more. That we are all more than our reflection.
But you couldn’t have told that to the girl with the mushroom cut and the big plastic glasses who stared into the long mirror in the dim-lit hallway while Dad typed away in his office, the door that was always closed because he was a pastor, and why do churches keep their entrances locked?
And Mum in the kitchen cooking supper in her apron.
I really don’t think it had much at all to do with eating, and does it ever? Do we sneak bags of chips or cookies or bowls of ice cream because we love food? Or because we hate ourselves?
And I think it’s because as women, as, mothers, we put ourselves last so often, that we don’t believe we deserve goodness. We feel we don’t deserve beauty or gifts or to sit down and enjoy a good long meal with a glass of wine because there are children to be bathed and put to bed, and clothes to be folded and toys to be put away and, and…
And this is what I saw stretched across my mother’s face, as she stood weary by the stove in her apron. And she tried to love us the only way she knew how: by homeschooling us and dishing up heaping plates of food and sewing us clothes, but all I wanted was for her to hold me and tell me I was beautiful.
But she’d never had anyone do that for her, not her mother nor her father nor my father.
We all need someone to be love, incarnate, so we can put our faith in it.
My husband leans in on the pillows and I ask him to tell me, just one more time. “But why?” he says, this farm-boy that walked me through my relapse when I was 23.
“Don’t you know?” I shake my head.
“Tell me again,” I say.
“I love you.” He pulls me close. “I’ve never stopped loving you,” he says. “And I never will.”
I let him kiss me then.
And I’m learning to stand up for myself this way, to treat my body with kindness. And I know it has nothing to do with me. I know it has everything to do with me being a product of God’s genius. His hands molding dust into skin into breath.
He’s the one who makes me beautiful. So I sit boldly at the kitchen table in the afternoon light and eat a bowl of ice cream, my sons beside me, eating theirs, because we need to do this together, this life. This learning to eat, this learning to be gentle with ourselves and others.
Because lies can’t grow in the light.
And light is love.
I’m giving away a hard-cover copy of my new book today, Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty and Life After Pregnancy, co-authored by Dr. Dena Cabrera, and foreword by supermodel Emme.
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
Giving birth produces life in more than one sense. It’s the baby powder, milky-breathed spirit found in the softest limbs you’ve ever felt, and it’s the respect a man feels for his wife as he watches her give up her body for another.
And it’s the deep-rooted soul satisfying feeling of knowing you were born for more than the mirror. That you were born to see the face of God in your child, and to know, you yourself are a miracle.
I want you to have this book! Tell me ONE thing that you love about yourself, and you’ll be entered into the draw!
Otherwise, you can order it through the book’s website, here: www.mominthemirrorbook.com.
Emily Wierenga is a mom to two beautiful boys, wife to a handsome math teacher, and author of Chasing Silhouettes: How to Help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder (www.chasingsilhouettes.com) and Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty and Life After Pregnancy (www.mominthemirrorbook.com). To learn more, please visit www.emilywierenga.com.