Remember when you were expecting your first child? As your body changed, you hoped that eventually you could regain some resemblance of your pre-mom body. Many of us have been able to pull that off by opting for Chick-fil-A salads over nuggets, 5 a.m. sweat sessions over an extra hour of sleep, and sipping pink drinks instead of Dr. Pepper.

And some, who are quite proud of those pre-mom abs on a post-baby body, plaster those summer pool pics all over Instagram. Hey, those bragging rights were hard earned.

But what if our generation of moms decided to love the mom bods we’ve got? Even brag on the bodies we’ve got? And the little people and the lots of years that have made them this way? I propose a switch in thinking that goes something like this …

Mom body changes

Those gray hairs I wasn’t expecting for another decade—well, they came early. I saw the first one at 30. I stared numbly in the mirror of our Ronald McDonald House room while my 5-day-old daughter recovered from open heart surgery. Who knew the worry could cause my hair to turn to silver in a 24-hour period?

And now, four years later, I could finger pluck a handful every morning. Instead, I decided to follow my stylist’s advice to add some lowlights to camouflage the aging that two more open heart surgeries and 20 days inpatient every year have brought. Gray hairs, thank you for the intermittent reminders that my youngest daughter is a survivor dancing through sprinklers in the backyard instead of living in the ICU. I wasn’t sure we’d get here.

Those imperfections on my upper thighs started to show during my second pregnancy. The only sustenance I could manage to keep down one teensy bite at a time was French fries … chewed slowly and never ever chased with water.

The dimples dotted again during the month-long hospital stay when my 8-week-old was in heart failure and my 2-year-old screamed for home across the country every night. Cafeteria dinners and Jimmy John’s white bread were pretty much the meal plan options. Thank you, strong thighs, for the proof of growing and loving my children well, prioritizing my family over my fitness on the occasions where it was necessary.

The wrinkles etching across my forehead are from that day my 10-month-old choked on a chip. I thought quickly enough to rip her out of her high chair, lurch her upside down, and pat her back in that one spot I thankfully had read about.

The wrinkles around my eyes are from the entire year our oldest, then 4, suffered night terrors every single night. I worried she’d never recover and wondered what could be causing the nightmares inside her mind.

The wrinkles around my mouth are from laughing loudly and opening my lips wide to join the buckled-in backseat chorus belting out radio lyrics.

Thank you, wrinkles, for publicly reminding other moms of the joys and challenges of being a mom.

Sleepless nights

Those bags that are sinking around my eyes are from that first year of motherhood. Our oldest daughter got my husband’s sleeping genes and only needs .5 minutes of sleep every night. While that sounds convenient that one of her parents was happy to be equally sleep deprived, she also got my husband’s hunger genes. And in this situation the match-up wasn’t with the parent who could feed her. So my dear, well-rested, husband laid in bed all night long while I bounced and sang to a wide-eyed baby in the corner of our bedroom after hourly nursing sessions.

Our girls are 6 and 4 now and pretty much sleep through the night, but it doesn’t mean I do. Many late nights I peak into our youngest’s room and squint through the dark until I see the rise and fall of her little scarred chest just to be sure she’s still breathing.

I anticipate the bags are something to make peace with since I’m looking forward to shushing girls at middle school sleepovers and waiting up for teenage curfews. Eye bags, thank you for the sweet memories with my firstborn and for the honor of long-lived midnight motherhood.

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Be kind to yourself, Mom

You get the idea. So what if, as this generation of moms, we choose to be kind to ourselves instead of focusing on skinny? Kind to ourselves instead of focusing on perfect? I’m not proposing we eat cheeseburgers, lounge on the couch all day, or never buy a tub of wrinkle cream. I’m saying give credit to yourself for what you are doing instead of beating yourself up over what you aren’t doing.

When you need to take a month off exercise because your daughter is sick, don’t hate yourself. Celebrate that you’re still choosing to face the tough days and serve your family. Who cares if you’re doing it makeup-less, fueled solely by Starbucks and Chipotle?

When your husband is traveling every week for his new job training and getting the kids out the door on time and carpooled to every activity is all on you, don’t guilt yourself over indulging in a drive-through dinner. Recognize yourself for juggling it all, feeding your children, and keeping your family going single handedly.

It’s true that oftentimes in motherhood, it’s our bodies that show the most wear. Don’t overly begrudge the process. I’ve even heard it said from a mother’s mouth that she’d like to have more children but she finally got her body back. I wanted to shout, Amen! But then I remembered our bodies won’t last anyway. When we’re 85, skin will be saggy and wrinkles won’t be hideable. But another family member around the table, another generation carrying on a family’s faith-filled legacy would be welcome.

So start by being kind to yourself. Then pass that kindness on to the other women in your circles who feel the pressure to naysay their motherhood dreams for a body that’ll fade anyway. If we can model the kindness other moms need, we can believe in ourselves and believe in each other.

And we’ve all heard it, motherhood puts a glow on any woman! It’s a look that’s well worth the wear.

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