From Thigh Gap to Time Gap: The Body of Postpartum Motherhood

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I used to have a thigh gap. 
 
I honestly didn’t think anything of it then. It just was. 
 
Now, the only gap I have is the time after the kids go to bed and before I go to bed, too. Just enough time for a bowl of ice cream and sometimes, even a soak in the bath. 
 
I used to be skinny and fit. I used to be able to see my abs.

Now?

I stand in front of the mirror and see the bulge in my belly, the varicose veins on my legs, and the way my chest sags and I think to myself, “This must be thirty-one.” 
 
But, in fact — I know, that this must be motherhood. For right now, at least. 
 
Could I work out more? Sure. Could I eat more than just Blue Bell and dinosaur chicken nuggets? Absolutely. This isn’t about justifying or validating or even excusing the state of my body, but rather appreciating the season it’s in. 
 
See, my body has done hard work. And now, it’s on its last leg of belonging to another. Rather than spend precious moments thinking about what it could be, I want to remember what it was. 

I Want To Remember…

I want to remember my very first baby — who burst open my heart rather than expand my belly. He didn’t make it to us here on earth but will forever be a part of our family. The pain we felt in losing him and the grief that’s been etched into our stories is just as real and tangible as the wrinkles in my hands. 
 
I want to remember the first time I held both my sons and daughter in my arms; the adrenaline and exhaustion pouring out of me in relief for all three. Each time, I couldn’t help but be in awe of the moment — of actually making it there. Through the diagnosis of preclampsia, gestational diabeties, and a broken ankle and that one terrifying moment where we thought we wouldn’t ever hear him cry. The labor of pregnancy and then of delivery too — this was the building of the foundation of our family. It was hard, ground-breaking work. 
 
I want to remember the many nights of nursing, and the countless hours of pumping — doing something I felt was impossible that, in only a few days became something completely natural. I want to remember being bleary eyed and exhausted — turning to them night after night to satisfy thier hunger and bearing that worthy burden of being the only one who could. 
 
I want to remember the pain and the discomfort in the days right after delivery that few talk about. It was so easy to think my body was working against me, only to remind me that it was actually working for me; with me — these aches and cramps illustrating the miracle of healing and of restoration. 
 
I want to remember and memorize the stretch marks on my thighs. I don’t want to forget the way my belly button turns tan brown and how it looks like a half-eaten cinnamon roll after it’s crawled back into place. I want to savor these last moments with that random, unexplainable line that travels from my ribs to my navel. I even want to appreciate each hair strand that inevitably falls out months after we’ve been home, clogging the shower drain time after time. I want to care less about how much weight I’ve gained and more about the wonders of my skin — stretching to fit a five, then a six, and finally a nine pound baby within. 

Signs and Symbols

It’s strange, because while at times I’m shocked at how different my body looks, each of these things are signs that a baby used to live here. That I carried four of them around, and more than likely — no more. These things, while I rush sometimes to hurry their disappearance, are more than just veins and fat and lines. They’re symbols of sacrifice and work and more than even that — they’re the marks of life. 
 
My body, for right now — is more memorial than bustling building. And while I know eventually I’ll need to rebuild and  start over — I don’t ever want to forget that it became this way for a reason. For four, for that matter. 
 
Yes, it’s true. I used to have a thigh gap. 
 
But, through the births of my children I’ve come to realize that time gaps will always significantly be more fulfliing than a thigh gap could ever be. The time spent growing my babies and then nurturing them is irreplaceable. It’s not to be taken for granted, or even wished away. Even for the body I used to have, or want to have one day. After all, memories aren’t built on perfect bodies — but on the hearts that beat within them. 
 
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Wife to a bonafide mountain man and mama to two toddlers and a newborn babe, Tabitha doesn't find much margin for boredom. When things get crazy, as they often do — Tabitha fervently writes down what keeps her pressing on. She believes that every messy minute of motherhood is worth the daily fight and will stop at nothing to pursue God through it all. While often quite wordy and long-winded, you can count on Tabitha to be completely transparent and brutally honest when it comes to life and everything else in-between. While she’d rather meet you over a cup of coffee on her front porch to share the lessons she's regularly learning, you can also visit with her over on her blog or Instagram. Her personal blog, Tabitha Panariso, is a space where you can find her writing on faith, motherhood, and daily life. You can also find her capturing the everyday rhythms of life on her Instagram, @tabithapanariso

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