They warned me before I got here.
"Babies ruin bodies."
"Enjoy this now - you'll never see it again after kids!"
"You'll never be the same."
I guess they were right. I am ruined. I don't see it. I'm not the same.
It is my new reality. It is the body I see in the mirror each morning, much unlike the one I knew before.
And I am grateful.
A baby ruined my body. She ruined me for ordinary, for status quo, for shallow. She ruined me for who I was before.
There are changes I never expected, tiger stripes in places I didn't know could stretch, hairs and darkened things and love handles and jeans that don't fit the same as before.
Yet I am grateful for my post-baby body; grateful that it taught me there is more to life than what I once knew. I have realized that my body is meant to do, not just to be; that I am more than a gym membership and a calorie app; that true strength is knowing what you can do and who you are, not how far you can run or what you can lift.
Because let's be real: After six months pregnant, I couldn't run anymore. At nine months pregnant I could barely lift myself, much less finish my old weight routine. And in that moment I had to accept that my self-perception could no longer be qualified by my fitness level or my appearance. Pregnancy changed me from the inside out - to a woman whose confidence comes from within.
I guess I am ruined: ruined for insecurity, taught to be secure.
I've learned to accept love when I feel unlovable; to believe my husband when he says, "You're beautiful." This body teaches me to thank God for every mark - because our bodies are marked as our souls are stretched, expanded to love in ways we never knew we were capable of loving. I've been taken deeper than the surface, to a place of security I never knew before.
I have been changed, taken over by a mission outside myself. I have been a vessel of life sustaining growth, my body the soil, my baby the seed. Without me she could not grow. Within me she thrived.
I have felt every contraction of labor, and this body carried me through to the end, working hard according to its design. I fought with this body to bring a baby earthside. It worked hard for me. It was designed for me. And I am grateful.
So yes, a baby ruined my body. I won't see the old one again, and that's okay - because the one I have tells a story. Each morning, each mark, reminds me that I birthed a living soul. That without this stretched and scarred abdomen her smiles would not exist. Without the changes I so desperately tried to avoid I would have avoided life.
I guess they were right. I'm not the same.
But I wouldn't want to be.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Phylicia Delta. It has been republished here with permission.