For 23 years I have kept my legs covered. When I was in fifth grade I started getting dark purple and red spider vein clusters on my thighs, the backs of my calves, and the sides of my knees. Every year they got worse and worse. They have been a constant and irreversible source of embarrassment for me because they are so pronounced and so different from everybody else’s legs. Even doctors have said that my legs look 60 years older than I am. So I decided, at ten years old, that my legs were not a part of me and the easiest thing to do was to cover them up forever, hiding them away.
After I birthed Plum, I also birthed a new perspective of beauty and body. The weeks after her birth I spent hours staring at her. I remember watching her haphazard eyelashes growing in all different directions. I remember how her lips had jagged points at the top. I remember her mohawk-combover. I remember her purple-ish toes and her Africa-shaped birth mark. I remember her shoulders being covered with tiny little see-through hairs. I remember her eyes darting every which way when she was sleeping with her eyelids open. It was incredible. Her body was incredible, and doing exactly what it needed to do to help her grow. It was amazing to watch.
I became aware that I was making an intentional (and hopefully very normal) decision to see my daughter’s every detail as beautiful.
But Plum was showing me more than just how beautiful she is — she was revealing that I could make the same decision about myself.
I began retraining my brain to see beauty where I hadn’t before. Instead of focusing on my own body though, I started with everybody else. I looked very closely at everyone, trying to see as many flaws as I could. Every time I spotted what my old brain told me was an imperfection, I would stare at it and silently repeat over and over, “That is beautiful. That is beautiful. That is beautiful.” It was pretty easy to pour love and beauty onto others like this, much like parents bestow love and beauty onto their children. We don’t need a reason to think something is beautiful—we can simply decide that it is because it’s part of our child.
And now I find that I can look at myself the same way that I look at others. When I see my own gray hairs, the wrinkles on my face, the veins on my legs, the sun spots and scars, I pause. I breathe. And I delight in the beauty that I see.
A few months after I birthed Baby Moe, I was on a mission to buy a new pair of jeans. My daughters patiently sifted through racks of pants with me, putting all the possible pairs into our cart. They waited in line for the dressing room with me. They watched me pull out the first pair and struggle to squeeze my thighs into each leg and button them around my waist. I felt like I was forcing them to stare at all the flaws my lower body has to offer.
Then I glanced at myself in the mirror—and my new brain saw the overwhelmingly beautiful woman staring back.
In that moment, I was transformed. I looked down at my two amazing daughters and exclaimed, “Okay, family! Let’s help Mommy find a perfect pair of jeans to fit my beautiful body!!”
Now, two months later, I am at the beach with my family. At the beach, I feel free and unhindered. James even asked me about my body, “Mama, what are all those purple marks on your legs?“ Without skipping a beat, the natural response was, “Oh, James. My legs are so awesome because you can actually see what the veins under my skin look like. Come check it out!”