Elise Hofer Derstine is a freelance writer, children’s book author, farm co-owner and mother. In her community blog for The Elkhart Truth, Hoof and Wing, she writes about pursuing life’s most elusive goals – balance and meaning – while learning to be a mom and a farmer.
A few weeks ago, I lugged a five-gallon bucket of water into the barn room where our 250 baby chicks were living. I climbed onto a crate and lifted the bucket over my head, pouring the water into a large barrel positioned above me.
When I was done, I paused, empty bucket in hand. Why was that so easy? Then I realized I have been doing strength-training for months without even noticing.
All winter long, I held, bounced and rocked my infant son, Abram, for hours on end. These days I carry him throughout the day, regularly scooping his 19-pound body into my arms. He may weigh less than a bucket of water, but he requires some serious endurance.
My arms are way stronger than they used to be. Standing on that crate, I took a moment to relish an unfortunately rare occurrence: a feeling of satisfaction with my body since giving birth to my son.
We all know women who have given birth and then struggled to come to terms with their new, unfamiliar physical selves. The body undergoes miraculous and drastic changes during pregnancy, and one can hardly expect it to return precisely to its previous form.
Intellectually, I know this. Emotionally, I’m still getting used to the idea.
When I start to feel sorry for myself, I just look at my son. Yes, he reminds me that my body is powerful — that it literally sustained him for 10 months in the womb and seven months beyond.
But what actually gives me a little perspective is that my son is getting used to his body, too—and it’s much more difficult for him than it is for me. On a daily basis, Abram blows his own mind — and gets incredibly frustrated—purely by using his body.
For months, his hands astounded him (and sometimes they still do, like when he clapped for the first time a few weeks ago). Then he discovered his feet, which he continues to explore by sticking his toes in his mouth. He is enchanted with his ability to sit up, lean forward, roll over, blow raspberries, reach, grab, squeeze, shriek and bite. He loves to strum guitars. He even gives (very sloppy) kisses.
Abram also regularly rolls onto his tummy and struggles to crawl. He can lift his bottom into the air, and he can raise his torso off the floor, but he can’t manage to do both at the same time. For a long time, this infuriated him and he wailed in agony. Now that he’s getting stronger, he occasionally laughs manically while flopping around on the ground instead.
Regardless of whether his body is cooperating, Abram works incredibly hard every day to move and communicate — and for the most part, he delights in his own body.
When I go into his room in the morning and unzip his sleep sack, he lifts his feet into the air, grabs his chubby naked thighs and smiles. If he’s feeling really good, he’ll babble and blow a few spit bubbles just to show off for his mom.
Once again I find myself learning a lesson from my tiny son – that our bodies are always worth relishing, even if we find them imperfect. That they are forever changing and forever sacred.
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