Giving birth made me look at my body differently… but in a good way.

From as way back as I can remember, I always had an obsession with my image. Being the daughter of a black woman and a Puerto Rican father, who looked like a Taino Indian, there was a “look” I was suppose to have. Of course, I didn’t create that idea, instead it was implanted in me by my elementary school classmates and random people I met growing up.

I remember being told, quite often, that I couldn’t be hispanic because I wasn’t light skinned. They expected me to be Selena Gomez’s when, mind you, my mother’s skin color is comparable to Denzel Washington’s and my father was darker than her! Sadly, it didn’t stop there. You see, my father had long, straight, black hair and I don’t. So, it became “you can’t be hispanic because your hair is too nappy.” As a seven-year-old, those words knocked bits of my self esteem away.

Fast forward three years later when puberty started. When I was younger, I expected to look a certain way physique-wise. I had been surrounded by voluptuous women my entire life and when little lumps appeared on my chest, I thought I’d be a D cup the very next day. Okay, maybe not the next day but when an entire year had passed and I resorted to stuffing my bra with toilet paper, I knew something was up.

A lot of the other girls in class seemed fully developed and I felt like nothing had changed for me. I’d overhear them talking about how annoying bras were while my bra was really just for show, a placeholder for what could be. I couldn’t understand how I had started puberty earlier than most of my classmates and was now the hare losing the race. The body I dreamed of was just that— a dream.

My teen years weren’t any better. The taller I got the more my weight evened out around my body. Being tall plus having a fast metabolism equaled out to be for one very skinny me. I was embarrassed. How in the world was I still looking like a little girl when I was supposed to be blooming into womanhood? I was pissed off and I was jealous, jealous of every girl that didn’t have my struggle.

I would see other females and pick out the parts of their bodies that I liked and imagined how I’d look with them. I was creating a Dena-Stein monster in my head. Even at seventeen I was sure that I’d still have a chance of looking like everyone else. But puberty was done. My body had missed the train to Voluptuous Vile and I was stuck in a body I did not want.

I was able to give myself some reassurance that my body wasn’t all bad. I had a thing for how I looked in lingerie and by gully I bought so many pairs of matching sexy underwear that I own less actual articles of clothing. But I didn’t care. You could’ve told me to wear bikinis everywhere I went and I would’ve gladly done it. My past boyfriends always complimented me on my pretty underwear and it felt amazing. Really, I should have known it wasn’t the underwear they were excited about.

I was searching for any reason to simply like my body. I was tall and thin and though I started getting praise for it by older women and mothers who just couldn’t lose their baby weight, I hated my body. I didn’t want it. I wanted the body I was so sure I would get once puberty hit. I didn’t get that and I resented every bit of the body I felt I was punished with. I was desperate to feel proud of it but I couldn’t help but loathe it.

I was like a spoiled child not getting what they wanted from the store when there was no promise of getting anything to begin with. I’d throw tantrums in the bathroom when the jeans I had just bought didn’t fit right or my bra didn’t quite hug my barely there girls. As dramatic as I acted, no one truly knew how I felt about my body and I tried really hard not to roll my eyes at comments like, “You’re so lucky! You can eat whatever you want and not gain a pound.” I didn’t feel lucky, I felt plagued.

The grass wasn’t green on my side, in fact it was brown! Sure, I got into a relationship with a guy that loved all of me but he was over 300 lbs and hated his own body. We were an insecure mess but I loved him just as he was and he loved me the same. It’s a strange thing to come across someone the complete opposite as you but they have the same body image crisis. It’s like the universe brought us together to learn from each other or as a joke.

About three years after we got together, I became pregnant with our daughter. After feelings of fright and excitement came thoughts of my perfect body. “All pregnant people gained a ton of weight”, I thought. Finally, I was going to gain weight! I was actually looking forward to that. Imagine my surprise when I found out that’s not how pregnancy worked and even with a bun in the oven, every body is not created equally.

Normally, I weighed 141 pounds the highest my weight got, while pregnant, was 156 pounds. The crazy thing is, I gained 15 pounds but my pants were falling off of me and shirts that were tight around my arms were now loose fitted. No doubt about it, I was upset. The one sure way for me to get child bearing hips didn’t work! My body had the audacity to betray me?! I felt defeated.

After my nine month pity party, labor and delivery went easy enough. It’s funny how at no point during my thirteen hour ordeal did I think about how my body looked. Not when the EMTs wheeled me into the hospital and told me how “lucky” I was to look four months pregnant instead of 39 weeks. Nor was I thinking about my physical appearance when my stomach felt like it was getting ripped apart or when I was in my birthday suit with strangers huddled around me screaming “PUSH.” Oh, no. I just hoped that my body wouldn’t fail me— that it would dig strength from the depths of my soul to help me bring my baby into the world.

As I laid with a tiny person on my chest, I couldn’t help but look at my sagging stomach with no regrets. And when a TV commercial came on for wounded soldiers and then for breast cancer survivors, I couldn’t help but weep. I was holding a life that the body I rejected created. How could I have been so ungrateful? I hadn’t gone through war that left me disabled or gone through a life threatening disease but somehow I had less of an appreciation for my body than the people who did. They were happy that their bodies survived— that they survived. Their bodies mustered up the strength to keep going. I cried and I cried.

When you look at life through insecure glasses, you tend to find every pathetic flaw within yourself. You build this idea that first and foremost you must be good enough for everyone else. You create the assumption that somehow what others think of you is more important than what you think of yourself. From an early age, lies about who I was suppose to be trickled into my mind and created a flood of unnecessary and preventable insecurities. Even on the days that I felt beautiful, I worried about whether or not others would think the same thing.

It took giving birth and being in such an open and exposed state for me to fall so madly in love with every part of me. It didn’t come from a family member, or friend, or even from a significant other. It came from the very body that was no good to me for years. There’s a certain kind of freedom that comes from being released mentally from something that weighed you done all your life. My body impressed me more in those thirteen hours than it did for twenty four years.

I’m not saying that if I woke up with junk in the trunk I wouldn’t be excited. What I am saying is that I love the body I have for what it is now. However it changes, I’ll love it then, too. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to tweak your body here and there: Get some abs, tone up, get a bigger butt(wink wink). I’ve just learned that I have to want it for myself and make sure it’s not some idea someone else tried shoving down my throat because they think God created me jacked up.

I’m unapologetically showing off my thin frame with pride, with the knowledge that it kicks ass. Yes, I am “lucky” to have my body but not because I’m skinny. I’m lucky because it hasn’t failed me— because after all those years of completely hating what I considered a corpse, I realized how valuable it is. I look back now and pity myself. I spent so much of my life incredibly insecure for no reason.

Now, I go out of my way to tell women how beautiful they are. It doesn’t matter if I know them or not. I struggled in silence pretending to have all the confidence in the world and if I had genuine compliments instead of sugar coated insults, growing up would have been a lot easier. The truth is, there’s no such thing as the perfect body. As cheesy as it may sound, we are different and that should be celebrated not judged. Heck, if you’re the only one celebrating your body that’s really all that matters. I learned that what I think of myself is far more important than what others think of me. Others might come to that conclusion in some other way but as long as they do, it’s a major win!


The “R” word

I don’t know what you might be think the “R” stands for. Rights? Romance? Nope, RACE. Nowadays, it seems like race is a dirty little word that no one wants to say for the fear of being judged. It has become a topic that people cringe at because, automatically, they think it’s going to end in picking a side. That is the sad world we live it my friends. A person can’t say black, or white, or any other race outside their own because they’ll get fiery looks and probably stopped before they really begin talking.

I for one don’t have a problem talking about race. In actuality, I see only one race…the human race. As corny or lame as it sounds, we are all human and should be judged based on our character and not our race. I also don’t think that race should be used as a way to judge a person’s character. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone from the same group of people are the same. *Gasp* There’s a shocker! I mean look at your immediate family. Are you all cookie cutter? I doubt it. I’m not even exactly like my twin.

Sometimes, I wish race didn’t exist. Not the human race itself but the “what are you race.” You know the one they make you check off for a job or some formal exam. I’m black but I ‘m also hispanic. I check off hispanic on everything unless I don’t feel like being judged by my ethnicity(even though they claim you don’t.) The black community is not fond of my decision to list myself as hispanic because I’m supposedly neglecting my true self. But I’m not going to check “African American/Black (Non-hispanic)” That too, in my eyes, is neglecting my true self. I’ll check my hispanic box and if you give me an interview or see me face to face you’ll see I’m a black woman. Anyone with some sense would know that hispanic, in itself, is not a race. There can be people that look like Hillary Clinton all the way to people that look like the singer Seal. There’s no RIGHT look. It is very annoying feeling like I have to choose. You have to be one or the other because that way it’s easier for us to be put in a box. That’s why I sometimes wish we all looked exactly alike from head to toe so the madness wouldn’t exist but then I think of all the beautiful people and rich culture this world has, and know that would be a horrid thing.

Why can’t we all just be excepted for who we are as people. I was lucky enough to be raised by a mother who didn’t see race. My mother is black and my father was a hispanic man that looked like a dark skinned Native American, flowing long hair and all. My mother had a best friend growing up who is Arab. She gets upset whenever people talk crap about Arabs because to this day she has a bond with her friend and her friend’s family. My mother’s mother was also very excepting of other races. I made the mistake once of telling my mother that I didn’t really like people from the Dominican Republic. She quickly put me in my place. Besides the fact that her boyfriend was from there and my little brother were technically half Dominican, I wasn’t raised to say such stupid things…to think so stupidly. I couldn’t be racist even if I wanted to. My mother would probably snatch my soul from my body if I ever told her I hated an entire race of people.

I don’t know how people do it. How can you hate a group of people based on skin color. For whatever reason, people think that racism is reserved for whites only. As if there’s segregation in racism. Like only whites can be racist. Far from it. But you see people use the past to justify their racism like, “well we were oppressed, so in reality, we can’t be racist.” Oh, yes you can sweetie! Denial is a terrible thing, especially when it comes from an ignorant person. Yes, there was unbelievable cruelty done to people based on race but that doesn’t give us the right to spew hate, because it would just make us as bad.

Nothing justifies hatred of a person for basically no reason. If all you have to go on is race or skin color in order to like someone , then you’re crazy. I find it beautiful and intriguing that we have such a diverse human race. I think it’s sad that someone could deny themselves the ability to appreciate that. How, in this day and age, can people be so ridiculous? Is it based off of fear? Hatred that was passed down? Plain and simple ignorance!? Whatever it is, I pity people like that.

Don’t ever let someone’s race determine how you value them…how you see them. We are one. Despite our physical traits, we are family. I can only hope that my daughters won’t grow up in a world that will continue to separate us based on something so trivial. My wish for them is that one day, race won’t be a factor as much as it is now. I understand more now, after having children, why Martin Luther King JR wanted so bad for equality. It’s one thing when you as a parent might deal with racism but you pray that your kids won’t have to go through it. We should love each other and respect each other no matter what!

This post is not to condemn anyone or to offend but to open a line of communication about race as it relates to equality and love. As always, ((Hugs and Love))