Love Thy Body
Photographs selected by Lisa And shared with permission by Ali
Scars. The word to me is multi-faceted. I’ve known many scars throughout my life, some known and visible, some not known, hidden underneath.
Growing up with a mom suffering from mental illness created scars in me long before I even understood it was happening. As a little girl, I remember my mom being sad, but I guess, being young, I just assumed that’s how all mothers were. As I grew older, the sadness turned to spite, the spite turned to fights, and the fights turned into abuse. I began to realize that what occurred in my home was far from normal. Hiding my scars became a skill. At first I tried to mask them, trying my best to blend in with my peers. But as conversations would turn to family, or invitations to come to each other’s houses were exchanged, I found myself shrinking back, hoping nobody would notice my habit of excluding myself from revealing my home life and ask why. Eventually, I just started avoiding conversations and people altogether and became sort of a loner. People made assumptions; I was pregnant, I was on drugs, I was just plain stuck up. Nobody knew I just wasn’t sure how to act normal when I knew my life was anything but. During high school, I found friendship in people who also felt like misfits from those that had typical family problems. Nobody would know how to respond if I told them my mom took off for 6 days with a boyfriend and only left me a check for one pizza, so I have to figure out what to feed my sisters, or that I had spent the night before shushing my sisters upstairs so my mom wouldn’t come up and hit us, or that over the weekend my mom had locked herself in her room and threatened to take all her pills while I lay at her door pleading her not to. Those scars were ones I buried deep, and didn’t reveal to anyone.
To add to my awkwardness, I always was a curvy girl, though in high school terms, it’s just called “fat”. I’ve had stretch marks long before most girls had breasts. I was all the guys’ buddy; the one they would come to and ask if I’d hook them up with one of my hotter friends. With never feeling attractive, and watching my mom fail at relationships all her life, I never really believed I’d find true, lasting, unconditional love.
And having been forced to raise my sisters throughout my mom’s nonexistence in our lives, I never had much of a desire for children. Of course, God has a way of changing situations, and people. Through Him I met a man that loved me, scars and all. Together we found faith, freedom, and friendship that turned into love. Meeting him changed my heart, and through loving him I began dreaming of having a family of our own. After we endured a deployment, he proposed and we wasted no time getting married and then getting pregnant within the first year. People said we were crazy, that we should have waited and just taken time to enjoy each other, but we knew we were ready. People who knew my past couldn’t believe I’d choose to raise children so soon after leaving behind the ones I had unwillingly raised, but I dove into motherhood and never looked back. I’ve embraced this as a way to redeem the childhood I was never able to enjoy. I can give them what I wish I had. And the physical scars that have increased and grown with each life brought into the world are only the flowers on the stems of my past.
I’ve never been a stranger to scars, and my children have helped me to see the beauty in them. A body that was once too overweight and not attractive enough, now is seen as the body that harbored three growing babies and then safely delivered them into the world. And the heart, layered in scar leftover from the hurtful words and physical wounds that were never apologized for, is now softened by these precious faces and able to love them beyond the love that it was ever shown.