Oh Mama — The Fickleness of Wearing Skin

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I already bear marks of motherhood. Aside from my growing belly, I have two scars on my right hand – cooking related, from an accident right before I took a pregnancy test. Currently there is also a stitched-up vertical incision healing on my right leg where a suspicious mole was removed. These scars are evidence of surging hormones and exhaustion; the incision, evidence of sacrifice and budding love. Taken together I see the path that lies before me as a mother: the hormonal haze, utter exhaustion, incredible love, and willing sacrifice. My body is going to produce another body, and that idea produces a feeling which becomes more amazing with each passing day. But, it is also taking a toll. I’m not as fit or toned as I was before. Feeling pretty takes much more work. Work that can dissolve my feelings of awe and leave me with distinct angst and depression, even as an entire life grows inside of me.

life growing in me

Taking our bodies for granted seems to be one part youth, one part immaturity, and one part human, and I’m losing my tolerance for it. I used to lay in the splits while I studied until I fell asleep , legs anchored down with the weight of my dad’s hiking boots. Once, early in my career, I ate only oatmeal for three days, experimenting with anorexia. All of this in the hopes of feeling more professional. Not long ago I read a journal entry that I wrote at sixteen in which I lament, for several pages, about my feet. Pages filled with complaints that I’d never be a professional with feet like mine (of all the things that prevented my professional success, my feet were not one of them).
And now? Now I hope this mole on my leg turns out to be benign. I hope that the ligaments in my left shoulder don’t get any looser so I will be able to hold my baby without causing further injury to my back. Today, faced with my own vulnerability, I am just hoping I’ll be healthy enough to raise a family and live a long and active life. But tomorrow? Tomorrow I’ll be worrying about my potential stretch marks and saving my pennies for the latest product that promises to make me ever-radiant and acne-free. I know this because I am human and fickleness is part of my condition. I ride the wheel round-and-round with the rest of you, at the hand of this demanding culture.

Not long ago I realized, to my surprise, that I never feel so beautiful as I do when I dance. It has to be a lovely, flowing ballet class, sans point shoes. When these forces combine, it is there–in my leotard, tights, and adorning rags–that I feel most at beautiful in my skin and most at home within myself. For me, this has been a remarkable antidote to the message that says beauty is about looking a certain way. My experience tells me that beauty is also about moving a certain way and connecting to life as an artist.
People I meet are always concerned about the eating disorder aspect of the ballet life. There certainly is that unfortunate aspect, but I also think we have an incredible advantage in relating to the body because of our training. For example, it is a rare privilege to experience one’s body so fully and intimately. Dancers are not awkward about skin or shy about touch, and we are among the fortunate few who experience our bodies as art. We have so much to contribute to the world on the topic of body image and relationship, so much to say about what it means to wear skin and be human. But we often fall victim to the tendency towards fickleness: fixating on this curve, or that inch, or my feet verses her feet. Unfortunately, when we do this we have nothing to say that culture isn’t saying already: you are the sum total of how you look, and if you don’t measure right you amount to nothing. But I believe that because we dance we should be able to communicate something more: a message that is empowering, healing, and refuses objectification.

2&1/2 months to go – craaazy!

I recently read the following statement: ‘If you are in good health now, realize that this will be a temporary condition.’ I love and hate this statement. It is simple and confronting. I hope to be the sort of woman that can live this mindful truth and appreciate my body in its various stages. It is the one I have, and it has been pretty great. I hope to communicate that appreciation in my role of wife, woman, artist, mother, teacher, friend, and Christian. I’ve got about 10 weeks until my baby arrives (ahhhhhh, may I enter the transition gracefully and gratefully). At least I can revisit the sort of woman I hope to be via this blog when fickleness gets the best of me! I’d love to hear your thoughts and experience – please share them with me!

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Showing 5 comments
  • Kelly Fults

    You are absolutely radiant my dear! I assure you, as an ex-dancer with far less talent and grace than you, the journey you are about to embark on will never cease to amaze and ignite you! With my first baby, I was completely unprepared for the love I was about to feel. With the second I was simply scared to bring this new poor little one home because I knew there was just no way I could love her as much as my son…I was wrong! This truly is God blessed and sent love. It will empower you with stregnth and committment even one as dedicated as you could never have imagined. This love is fierce, strong, ever lasting and yes, honestly,frightening. I’m living with a 16 and 13 year old now thinking, where did the time go? So try, through blurred vision because of lack of sleep, diaper blow outs right before you’re all dressed to leave the house (finally), spit up, colic, and the “why do I still look pregnant” anguish after delivery, to breath. You will look back on it all with the same humour you find in journal pages dedicated to your feet! Much love to you both!

    • kristin

      Kelly! You are so sweet and funny. Thank you for your reply. I am so looking forward to experiencing that fierce and frightening love. Someone told me recently that in parenting the days are long, but the years are short, which sounds like your experience exactly! I will try to remember to breathe through the frustrations and appreciate the journey. Thanks for your encouragement and for taking the time to share your experience!

  • Sarah

    Thanks for this post! I am a dance mom (I was passionate about Ballet from age 13-15 because those were the years I was allowed to take, and I think my passion centered more on Baryshnikov than dancing, in all honesty.) My 10 year old daughter starts this fall as a trainee with a professional ballet company here in town. She has been a competitive dancer for the last three years and her commitment, desire, and love for dance is a force to behold. This post helps give me a clear picture of a healthy adult dancer and how to help her become that. We all have body image issues. We’re women! I’m still carrying around weight that I added (and replaced!) when Emma was born. I don’t think it’s possible to be a woman without feeling bad about ourselves at times. If, however, we give those thoughts a platform and a real place in our lives, that is when they are destructive. The transition that you are headed into is rough, but you may have an advantage as a dancer. Ya’ll seem to have the advantage of being present in a moment. You work for it, you practice for it, you make it natural so when it comes, you are all there in each moment. Time is fleeting and if you can give your brain and soul to this major event that your body is preparing for each minute of the day. You will be ready. And then, when the baby comes, it will be ok if you get only one thing done per day. And by one thing, I mean this: take care of the baby AND brush your teeth. The next day you may get to shower. If you get to do both, I will cyber high-five you! I’m sure you will manage it gracefully!

    • kristin

      Thank you Sarah! You’re comment reminded me of how much it would have helped to hear from an older dancer when I was dancing, and it sounds like your daughter is a lot like I was at her age — what fun that must be for you 🙂 I hope you continue to be the sort of mother who seeks balance for your little bunhead — that will serve her well. The world will develop her desire to strive and perform, and you will develop her sense of self, along with her ability to give and to love. I would love to be a resource to you as she pursues her passions! Thank you for encouraging me to be ok with the transition I am approaching. I do not like having to slow down, so pregnancy has been humbling! I laughed at the comment about brushing teeth and showering, but I hear that is entirely true — oh my!! Stay in touch and thanks for taking the time to share your experience with me!

  • candice

    So glad to be on this journey with you, Boo! Baby or not we all deal with the ever changing perspective or lack of perspective on our own skin and I appreciate your candor.

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