As women, we are often told that our bodies were designed to carry and birth children. Some of us might have once found great comfort and pride in this thought, especially to combat a poor body image. That bump on the lower abdomen suddenly had unique beauty and purpose – to provide a warm, protective home for new life. We could embrace the curvature of an hourglass figure as part of our womanhood since wide hips are a valuable tool in childbirth. We could even accept our round and robust thighs, perhaps half-heartily, as a necessary component of the strength required throughout all stages of motherhood.
But what happens when we cannot achieve or maintain a pregnancy? How should we cope with any resulting feelings of disgust for our bodies? How do we overcome shame, self-hatred, and an inferiority complex? Many of us will be tempted to hit the gym more frequently and with increased rigor, to try out various restrictive diets, shed dozens of pounds, isolate, invest in a more “flattering” wardrobe, and spiral downwards into a crippling depression. However, these options rarely serve us, or God, well. As a result of choosing them, our marriages suffer, friends are neglected, our families worry about us, jobs are left unfinished, dependents are affected by our toxic behaviors, our health declines; the list of negative consequences keeps on going.
So, what is the answer to our predicament? This is a tough question to unravel, especially when we are convinced that our bodies have failed us. Thankfully, the Holy Bible assists us in doing so. In Chapter Twelve of Romans, we are directed “to present [our] bodies as a living and holy sacrifice,” for our “spiritual service of worship.” This same verse also encourages us to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind(s).” We are each called to do exactly this in our own unique way.
Mothers sacrifice their bodies to stretch in all directions as they grow a new life from within. Although many of us desire this kind of “spiritual service of worship,” our “living and holy sacrifice” is no less valuable to God. A sacrifice is meant to be challenging. For those of us struggling to love our bodies while walking the difficult path of infertility, we may begin by setting free any images or goals of our “dream bodies” and offering them up to God. Our pursuit of the smallest, fittest versions of ourselves fogs the path God has put forth for us with self-serving motives, rather than a “spiritual service of worship.” Let us then “be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds,” as we shift our focus from ourselves to others. Perhaps this will look like volunteering at a local soup kitchen, visiting an elderly neighbor, hosting new parishioners for dinner, spending quality time with a spouse or family member, or welcoming an adopted or foster child into our homes.
Peter tells us in Chapter Three, Verses Three and Four, not to “be concerned with the outward beauty… clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” Each of us has beauty, whether we believe we are beautiful or not. Beauty is not wearing a size two, having chiseled muscles, looking flawless in a bathing suit, or any other exterior measure. We may rest assured that we have so much beauty to offer the world, regardless of our fertility or body image.
The Lord created us, as women, to let our feminine spirits shine. Let us dig deep within our hearts and souls to unearth the light He designed us with, and to first turn inward with it, to ourselves. We must give ourselves grace, especially to love and respect the wonderful vessel He created, our bodies. Then, we may extend our gentleness to the world. We have so much to offer, even if we do not have living, biological children in whom to invest our goodness. Imagine a world where gentleness and quietness reigned, where true peace abided. Our womanly bodies have quite the purposes to fulfill, whether that is by raising children to share these virtues, or by shining our light to the world in a million different ways. Each path, although unique, should lead to the same destination – drawing one another to Christ through peace. Instead of wildly pursuing biological children or more desirable figures, let us pursue His path for our lives. There is nothing more beautiful.
This post was written by an anonymous new member of the Springs in the Desert community.
Well said, thank you
So glad the post resonated with you, Delsonora! God bless you.
Thank you for sharing this beautiful reflection. My belly and thighs currently bear significant stretch marks due to the rapid weight gain caused by fertility treatments. They are so hard to look at as they seem to “mock” my barrenness – having one of the side effects of pregnancy, but no baby. I am trying to learn how to honor God with the thoughts I have towards my physical body and not dwell in a spirit of self-loathing. Grateful for your words in this direction.
Thank you so much for your comment, Sarah! We’re glad the reflection resonated with you. May God bless you – you are in our prayers!
I could have used this encouragement many years ago when our infertility journey began. Thank you for sharing.