As the season of Advent comes to a close, so does our time with our current Pilgrim in Residence, Meghan Cappon (read her first post here and her second post here). I love where she’s taken us this season, and how the reflections of her own embodiment experienced through pregnancy can draw us closer to Mary and to Christ in unique and tangible (and oh-so-important) ways. Thank you, Meghan, for the voice you’ve brought to A Sacred Journey, and no doubt to bodies of readers everywhere.
This week, Meghan explores celebrating and honoring the body. I hope that sometime over the next many days amidst all the Christmas cheer, you find time to pause and say “Cheers!” to your body, too. (And send one up to Mary, while you’re at it. She, and her body, accomplished one major feat.) -Lacy
Our bodies are the first bit of contact our souls have with the world and the world with us. Our bodies.
When we found out I was pregnant, we followed in books and on apps the growth of our baby’s body. What a miracle, his body. What a beautiful and precious creation, his body. And I think most all parents feel this way as, with wonder and awe, a body grows and takes shape. And when that body enters into the world we count toes and fingers, caress little bellies and butts, stare for hours at hands and noses. That little body is the most precious thing in the world. We kiss it all over and hold it close and breathe in its smell. We nuzzle chubby cheeks and stroke peach fuzz hair. Such perfection. Such beauty.
And then many of us, as adults, go stand in front of the mirror to shower and look at and treat our bodies with contempt. We cringe at our butts and pinch our bellies. We look at and treat others’ bodies with contempt, as well. We see the ads that tell us our bodies are not good enough and we believe them. We relate to our bodies as we do machines—trying to “fix” them or “polish” them. Through objectifying our bodies we treat our bodies as separate and other than ourselves. We become disembodied.
What a journey of disconnect and discord; of divorce and despair.
When and how did our bodies, once so treasured, become so loathed?
We have neurons in our brain that “create” our emotions. I read recently that scientists have found that the same emotion-creating neuro-matter can actually be found in tissue in other parts of our bodies (around abdominal organs and whatnot). Our bodies have emotions. Plato and Aristotle brainwashed us all to believe that the intellect and brain is superior to the body and flesh. This was adopted by most of the Western Christian theologians of the time and the “mind set” is very much with us still today, unfortunately. Our bodies have become things to master and control by our brains. Before those guys hit the scene the center of thought and reason was considered to be in one’s stomach. The gut. To them, our bodies were not separate from our minds.
Disconnect. Disembodiment. Despair.
How do we journey back into ourselves? Back into our bodies?
It has been just about a year since I conceived my son.
My body has experienced and endured much change during that time. The experience of pregnancy and having a body grow inside my body has contributed much to the renewal of my mind in regard to my body. I am so grateful for and amazed by my body in ways and to an extent I never was before.
What good, hard work.
I recently went in for acupuncture with a Chinese Medicine professional. I had mentioned I was experiencing a bit of insomnia when I woke up for night feedings with the baby. He taught me how to apply acupressure on my ears to help with the insomnia. But this is what he told me, “This is not like Western medicine that attempts to fix the problem. You are only reminding your body of its natural state of being.” Our bodies are us—they can be reminded of who they are. They are not objects that we must make submit. Our bodies natural state of being is good and well.
Having said that, I want to preface the next part of this post by saying that while I am addressing different body parts, they are not objects separate from myself. This is not what I am intending. I am merely acknowledging the special roles different parts of me have played for the whole.
Here, during the time we celebrate Mary birthing Jesus, I’d like to raise a glass to my body and acknowledge all that it’s done during my pregnancy, labor, and postpartum.
To my womb—for housing my baby and expanding to 1,000 times its original capacity. You produced a beautiful symphony of contractions and pushed the baby out gorgeously. And then you shrunk back down to the size of a pear. Thank you, hidden place—the home we all strive to find once we leave you.
To my feet—for bearing the thirty+ pounds I gained and hanging in there during the hot and swollen months.
To my breasts—you produced milk ducts for the first time ever! And now you’ve been supplying the wee one with nutrition, immunology, and comfort for the past three months. You fill to achy bulging and you shrink once drained. You have endured infection and engorgement. Thank you for your nourishment and flexibility.
To my hair—you have never been so thick and lush. I will miss that.
To my brain—you operated in a vastly different capacity than normal. I’m sorry for getting so frustrated with how much you forgot and how difficult it was for you to follow one train of thought for too long. Thank you for focusing your energy wombward.
To my endocrine system—what a beautiful cocktail of hormones you had me sipping throughout my pregnancy, during labor, and then in the postpartum. I’ve never felt so relaxed, so protective, so bonded. You did so well facilitating the cycle of oxytocin, endorphins, and adrenalin during labor. Thank you for helping me be a mother.
To my ovaries—for releasing an egg to be fertilized. We had been having trouble with that and it was such a relief to know you were well again.
To my butt—oh, butt, I will not share the difficulties you endured but I will say thank you. Thank you.
To my nipples—girls, I never knew how hard breastfeeding would be for you until the baby was born. You endured blisters, pinching, poor latch, infection, and round-the-clock suckling. Bless you.
To my belly button—you became an outie for the first time ever! Thanks for inverting yourself.
To my vagina—dear vagina, the circumference to which you were stretched, my goodness. What a miracle my baby came out through you.
To my pelvic floor—you stretched and held and stretched and held more and more weight. And then stretched and held some more as a baby was pushed against and through you. Thank you for your strength, flexibility, and renewal.
To my legs—you worked SO HARD transporting weight. Thank you for all those walks in the park and all that yoga.
To my hands—oh the swell you experienced and the numbness. I’m so glad you don’t have to endure that anymore.
To my arms and back—you are strained every day and every night holding and cuddling the little one now that he’s on the outside. Once he starts to take a bottle, I promise I’ll schedule a massage. You deserve it a billion times over.
To my abdominal muscles and belly—the stretch, strain, and separation. May you continue to come back together and strengthen.
To my lumbar—weight bearer, extraordinaire—I salute you.
To my body.
What a miracle. What a mystery. What hard, good work you did and still do. You are good and you are beautiful. Cheers.
This advent season we celebrate God coming into a body. It is in this act that we remember that God created humankind—our bodies—and said that is was very good. It is in this act that we are reminded that our bodies are sacred.
Take some moments with your own body. (Get naked if you can! Take a bath, streak in the snow, nestle in between the sheets.) Remember that your body was once a baby body. How precious. Dote on it. Caress your arms, stroke your legs, wiggle your toes. Grieve the ways you’ve been disconnected from your body. Remember. [Re-member.] Remember your body’s goodness. [Re-member] your body. May your body [re-member]. May your body remember its goodness. Merry Christmas.