Editor’s note: Both body image and infertility can be sensitive topics that touch places of deep hurt for many women. At The Lois Project, we believe that we are made in the image of a loving God and that our ultimate worth comes from being his image bearers - not what our bodies look like or what they can do. God uses many different avenues to reveal to us our true beauty and worth, no one story is the same. We hope that by sharing personal experiences of God's work in these areas we can help our readers feel less alone in their own struggles, even as everybody’s story looks different.
All through my adolescence I obsessed over my appearance. I vividly remember looking down at my thighs at age 10 and thinking they looked like giant squished hams, nothing like the legs of my peers in 4th grade. I watched infomercials in the middle of the night and learned about sweating to the oldies with Richard Simmons and to stop the insanity with Susan Powter. I started exercising and training to be an Olympic athlete at age 11. My high jump career ended before I started 7th grade. By junior high I was worried about being fat and tried to be anorexic but liked the taste of food too much to make much headway on that plan. Most of my friends were a head shorter than me and much thinner. By high school I developed a whole host of other complaints about my appearance: my hair was too thin, my forehead too small, my bust not in proportion with my hips, I had stretch marks from growing quickly, and the list went on.
By college I had been on numerous diet and exercise plans and hated how I looked. The day I got married, I was slightly below my goal weight but still felt that my body was ugly and couldn’t compare with so many other women I envied in the media and in real life. Being married to a man who always saw me as beautiful helped but I would still zip up my jeans and have a muffin top and get depressed.
Then we miscarried just after our first wedding anniversary. I had a new reason to hate my body. I felt betrayed. I never smoked and didn’t have any chronic health issues. I ate healthily and worked out regularly. I never did drugs and only drank occasionally. I never dreamed I would have difficulty bringing a child into this world. Six months later I miscarried again and became a different person. I was no longer Gina, just a shell filled with unbearable pain. After months of infertility tests, treatments, drugs and trying to conceive I became pregnant with my daughter, Cindel. Every day that I heard her heartbeat at an appointment, or felt a kick, I grew in appreciation for what my body was capable of doing and how God had been with me through it all. During labor with my daughter I had another perspective on the awesome capacity of my body to both grow and birth a human being. My two children are the greatest earthly gifts God has blessed me with. And they came through this vessel that I once despised and sought to fundamentally modify.
I am not my body. But my body has done amazing things through the way God created me. Where there was once only discontent, now I have admiration and respect for my form. I still struggle with my weight and appearance but I’ve learned to be more gentle with myself and extend grace. My body does not define me and God made it to have a purpose. The shallow purpose I wanted my body to serve was to be beautiful, desirable, and successful. God used my body to create two healthy children and in the process I learned that my purpose as a mother is more beautiful than being an object of desire could ever be.
By Gina Shireman
Gina Shireman belongs to the Work of Christ Community in East Lansing, MI. She has been married for 8 years to Garrett Shireman and has two children, Cindel and Cirdan. She is currently pursuing her masters degree in public administration from Central Michigan University while recently returning to work full time as an aide to U.S. Representative Elissa Slotkin. She loves to travel, camp, and spend quality time with her friends and family.