“My internal voice had become something cruel and destructive, she would tell me how gross, disgusting, ugly and fat I was. What a failure I was at taking care of my house and family. Pathetic, lazy, failure she would whisper. Those lies became my truth.” Inspiring Women: Life With Cherie.
I met Cherie when she was in grade six. Her mom was thinking of homeschooling her and would chat with me after our girls had piano lessons. I remember Cherie as a shy, sweet, sensitive little girl. Just about every woman can relate to what Cherie is about to tell you…this is an open, honest and vulnerable feature.
Inspiring Women: Life With Cherie
A Little about Me
I am a wife and mother of two with a third on the way. I met my husband, Andrew, in college and it was love at first sight (corny but true). We dated for four years, before finally getting married in 2010. I am so thankful that God put us together! He is a wonderful husband and a fabulous father, I couldn’t ask for a better partner.
I am a stay-at-home mom and a mediocre housekeeper.
Being a mother is something I love, and I have learned more about God, His love and grace in the last four years than I have in my whole life as a Christian.
I worked as a hairstylist before having children, I enjoyed the creativity the job called for and being able to make people feel good about themselves.
Hair for weddings and graduations is something I still do. Fancy styling has always been my favorite part of doing hair. I love skin care products and for a few years ran a website selling Korean skincare with a friend.
I am a creative person, and I want to do all the crafts!! Andrew groans every time I tell him about a new project. I currently have some sewing and crocheting and embroidery projects on the go. I am a musician, and I read more novels than I probably should.
A Typical Day
We are not a family of strict routine; with Andrew on the road so much for work I find the consistency to be a challenge. My days consist of getting the girls fed at breakfast and ready to get out the door for Alaina to catch the bus. Then it’s cleaning the kitchen and getting myself breakfast and getting Clara her 2nd and sometimes 3rd breakfast.
Some days someone will come over for a haircut, or I’ll try to get some chores done around the house, or Clara and I will venture out somewhere. Afternoons have lately consisted of naps (thank you 3rd trimester) and picking Alaina up from school. If I’m lucky, I can fit some crafting in. Evenings are supper, playtime, and bedtime for the girls. Once they are down and have had their fresh water, extra hugs, kisses, and blanket adjustments, it’s time to tidy, work on one of my many projects, read or hang out with Andrew before our bed.
*Visit Cherie’s hair styling page: Event Styling By Cherie
I have always known I wanted to be a mother, but nothing could have prepared me for the highs and lows of motherhood, the way it would change me, stretch me and rattle the foundations of my identity.
In 2013 I became pregnant with my first child; I was so excited and so sick. But this was my first pregnancy and not even the intimate relationship I was developing with my toilet could rob me of the joy I felt.
As her due date approached I read all the books and articles on natural childbirth, I had my birth plan ready.
I was going to breathe my way through labor and emerge victorious from the journey of bringing new life into the world.
HA! Needless to say, the birth plan went out the window almost immediately, and I wanted to burn all those books and articles with their beautiful birthing stories. 36 hours and an epidural later (I thank God for epidurals!), I was told that a C-section was looking necessary, but I could try and push if I wanted, they would give me 2 hours.
I knew I could do it; I prayed and pleaded with God sure that if my prayers were earnest enough, He would spare me the C-section. As the time ticked down my prayer changed to one of safety for my baby girl and that regardless of the outcome I would thank Him.
The two hours elapsed and I was wheeled into the operating room, terrified, exhausted and trying so hard not to cry. I lay on the table unable to move, listening to the doctor’s as they brought my daughter safely into the world. I still remember hearing her cry for the first time, the mix of emotions I felt, the overwhelming love and joy for this little person.
The crushing disappointment in my body and its inability to perform as nature intended.
Then the quiet voice of God asking if I would still give thanks.
I knew at that moment, I had a choice to make, thankfulness or bitterness.
My daughter and I were both alive and healthy, how could I be anything but grateful.
My recovery was long and painful, but my little Alaina was so worth it. As we settled into a routine, I began to look forward to the time when I would be able to start working out again, to ‘bounce back’ to my pre-baby body. I was going to be that mom who breastfed the pounds away, did the cute mom and baby exercises, made wonderful healthy meals, kept up on housework and always had her hair and makeup done. The reality was very different.
I was emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted. All my waking moments were centred on this new little person in my life, which wasn’t a bad thing.
However, finding time to do things that fed my soul seemed near impossible.
Finding the energy to shower was a challenge, much less exercise, clean and cook. Not only did I feel like I was losing my sense of self but my physical-self was now foreign and strange. I had more chins than I knew what do with, and I jiggled in places I didn’t even know could move!
My skin, once firm looked wrinkled like an old half-deflated balloon. It sagged in weird places and made weird lumps under my clothing. I had angry purple stretch marks from my knees to my armpits. (Who knew an armpit could get stretch marks!)
Where my shape had once been nice and feminine, I now resembled a creature from a Doctor Seuss book.
The woman in the mirror was no longer someone I knew.
How could I reconcile the hatred I felt for the changes in my body when those very changes were wrought by the most precious person in my world? Regretting my new body felt like regretting my daughter whom I loved. Since I couldn’t have one without the other, it was a very confusing time.
My internal voice had become something cruel and destructive. She would tell me how gross, disgusting, ugly and fat I was, how undesirable and unattractive I had become. What a failure I was at taking care of my house and family, how I never measured up to the mothers around me. Pathetic, lazy, failure she would whisper. Those lies became my truth. -Cherie Ayton
As Alaina grew out of babyhood and sleep became less scarce I was determined to change things. I tried to live by the “NO EXCUSES” mantra, which in hindsight is ridiculous; sometimes excuses are valid reasons to slow down.
I was dieting, restricting and counting calories, averaging at about 800 a day, and doing high-intensity interval training every day.
If I was hungry, it meant my body was eating fat, and that was what I wanted. It was twisted thinking, and I was not healthy, though everyone praised how good I was looking. I was in bondage, and I didn’t even know it.
Being thin and losing weight had become the Idol of my life.
By this time I was ready for baby number two. In the fall of 2015, I became pregnant with my second daughter. If I thought I was sick with Alaina’s pregnancy, it was nothing compared to this. I was feeling nauseated before I had even missed my period, by 6 weeks I had lost 6lbs and by 10 weeks I had lost 17lbs.
If I wasn’t sleeping, I was throwing up, and in those moments between sleep and sickness, my nausea was so intense it felt like someone was standing over me kicking my stomach. I couldn’t drink water, even the smallest sip would make my stomach revolt and brushing my teeth was impossible as putting anything in my mouth instantly made me gag and run for the toilet.
I ended up in the hospital four times for dehydration. Clara made her way into the world July 2016 on her father’s birthday. It was another very long labor that once again ended in a C-section. She was so perfect, strong and healthy and so worth every horrible moment of pregnancy.
Shortly after her arrival, God started to work on changing the way I viewed myself and began to gently remove the idols I had set up.
I found a company called Healthy Habits Happy Moms, founded by 3 women (all trained in health, fitness and diet). They were tired of the messages of negativity in the diet industry and the way our culture fat shames and celebrates unhealthy extremes as long as the end result is a skinny woman.
Also, the way post-partum women are preyed upon and shamed for not bouncing back fast enough.
They taught the importance of balance and pursuing health not just weight loss. It was exactly what I needed so I signed up for their habit program. It was some of the best money I ever spent. I didn’t start losing the weight I had hoped to. But the positive shift in my attitude towards my body, my extra fat, my relationship with food was invaluable.
What really struck me was the realization that we teach our children to be critical of their bodies; we teach them that the mother they love and look up to, is gross, fat, ugly, too tall, too short, too skinny ect. We teach our kids to be unhappy with the way God made them. To strive for some indefinable standard for beauty. – Cherie
This is not a deliberate teaching but one of example. I looked at my two beautiful daughters perfect each in their own uniqueness and vowed I would never teach them to tear themselves down the way I tore myself apart every day.
Never in a million years would I let anyone speak to me or say the things I said to myself on a regular basis and I would not be the person to teach my daughters the art of tearing themselves apart.
I wanted to set for them an example of self-love regardless of appearance and of health and balance.
I needed to change, not just for my own wellbeing but for my children. Now when that little voice started her litany of criticism, I would tell her NO, she was WRONG! I didn’t always feel like disagreeing with her, but after a while, she got quieter and quieter and is now mostly silent.
I learned to replace her lies with God’s truth. Psalm 139 says that He knew me before I had even begun, that He formed me and made me, I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Regardless of the changes to my body, that time and life will wreak, His love for me is unchanging; His thoughts of me are more than the grains of sand. In Genesis, He tells us that we were created in His image. I am no longer a gross, fat, unattractive woman; I am an image bearer of God!
Not only in appearance but in my capacity to love, care, nurture. In my ability to dream, create and delight in the beauty of the world around me.
All the good things He has gifted me with are reflections of Him. I’m so much more than just a body!
If Jesus can proudly bear the scars of his suffering and sacrifice for eternity as the proof of His immeasurable love for us, then I can also learn to look at the changes and marks left on my body by my children as not only the proofs of a great love but of great blessing as well. –Cherie
I am still pursuing a healthy lifestyle that will hopefully one day result in weight loss, but I have learned that I can love life where I am the way I am now. There is so much joy to be found in even the redundant, repetitive life of motherhood.
I find joy listening to my daughters giggle as they play together, or when I hear them singing songs about how much God loves them. When they call me back for one last hug and kiss at bedtime and whisper, I love you!
I find joy when I look out my window and see the way the sky changes colors and moods.
My heart sings when I get the chance to work with my hands and sew or craft. I feel like this is what I was made to do.
I find joy when I am able to lead my church in worship. Or when I am able to sing and make music to praise God.
In spending quiet evenings with my husband where we can talk or just be.
Our life is so full of good things, and I am so grateful that the Lord changed my inward focus and opened my eyes to the multitude of joys that fill my life.
My dreams are not grand dreams, but I don’t think their simplicity diminishes their value. I dream of raising children who burn brightly for the Lord. Who will grow up to be kind, hardworking, compassionate, productive members of society.
I dream of someday going to the bathroom uninterrupted. And the day my kids happily eat all the food I make them.
I dream of growing old with my husband and enjoying all that life has to offer with him.
Going to the Grand Canyon and being able to see more of the world.
I dream of being able to pursue in more depth the hobbies and crafts I now dabble in.
Mostly I hope to reach the end of my life having lived it well.
Moments with God
Consistent quiet times with God are still an area I look to improve in. However, I find that God, in spite of my limitations and failings to be consistent with Him, He finds a way to make himself present in my life.
Sometimes it’s a perfectly timed song, or it’s a podcast or post on Instagram. Sometimes it’s the reminder to pause and give thanks when I look outside and see the brilliance of creation. I’m reminded how awesome and great our God is.
He is there when I am frustrated with my children and tired of the monotony of life. He gives me peace and patience that I know are not mine.
When I pause a moment to look at the life I have lived I see His presence and goodness through it all, and I can rest confidently in Him for what is to come.
Cherie wrote about something that can resonate with almost every woman. Please share her post and help other women to overcome the inner voice and instead find these loving and beautiful words they need to hear.
Another one of my Inspiring Women, Esther, has an incredible story of marrying a young man from another country that she barely knew. Read more – Inspiring Women: Life With Esther.
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Barbara Ayton says
Thanks for being so open and vulnerable Cherie. You are truly beautiful inside and out.