I pick up the foil package from the rim of the bathtub.  One of two pop-tarts left.  I’d eaten the other while in the bath last night where I’d pondered how creepy it is that food was fashioned to fit the shape of a toaster slot.

Waddling on my way to the kitchen, I hold my belly, and then wait for the pastry to pop up from the toaster. Then, I bend over and see my reflection in a mirror.

The thought runs through my head, the same one that did about an hour ago when I finally decided to brush my hair and teeth.

“Sometimes, I really wonder how Jason even stands the sight of me when I look like this”.

I am beyond frumpy, still in my nightgown at noon.
Braless, my pendulous boobs do what mama-boobs do: flop around.
Makeup is smeared below my eyes creating black smudges.
Acne erupts in typical third-trimester glory.
Tucked behind my ears is my wispy hair, roots growing out, and the part is askew.
My teeth are furry.
Random hairs eek out from all edges of my eyebrows.

I think about how we portray ourselves to the outside world.  The masks and the costumes and the expressions we don.

I’ve been applying makeup diligently since I was 12 years old.  It is my crutch, giving me something to hobble around confidently on as I smile at the world.
Sometimes my knee-high boots send me into warrior mode.   But it is the stilettos that bring out the Diva.   Is there a way to wear sneakers without feeling frumpy?

Beauty and ugliness often bares itself without much work.  We can also find beauty when we delve deep.  But it surprises me how easily we can  find contempt.


Dropping the pop-tart on the chipped plate, I pull my favorite paring knife from the drawer and cut off the burnt crust.   Jason’s grandmother gave us the small, stainless steel knife for our wedding along with a traditional penny inside the box.  It cuts better than any knife I own.

Funny how it’s the small things matter in the end.   A perfect knife.   The cheap beaded necklace that all the babies at our Doula party chewed on when I held them.  The smell of the candle that burned at Indigo’s birth.  A sandstone incense holder, cracked but still usable.   A silicone pot holder.   My hand-made leather wallet.  The witch’s ball that gleams in the light and makes you close your eyes in gratitude for the friend that sent it to you.  Thin Mints my husband brought home.  Tea tree oil.  An indispensable Sharpie pen.  A brand new Sun magazine, the ad-free pages shiny.  Granny undies.   Homemade icing.   The unprompted “I Love You’s” from your kids.


“I should be brave in this moment”, I say.

And so I take this photo of myself, to share with the world.   ME.  Raw and authentic.  The face of me that isn’t seen too often outside of the walls of this home.  A tired, recovering-from-yucky-stomach-thing me.   Lips that kissed my daughters about 30 times this morning.  A post-doula-party body, arms tired from holding sweet babies to my face for smooches.     Eyes that opened this morning to the the face of my Indigo, blond hair messy.   Eyebrows in desperate need of waxing.  Cropped from the frame, a belly that is heavier each day and a baby inside that wakes me promptly each morning.

ME.  Completely unglamorous and unkempt.  Often self-absorbed, over-extended,  and lazy.  In love with my kids but content to let them play happily together for hours until the air is pierced with wails.   If you had the chance to be a bug on my crayon-colored wall, you would seriously not be impressed.   But maybe you’d breathe a sigh of relief at my simplicity and often-boring daily life and lack of schedule and battle with my love/hate relationship to the internet and the way my house is rarely tidy and the stacks of laundry in the corner and how sticky my kids’ face are and the half-twisted milk caps.


Sooooo…who are YOU?


18 Comments Add yours

  1. Christie says:

    Leigh your post was so touching & beautiful!! You are so beautiful inside & out. Thank God for Mommies such as yourself!!

  2. leighsteele says:

    Aw, Christine, you truly made my day. You are one rockin’ mama yourself!

  3. Ninotchka says:

    I’m YOU only uglier, lazier and hatier. 🙂

  4. leighsteele says:

    Oh Nino –
    You make me laugh, but how you LIE. First, you walk. You run. You manage your three kiddos with school and sports and events. That right THERE alone makes you 100x LESS lazy than me.
    Then, you are dark, mysterious, gorgeous. I’ve seen your “unmasked’ morning photos and they are lovely….but not quite to the gritty level of mine.
    Hatier? Tell me more.
    But I love you for feeling we are ONE. I guess in the end, we really are. xo

  5. Erica says:

    Oh, is there anyone who can be as cruel to us as our selves? If only you could see yourself as everyone else you would not pick on yourself so much. Have some more chocolate and be nice to yourself or I’ll sic Ceridwen on you. (And believe you me she has a mean right cross)

  6. Oh my gosh, Leigh. You read my mind. I mean. You wrote MY post. So. Company in the sloth. Right now? I’m wearing the same thing I wore to bed last night. At 10:43 PM THE NEXT DAY. 🙂

  7. Sarah says:

    Me too (to what kate said about the clothes) and I also have furry teeth and haven’t washed my hair in three days… You are simply beautiful, every part of you!

  8. Girlfriend… I adore you.

  9. luannemacy says:

    Yes, I am you, I am totally you. And you are me. I could have written your post. You are absolutely normal and completely amazing. As am I. Really, this fly is impressed. Just as you would be with me.

    And yes, I believe there is a way to wear sneakers without feeling frumpy. I just haven’t found it yet.

  10. erin says:

    mmmm no..
    this is beautiful.
    there’s that raw.. innocence.. simplicity in realness.. genuine..
    seeing a child behind those eyes.

    what i love so much about when we share pieces of ourselves that we cover up and hide- is how much women all pull together to say ‘ME TOO!’ to compare stretch marks and share remedies for spots..
    how when we are honest and bold and real… women relate to us more- love us more- feel more comfortable in the knowledge that they aren’t alone in their paint stained sweat pants and braless..frumpy figure..

    gorgeous mama.

  11. Becca says:

    Honey, this is my new favorite post of all time. And Erin’s comment above just hit the nail on the head. Me too! ME too! We are all on this ride together. I have toddler snot crusted to my sleeve, Elmer’s glue on my big pregnant belly, and more zits than is really fair.

    But you? YOU are wonderful. Especially unmasked.

  12. janistan says:

    hmph. sometimes I don’t stand the sight of me either. And lately I’ve been obsessively looking for strands of white hair. I’ve seen a few, and determined I must nip them in the butt!

    But I also think, why am I so hard on myself? Why are WE so hard on ourselves? Why are we afraid to love bushy eyebrows and fuzzy teeth? Why are we afraid to BE, and keep piling on or stripping off?

  13. Rebekah says:

    New mama to three … THREE … boys, trying not to over-analyze what our new lives are going to look like, while I’m in the crazy “Groundhog’s Day” of having a newborn. Your physical description is me all over, swinging boobs and all. And STILL, my husband, whom I have fallen in love with all over again these past 2 weeks … grabs my butt as I walk by and tells me how much he loves me.

    So, I guess who I am is pretty much BLESSED.

  14. All I can think of when I look at your true photo is…..

    You always look like that to me.
    Natural – because I don’t see makeup when people wear it, I see what it’s trying to hide.
    Soulful – because no matter how tired eyes may be, they still hold that spark that is truly you.
    Mama – We’re all one, mamas, babies in a big cycle of love… and we’re all overdue for some self love ❤
    Warrior – I'd never turn down a chance to have you on my team, and I'd stand next to you any time.

    Keep writing! When is your first book coming out?

    Love, love, love…

  15. meredith says:

    The way to wearing sneakers without feeling frumpy is my daily uniform. Converse all stars with jeans or leggings and a longish sweater. Almost looks stylish! I have about 1000 of those super gauzy cotton t-shirts that are about mid butt length. Of course they have a deep V neck for easy nursing on the go. Anyway…you get yourself some cool sneaks…or comfy flats of some sort. You put on your jeans or leggings and that hip tee with maybe a brightly colored tank underneath. Plus the cheap beaded necklace and there you go. If it’s the leggings you chose then you are comfy as if in pjs and you can easily sleep in the whole outfit spend most of the next day in it as well. Trust me, I know. If you’ve slept in it and are donning it day two, just throw on one of those trendy scarf things to cover up some of the wrinkles and spit up or breastmilk stains. That’s my life. Thanks for this awesome post!

  16. Jena says:

    Now that’s glamour and true beauty.

    I am someone who has never had her eyebrows shaped. There’s a long hair growing out of a mole on my cheek. Every now and then I yank it, but it grows back and I secretly love it.

    I caught sight of myself today, too, in a second-hand children’s clothing shop where Aviva was trying on skorts. I had that moment. The one where you go “Really?” I didn’t see any beauty in my face – my skin, eyes, color. I saw tired, stressed. I even saw myself doing the seeing.

    But later, dancing around to Jack Johnson in the living room with Pearl, I wasn’t looking in that mirror of self-contempt. I was looking at her, my eyes locked with hers in an attempt not to get too dizzy spinning, and my reflection came back to me again, so different this time. Her joy.

  17. You. Are. Beautiful.

    You can hardly see the floor of my house and I shower twice a week. If I’m lucky. ‘Nuff said.

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