Alright, the inevitable has started to happen: I've slowly been getting more and more self conscious about my belly...my whole midsection, really. I am actually impressed with myself that it started happening later than after my first pregnancy, and it's nowhere near as intense this time but it's there...that nagging voice in my head that notices every roll and every stretch mark. The shadow I catch a glimpse of on my morning run is a lot more jiggly than the girl I once knew and it's getting more and more annoying to try on shirts from my closet. Once in a while, I'll pull one out that I love and think "surely, this fits now" only to find out that it looks about 4 inches too short and that the skin pouring out from the bottom hem is unfortunately my stomach. If I tuck said skin into my pants, I'm left with a crevice the size of the one that guy from the movie 127 hours (the one who had to cut his arm off to save himself from being wedged under a rock) fell into. It was so deep that no one on earth could have ever just happened upon him there.
That being said, I want to talk about how incredibly tired I am of the body issues that plague so many people these days. This post in particular comes from a "I gave birth to 2 babies" point of view, but I know very few people (women AND men) that don't spend way more energy than is necessary thinking about their bodies and how they look to other people. I wish there was an easy fix, but since it's a problem based in other people's opinions, it's a hard one to solve. If the tendency is to wonder what other people are thinking, then the only way to stop the cycle would be if EVERYONE on Earth considered these three questions as being the most important in terms of our bodies:
1) Do you eat a healthy diet?
2) Do you exercise?
3) Are you happy?
I've come a long way and I have to say that even during my first pregnancy I stood my ground against hints at the importance of a "perfect" body. My midwives in Brooklyn gave me a hard time and lectured me every time I got off the scale. I told them every single time, that I ate healthy foods and was still going to the gym. At one point, they recommended I cut out dairy altogether even though I'm a vegetarian and consider dairy to be an important source of protein for me. When I met my midwives for the first time here in Boulder, I told them about this conflict I had with the Brooklyn midwives and told them I never wanted to talk about my weight. They wrote it in my chart and they never once said anything more than "great!" after my weigh in. I ate more junk the second time and was much less active (due to the fact that I spent most of my time sitting on my ass at the playground instead of having oodles of alone time in which I could go to the gym whenever I felt like it) and my body did the exact same thing as it did the first time around, and the weight is coming off at the same rate.
There are many women who can relate to being asked the question: "When are you due?" but how many of you have experienced that AFTER you've had the baby? The worst part about being asked that question is that it's usually asked by a complete stranger right when you are starting to feel like yourself again. Most of us get mad or annoyed at the person and rattle on to our friends about how we can't believe people have the gall to ask such a question, but honestly I think we react that way because it's such a hard smack of reality. Like it or not, our bellies stretched way out in order to grow a human being and it's to be expected that it is going to stay that way for a lot of us no matter what we do. How can you be mad at someone who has NO idea that you already had the baby and honestly (and kindly) wants to share in your joy? When someone innocently makes the observation that you look pregnant, you all of the sudden have to deal with it in your head. Do you get going on those crunches you've been meaning to do (only to find out, like in my case, that they don't make a lick of difference) or do you get all huffy about the "nerve" of people.....it's a tough one I'm telling you.
I look at pictures of myself at my wedding when I was at my skinniest and, although I love the dress (it was my grandmother's) and think I looked great, I have no desire to be that skinny again. People in my life were actually asking me if I was eating (I was) and I was still obsessed with how I looked! The dress was very form fitting and I searched NYC high and low for undergarments that would suck me in and give me shape. I never did find what I was looking for and took the advice of the last salesperson I encountered, which was to forget about undergarments altogether and I'm so grateful for that person to this day. I'm sure there will come a day when I look at pictures of myself now (if I ever let anyone take one, that is) and think "Now, what was I so worried about? I looked awesome!" So, I'm working on having that attitude now instead of later.
I've found a nugget of gold in this bucket of body image garbage in Zoe. Not long after she was born, I was struck with the reality that I am raising a girl. I do not want to start her down the path of self-deprecation and I made it my mission to stop talking about my body in a negative way, especially in front of her. It's not hard to do, but changing the way I think is much, much harder. So, it's been an awesome surprise to find myself not at all hurt or bummed out when she asks me if I have another baby in my belly, or why my belly is so big. I can say with 100% certainty that those questions feel like a great opportunity for me to teach her that everyone's bodies are different and that's just fine. While I am telling her, matter of factly, that I had 2 babies and that my stomach is still all stretched out from it, I feel like I'm giving her a gift. I want her to know that we are all just people and that being healthy is the only thing that matters.
So, this morning when I got dressed, I pulled out one of those shirts that I love but is a little more form fitting than I've felt comfortable with and I wore it all day. I also felt great about myself and how I looked. I have two awesome kids and a husband who loves me. What else could I ask for? Someone at the playground actually asked me if I was pregnant and instead of getting defensive I just said "Nope! I had one not long ago, though." and we continued to have a lovely conversation. I told my friend Clancy about how I wish we could all band together and be strong and proud and she dubbed my dream group "Girls With Guts". I like it. I eat a healthy diet. I exercise. I'm HAPPY.