It’s been over a year since my son was born, and I do not like the way I look. I don’t hate my new body. It’s ok. Not great. Lots of things I wished looked differently. More than anything, my body feels foreign. I look in the mirror and see a stranger. Who is that person? I recognize her face but whose body is that? The pounds are mostly off, but I look nothing like I previously did. Thirteen months, and I still am not used to what I see, and I’m not warming up to it. But you know what, that’s okay.
Social media tells us it isn’t ok though. You are either supposed to learn to love your flaws, or you change them. Some days it feels like moms can’t win when it comes to body after baby. We see popular articles passed around depicting *real* moms with close-up photos of stretch marks, saggy bellies and cellulite, and are told, “Love your droopy boobs! LOVE THEM!!! They fed your baby! And love your cellulite, this is what being a REAL mom is ABOUT!” Then, the very next article-of-the-moment is “Flab to FAB! How to lose your baby weight and be a hot mama in only TEN DAYS!” We have all heard of (and probably had friends try to sell us) magical creams, miracle shakes, mystical wraps and marvelous detoxes that for only $300 a month can make you THIN and BEAUTIFUL again! Yet we also applaud women who are full-figured and not bowing to the pressures of a thin obsessed society.
After having both sides shoved at me, you know what? I just don’t care anymore. I’m tired of stressing about my body and hearing about all the ways I can fix it, and I’m also tired of being told I should adore all my current imperfections because I don’t. I’m not saying I am letting myself go and resigning myself to a life of wearing tent dresses and sweat pants. I just have realized that of all the things in my life right now, feeling “hot” is not my number one priority. Plus – there are some things on my body that are just not fixable and will never look the same again without plastic surgery. Things that no amount of shakes or body wraps or sit-ups are going to repair. When I got pregnant I went from an “A” to a “C” cup in a month. My boobs are now droopy and covered in stretch marks, as are my thighs, which swelled gigantically during my pregnancy. My hips are wider, and my once-toned stomach feels like it has a big hole in the middle of what used to be my muscles. Some of us get lucky and have bodies that bounce right back, but most of us send our bodies through the ringer and will forever look different than before.
I was the same size from my teen years until I had a baby. Beyond petite. Size zero. Despite living off of fried cheese sticks, pizza and ice cream for four years at college. I cleaned up my eating as I got older, always exercised, and when I got pregnant I continued exercising and ate even healthier. So I was stunned when I gained 45 pounds during the process, I just ballooned. Everything was swollen from my face to my hands (that grew too big for my wedding ring around month 5) to my feet that were too large to even shove into my sandals. I was positive the weight would fall off after my son was born. I confidently gave myself a month to lose it all. But nothing happened.
Initially I chalked my extra weight up to “I just had a baby”. The months ticked by though and “just had a baby” no longer was a relevant excuse. People told me that it would take 10 months to take it off, as that’s how long it took for me to put it on. Ten months came and went. None of my clothes fit, and the ones I could squeeze into made me feel even worse when I looked in the mirror. Even my shirts don’t fit with my new giant boobs to try and fit under them. I hate wearing shorts, as my choices are either ones that now look way too little for my still puffy legs, or the Safari Mom shorts (you all know the ones – look like you’re ready to introduce Chippy Cheetah at the zoo).
I tried exercise programs. A popular, 60-day intense routine that put me in the best cardio of my life. My before and after pictures looked identical. My measurements and weight did not change.
I wanted to cry.
I bought two different shake brands recommended to me by acquaintances (who were selling the product and swore that the pounds would melt off). Delicious. Same weight.
I went back to my martial arts classes a few times a week. Bit more muscle tone but overall no big change. Plus every time I looked in the mirror at the gym I cringed. Doesn’t help when you’re surrounded by a bunch of early 20s, tanned and toned girls. For the first time, I started to feel like a frumpy housewife.
I counted calories, I ate “clean”, I felt like I had done everything to get this damn body looking remotely like it used to. Nothing worked and depression set in. I bought my first belly-covering bathing suit. I stopped looking in the mirror because sometimes it literally made my stomach drop. Is that what I look like? That skirt looked fine when I put it on, now my hips look massive. I felt helpless. I felt defeated.
Then one morning, as I was getting breakfast ready, my son was watching his beloved “Elmo in Grouchland”. We always dance to the big musical number and I pick him up and boogied and sang around the room. On this day I was distracted when the song started. But I heard little feet pattering and looked over to see my boy tottering towards me with a giant smile and arms upstretched, doing some small dance-knee-bends on his way over. He was asking me to dance with him. And for some reason, it clicked for me at that moment that I didn’t care how I looked. I didn’t give one care or thought to it because my sweet baby boy wanted to dance with his mommy. I didn’t care if my stomach was puffy or thighs larger than before. My body gave me him. I love it for that reason. I don’t like the way it looks but why do I have to? I tried to get in shape, I am in shape cardio-wise, and my body just looks different. So this is the new me. And I like me. Heck, I love me. Me is my body, but it is also my mind, my heart, my love for my son, my passion for my husband, my laughter for my friends, my enthusiasm for life. It’s okay if I’m not thrilled about one part of me right now. I’ll get used to it over time. Or not. But it doesn’t matter anymore because there are so many more precious things in life than how I look and how I feel about that. So right now, I’m going to go dance with my son.
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