Thursday, March 07, 2013

New Mother in a New (Awful) Body

I'm looking at myself too much in the mirror lately. I can't help it - I'm in that annoying phase where all my maternity clothes are big on me but my regular clothes are a bit too tight still, and so I'm in a bad spot, looking like crap no matter what I wear. Seeing the way pregnancy #2 has changed my body has me in a panic: will any of my clothes ever fit me again? What kind of boobs will I have when I'm done breastfeeding? And this poofy belly - what. the. hell. is up with this poofy belly? Seriously, I'm a mess. I am currently the most ragged, bloated version of myself I've ever been, and it's making me crazy. I'm exhausted and my under-eye circles are worse than ever. My skin is neither soft nor glowing. I could go on, but I've just made myself too nauseous to continue. Beyond feeling dismayed at what I see, I feel more dismayed that I feel this way, that I'm even grappling with some body image issues.

This isn't me. I've always had a pretty forgiving attitude about my looks/body. As a child and adolescent, I was convinced that I was downright ugly, and while it stung at times, I accepted it. Or rather, I dealt with it as best as I could, namely by focusing on being the smart and funny girl in the room, a habit I've never shaken. My mother, heaven bless her, was not the kind of mother who harped on her daughters' looks. She made sure we were always clean and presentable, and our clothes were never shabby, but this was just not a thing in our house. We had nice clothes from the places we could afford, and we were taught to always look our best, but we were not raised to *be pretty*. No value was placed on our faces, our bodies, and what future potential there might be in them and in their abilities to land a man. I credit all this for never having an eating disorder or hating my body or for the fact that I've never placed my face or body before my brains in dealing with a challenge or problem or any situation (except for skipping the line at dance clubs). 

And the truth is, part-way into my teens, the pretty came. At least, I liked what I saw in the mirror and enough boys kept the phone ringing for me to believe it wasn't just me who thought so. Once I accepted myself as-is, I did so completely and with full confidence, and I've been what I am now: someone who likes looking her best and who puts in a healthy dose of effort to do so, but not overly so. I mean, I'm lazy. And impatient. And don't care enough to go nuts about all this. So when I find myself caring like this, feeling obsessed and vulnerable about it... ick. I want to crawl out of my skin and hide somewhere. 

My 30's have brought all this unexpected angst about my changing body. I never thought I'd care about this; I was pretty sure I'd age gracefully and wouldn't think twice about any of it. Maybe I never cared because I could afford not to care? Yet having to deal with some health issues that caused some weight gain, in the midst of re-booting my life with someone new, has thrown me for a loop. And now on top of everything I've got this baby weight to lose, and it's all becoming more overwhelming than I care to admit. That I'm even writing about this is a sign of how bad it's gotten.

Maybe I shouldn't feel so surprised to be struggling with this issue. This is an area, after all, that comprised a considerable chunk of the damage of my first marriage. But I am surprised. I long ago made my peace with the damage, and I long ago realized how specific all that crap was to one person, one relationship. And that was it, you know? Damage sealed away and for the most part gone. Except that right now I can't help the way it's crept back up. This issue - what my body looked like and how (un)attractive it was - was such a huge problem for so long, and I'm seriously in one hell of a vulnerable place right now, and so - easy pickin's I guess. There's no point in getting into the details of how this issue played itself out (just know that I vehemently disagreed with he who judged me so harshly, fighting a great deal about it), but what is currently playing in my head right now is one line my ex would tell me over and over again, every time we would fight, when I yelled in my own self-defense, convinced that a couple extra pounds or rounder curves were no big deal, at least not big enough to jeopardize a marriage forchristssake, and certainly not love, real love: every man feels this way, this is what every guy wants. Meaning, every man wants his woman to be skinny, zero fat, good ass, toned all over - and big boobs, those really help. And she must be that way, or else...

This is crazy shit, and I know it. I know it. I know love does not demand such rigid, ridiculous, unrealistic standards, nor does it disappear if those standards are not met. Hell, that's not love, period. I know most men don't really have such an attitude, that no one who really cares for another - romantic, platonic, familial - would think less of or feel less for someone who no longer looks how they did at 20. I know all this. Usually I don't even think about these things. But right now, those words haunt me. Could they be true? Were those words offered as the truth hidden in all men, even though they'd rather die than admit it? More than that, what if it's true of everyone I know and love? This is how I know that some damage was too deep to fully be gone yet: I start to believe awful things like this are true. And if they are, my g-d, I'm screwed.

Ay. I hate feeling weak and vulnerable. I could remind myself that these have been very overwhelming months and weeks, that I've been through a lot, physically and emotionally, that I have a lot going on right now exacerbating these feelings and need to go inward and find my center again, and that I need some time to get back to normal. I could, but that would be too easy. I'd rather take my frumpy-ass self and go hide under a rock now.

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Posted by Tere @ 3/07/2013   | |


  • Blogger Mary Gilmour posted at 3/08/2013 11:42 AM  
    You need to ignore the mirror and the way your clothes fit for another month or two, truly.
    You know intellectually that it takes three to six months to amend a post pregnancy body, but it's hard to take emotionally.
    (My sister-in-law told me she did sit-ups in her hospital room the day after her daughter was born to try to flatten her stomach. Even though she knew it was nuts.)
    Part of the misery is the hormone reshift, too, right?
    You are presently a fabulous new mother and soon, soon you will start looking fabulous to yourself again. Especially if you can keep breast-feeding. In my experience, peels the weight off faster than anything, especially as his little majesty gets bigger and pulls more calories.
    Hugs !!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Anonymous Anonymous posted at 3/10/2013 2:28 PM  
    Postpartum depression could also be at work here. Why don't you discuss these thoughts and feelings with a professional?
  • Blogger Tere posted at 3/22/2013 11:39 AM  
    Anon: given my history with depression, I know that's at play here. I'm working on it...

    Mary: as always, your warmth and wisdom are a true comfort. Big hug to you!
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