Sunday, April 3, 2016

Body Image

Dear Irie, 
We went shopping today and you went with me into the dressing room like you normally do. You’ve seen me undress a thousand times and yet today for some reason you zeroed in on my stomach every time I took off my shirt. My stomach has never been my favorite body part, even when it was flat as a board it didn’t have defined abs like Britney Spears (you see how long ago this was, right?) and there was always a little extra to pinch. So now, after a twin and singleton pregnancy, you’re damn right I’m not flaunting that thing.  And here’s the really messed up thing. I can do sit ups and crunches and leg lifts and you name it, all day. Underneath the stretch marks and wrinkly skin are some pretty tight, punch me in the stomach (but not that hard) abs. But I had babies and as I explained to you in the dressing room today, my stomach blew up like a balloon and then deflated then blew up again and deflated and there’s no going back to that tight shiny balloon I started with.

Proof there was always a little extra in the stomach and thighs department :) 

Truth be told though, I was telling you this so matter-of-factly when in reality I agonize over it almost daily. I stand in the mirror at night sucking in my stomach, or pulling it this way and that to try and smooth it out. Ironically the more weight I lose, the looser it gets and the more I loathe it. But I never want you to stand in front of the mirror and hate your body and so I pretended that it didn't bother me that you noticed how my tummy looks likes it’s frowning, reminding me of Droopy Dog and his big droopy eyes and jowls. I told you instead that if I had known exactly how my stomach would look after I had you and your brothers, I wouldn't change a thing and that’s absolutely the truth.

But it’s not the whole truth. Honestly, I’m most often really proud of my body, not because it looks like what our culture says is beautiful. I’m taller than average, I have always had thick thighs (though they didn’t used to shake nearly as much) and my butt could never have been called small. I’m fairly certain I was born with boobs (just kidding) and they grew with each new milestone my body took on. I spent my whole life wishing I looked a little more like this person or that one, only to look back now and simply wish I looked like me again. But here’s the thing: that me, the one on a beach in a tiny bikini a week after graduation or training for a lifeguard tournament with the boy I would have never guessed would one day be my husband, that girl had never created human life. Her body had never sheltered and nourished two babies at once, somehow reworking its own systems to provide everything those little bodies needed to sustain life. Those legs had never carried three heads, three hearts and six arms around all day everyday for 34 weeks while standing in front of 100 plus teenagers and trying to make them understand the world. Those breasts that fit so perfectly into a tiny triangle top and could go without a support bra and a roll of duct tape, had never provided the only food and nourishment to tiny growing people. And a thousand basketball and volleyball games never made me feel as strong, as fucking invincible, as pushing three healthy, beautiful babies into this world and feeling every damn second of it.

Andrew and Irie bump at 4 1/2 months

Andrew and Irie bump at 5 1/2 months

Crawford bump 10 hours before he was born.

So you know what? I don’t think I really want that body anymore. So what if my tummy droops? It once was stretched tight as a drum brimming with life and activity. It is where you first met your brother and where we first saw the two of you playing together. It is where I first felt your younger brother stir as your older brother cried against me. I don’t believe a woman’s body was ever meant to be a temple. It is a garden with its scarred earth and rolling hills, soft mounds and hard packed soil. It is not meant for worship, but to grow, nourish and give life.
Love, Mommy

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully said! My baby is 37 and I still haven't gotten the pre-baby body back! And it's just fine! Love your writing. You have a special talent!