I can safely say I have never not been aware of the space my butt takes up in a room. That includes right now (both when I’m writing this and when you’re reading it).
There was a short pause to this way of thinking during the nine months of being pregnant. I am firmly in the camp of pregnant body=beautiful body. I absolutely loved having an excuse for why my tummy was swelling. I wore maternity pants long before I needed to because, HELLO, not wearing elastic waistbands when it is socially acceptable is truly a wasted opportunity.
But now it is almost eight months past the birth of my son, and I still have a fanny pack made of skin that I’m carrying around my middle. I look at myself in mirrors or store windows and I do not recognize what my body has become. Is that me?
I was reading an article about women and body image in which Kristen Bell is quoted as having said, “I’m not a woman whose self-worth comes from her dress size.” She was responding to questions about her post-baby body. I wish I could write here that upon reading this my first thought was, “Go Kristen! Way to represent a healthy body image!”
But my real first thought was, “Whatever. (Expletive).” And then I imagined the giddy lightness of squeezing into a pair of jeans one size smaller. In those pants I could step in dog poop on the way to work, put curdled milk in my tea, be told I wasn’t getting a pay raise, and I’m pretty sure I’d still end the night with my head on the pillow thinking, “I am SKINNY!”
But seriously, what am I going to do about the fact that my body is still twenty pounds above my pre-preggo weight, which was twenty pounds more than my wedding weight, which was twenty pounds more than the weight I wanted to be? If you’re not a math person, we’re up to sixty pounds.
Everyone says that breastfeeding melts the pounds off your body. I’d say my post-pregnancy weight loss (with breastfeeding) has been more along the lines of the slow trickle of frozen pipes.
I went to the doctor yesterday and told her that I was a little concerned because, since giving up sugar and white carbs in January, I have only lost about 10 pounds. I was really hoping she would tell me I have a rare disease that makes it very difficult for me to lose weight. But fear not! This disease is easily cured by these tasty pills.
Instead, my doctor informed me that first, this was an appropriate amount of weight to lose, and second, if I was wanting to lose weight more quickly I should start counting calories.
And it dawned on me that I am never going to count calories again. I refuse.
My body has grown a human in it. It can run for long distances. It can dance and breathe and move and sing. And I am over counting calories. I won’t do it. I can’t bring myself to that place of stress and shame again. Ever.
Which means I have to be patient with the slow and halting weight loss that has defined the last eight months (twenty years) of my life. Uggggggghhhhhhhh. I believe in the cumulative effect of healthy lifestyle change. But wow does it take a long time. And wow am I not patient. (Pills. Pills. Why aren’t there pills?)
Right after our baby was born I would jokingly add “I’m a bad mother” to the end of any comment. My husband put the kibosh on that. He believes that words have power, and even joking words can be internalized and then believed. There is now no “I’m a bad mother” talk in our house.
Recently I was looking in the mirror and I found myself saying over and over again, “You are beautiful, you are beautiful, you are beautiful.” When my husband came home, I asked him over and over again, “Aren’t I beautiful? Aren’t I beautiful? Aren’t I beautiful?” (He’s a smart and good man and said yes.)
It’s not that I believe it. At least not all the time. Especially when I am contemplating the square footage of my butt. Or my mommy tummy. But I want to believe it. And thank God for the times when I do believe it.
If I had a magic wand I would drop sixty pounds. Today. But in the absence of the magic wand, I’m stuck on this long road toward self acceptance, a road of a life time. A road filled with detours with flashy promising signs that all lead me back to the road, sometimes worse for wear. And I know that inhabiting and loving my fourth trimester body is what the road is filled with for the next few hundred miles. So I keep putting one foot in front of the other.
When I get discouraged, when I find myself avoiding eye contact with the mirror, it helps to look in the adoring face of my beautiful baby boy. He is worth this.
And I am worth this, too. Even with feet sore from walking. And a big butt.