Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Waist-ed Days

My relationship with my body has changed quite considerably since I grew and birthed a watermelon. The differences between my body and brain have become so stark I'm not quite sure whether we should make up or break up. 

Before pregnancy, I was pretty comfortable in my own skin. Like most twenty-something women, I knew my perks and I knew my flaws, and I was well-versed in making the best and least of them all.

I knew how to rock a pair of skinny jeans, how to stand out in a cocktail dress and how short was probably a little bit too short for me unless there were shots of vodka on the cards. I understood my body shape and size and I could pick a flattering dress from three department stores away. 


Since giving birth, I haven't quite been able to get a mental grip on my body. My body just doesn't seem like my body any more, and the oddness runs far deeper than feeling unfamiliar with the stretch marks and increased bust line.

Although I've returned to my pre-pregnancy weight, it's pretty safe to say the paparazzi won't be mistaking me for
'Fit Mom' or Kate Middleton any time soon.
 

There has been so much stretching and sagging and shifting over the past sixteen months that I am now permanently two dress sizes (and one shoe size) larger than I used to be. My hips have expanded outwards, my ribcage has pushed upwards and my beloved hourglass-shaped waist has been replaced with a distinctive new tree trunk model.

Unfortunately, change is not my strong point. I've been floundering for months now, looking for a hook on which to hang my mixed bag of body perceptions, and the separate segments of my inner self have put down stakes and entrenched themselves in a battle of perspectives.


The sensible, grown-up, educated woman  inside me is the most balanced voice in the battle. She is pretty accepting of what she sees in the mirror: grippable hips, acceptable post baby belly pouch, practical thighs, logical stretch marks, alright arms, slender ankles, quite nice shoulders.

She's a pretty logical woman, this internal one; she understands that life is as life does, and that our personal memory book is far more important than the tone of the thighs on which we walk.

She recognises that this body has travelled nearly thirty years across the surface of life and has the lumps and bumps and patches of dry skin to prove it. She is aware that I have failed my body in terms of exercise, lavished it with smelly potions instead of organic lotions, and fed it adequately but not particularly well.


She also knows this body has sprained joints and fractured bones, birthed a watermelon and repeatedly worn high heels instead of the prescribed orthotic inserts. And she is the first to acknowledge -  though certainly not the first to admit - that this body
has consumed too much white wine, inhaled too many cigarettes and spent too many summer days gallivanting on the beach with too little bikini and too little sunscreen.

This sensible woman stands somewhat further along the spectrum of perception than my inner motherly self (although they do share some common ground, especially when it comes to cellulite and bumpy bits.) The pair manage to coexist peacefully most of the time, although they have certainly been spotted having some feisty arguments over some bottles of red and a cheese platter. 
 


The crucial difference between the two is that where the sensible woman views having birthed a child as a good practical application of my body's capabilities, my inner mum unabashedly boggles at the incredible, life-giving, life-changing, person-making feat my body took on and conquered.

The mum part of me views t
he relocated hip bones as a permanent reminder of womanly excellence and achievement, and the spider marks as a sprawling badge of honour. She finds it truly amazing that my body could carry, birth and feed a baby and then return (predominantly) to its normal functioning state.

If she was allowed to run free, she would swing from the Melbourne rooftops, and hold the baby up to the sun like that that scene from the Lion King, and whoop and holler at the top of her voice
'yo mama, you rock those tiger stripes'.

My inner woman and inner mum are collectively hounded and harassed by a third and frightening segment of my self that I have tried exceedingly hard to repress: the ghost of my inner teenager.

This thin-thighed, energetic ghost is devastated by my physical state. Her days are spent hounding and harping at me to put down the chocolate, get out of my pajamas, exercise more often, work harder to get back in a bikini and the rest of my wardrobe.

She simply cannot understand how my body has deteriorated to this point, or how the elasticity seeped out of my skin. The body she sees me wearing is not the body she can fathom having in fifteen years time, and the worry is palpable in both of us.

Her confusing perfume of brash self-confidence and acute self-doubt take me back to hot summer days and very small pairs of shorts that would no longer fit over a single thigh. She reminds me of everything I was going to be, and how different those things were to the physical and lifestyle reality laid out before me today. Her very presence gets me deep in the guts: could she, maybe, possibly, be right?

Thankfully, my inner woman and inner mum know my teenage ghost is wrong. Being older and wiser (and rounder) they simply drown her out by pouring another glass of wine and getting on with it. 


Over the past six months, I have grown to appreciate the views and wine drinking habits of both my inner woman and my inner mum. I have also come to accept my teenage ghost as part of the post-pregnancy mental furniture, although I live in hope that she might move out of home soon.

I'm still flummoxed by my body and how to feel comfortable living in it again, though - perhaps this self-doubt is just my new black, and I should learn to rock it like I used to rock the skinny jeans I will never squeeze into again?

Are you still on speaking terms with your post-pregnancy body? 


M x


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20 comments :

  1. This really hit close to home this entry.

    http://pixiedusk.livejournal.com/170632.html

    i was talking about body issues few weeks back cuz I hate my body now. I... I just dont know what to do and it hurts that I am the first one who cant accept me.

    I chose to 'try' to exercise but its really hard to squeeze it in.

    YOur blog is inspiring.

    Ill try to digest it more and comment more laterz.

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    1. Thank you for the lovely comment. I just read your post - it is so hard to adjust to such big changes in your body, but we will get there if we keep going :)

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  2. I think it takes time to come to terms with it! When I feel like that, I just say to myself "but look what it's made"!! :)

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    1. It still spins me out that I made a person - a real, whole little person! I think you're right, time is the answer :)

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  3. I must admit there's about 20 years difference between the woman I am and the woman I feel - and I sometimes find myself feeling quite despondent about my body when I look in the mirror because of it x

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    1. I know that feeling of despondency all too well. Maybe we should get rid of our mirrors? I know I'd be much happier without mine x

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  4. I have to be honest and say that I didn't find that comfortable place until after my second child. It's as though after my first, knowing I wanted another, I just thought let whatever happens here be, as it's going to get stretched and messed with again! After he was around 6 months, I made an effort to be comfortable in my body again, and all is well. I'm actually lighter than I used to be, though my shape is very different. Now, being comfortable with the sags and wrinkles that late-30's are bringing to me, that's a totally different matter!

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    1. Thank you for being honest :) I think I'm operating along much the same lines, I would love a second and it will be interesting to see how the dust settles after a second pregnancy :)

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  5. So beautifully written and so accurately expressed. I've come to think of it that the moment you give birth to a baby, you also give birth to a new you. Never thought motherhood changes one so much (both inside & outside). And wine is good :)

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  6. What a beautifully written post, just wonderful to read. I was pretty comfortable in my own skin before pregnancy - not now. A Christmas Day baby at the age of 40 probably didn't help. Poor bod took a battering. I'm hopeful we'll all feel better over time :)

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    1. Thanks Charly. I'm hopeful for us too! :)

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  7. my post pregnancy body and i are currently "on a break"...this means its totally acceptable for me to eat as many funsize mars and crunchie bars as i bloody want without feeling guilty!!!

    Loved reading this post, made me feel better about my wobbly bits!!

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    1. Mmm, yum, crunchie bars! I might have to try this "on a break" concept out! :)

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  8. Thanks for your post. My post-pregnancy body (after number 2) felt like I was a big massive failure. I put on so much weight when I was pregnant, and retained a lot of it afterward. It took a lot to fight my demons, lose the weight, and be happy with the "pouch", stretchmarks, and really weird boobs.

    I think we all struggle to come to grips with the changes that occur with pregnancy. I am glad there are some like you who talk about it.

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    1. It's a strange post-pregnancy phenomenon, I think, that deep down we know we are not failures but every time we see ourselves in the mirror we feel that we are. Thank you for reading and commenting, I appreciate it :)

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  9. We do always compare, don't we? I don't know whose body I'm in - and I'm the first to admit it's actually not a bad one at all - but it ain't mine.

    But yes, there are the voices (plural) in my head that are grateful to this body for what it's done and doing, and for letting me borrow it until I get my old one back. (HA.)

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    1. Perhaps all our old bodies are hanging out together somewhere, discussing if they should come back to us or not? :)

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  10. I've been doing a 12 week post-pregnancy fitness challenge (online) cause I was sick of complaining about my body but not being willing to do anything about it after 2 kids in 16 months. It has been hard work. Hard to fit in with babies, hard to get motivated, hard to purify my motives (health vs vanity), hard to stop the emotional eating but I'm getting there. 2 weeks to go and while I don't think my body will ever be the same, I'm happy I went through with the challenge. It helped me get back on speaking terms with my post-pregnancy body!

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    1. Well done on going through with the fitness challenge, that is brilliant! I need to do something proactive but am struggling to get underway ... I think getting started is the hardest part of all.

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