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
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.
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.
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 the 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?
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