Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tiger Stripes?

So, this post has been rattling around in my head for awhile.

It's an uncomfortable subject for me, but I'm going to put it out there, so that if, by some chance, another new mama out there googles "body after baby" or "holy mother of the sweet baby Jesus what has happened to my body and will it ever be normal again after baby" (because in case you didn't know, you become a certified google black-belt when you have a baby) they will maybe know they are not alone in this.  But sweet Avery, should you ever read this, you should know that absolutely none of this makes me love you one tiny smidgen less.  That part's important, too.

You may have guessed that I'm going to be talking about body image and weight and all that stuff today, so if you are here the for the usual cute baby pictures and stories, I'll leave you with this. You know, so your double click was not for naught:

Okay, check ya later!  (No, seriously, later I use the actual words for lady-bits so, if that doesn't interest you at all, you'll want to peace out.)  (Also, maybe if you haven't had babies yet... I really don't want to scare anyone off and this might be veering into stupid-lady-in-the-Taget-checkout-line-unsolicited-horror-story territory).

Lately, or okay, really forever, but especially lately, I have been struggling with feeling... gross.  Everything else in my life is going amazingly well, but I cannot seem to find the motivation to get my eating and exercise together.  I've been doing quite a lot of thinking about it as to why, and it's slowly come to light that I am, in fact, really angry at my body.

You see, my body and I have never really been besties.  It has failed me many times over the years.  I wanted to be 5'6", and grew like a weed until I hit puberty (seriously, I was the center on my 5th grade basketball team), but instead I topped out at 5'4".  Not a huge deal.  Then I was sucky at pretty much every sport ever.  Still not a huge deal.  Because in my heart I always knew that there would be one thing my body would be awesome at... having babies.

But that's where my body failed me the worst.  Let me clarify.  Yes, I did in fact have a baby, and she is healthy and gorgeous and thriving.  I am deeply deeply grateful for this and know how very very lucky I am for it.  However, I also can't deny the feelings I am having towards my body.

The pregnancy changed my body in profound ways, some of which I was expecting, others... not so much.  Like that time when I had a weird rash on my back, and my OB was like, "yeah, no idea what that is, go see the dermatologist."  So I had to find a dermatologist, and then upon meeting me he was all, "ummm, you're pretty much just really sweaty and allergic to your pants."  Stellar.  See you again never.  And then I grew like a thousand moles on my neck.  And then the swelling. the swelling.  So, between the weird rashes and moles and the cankles with cankles with a side of super sweatiness I was not even a remotely attractive pregnant lady.  But that was all okay, because I was going to give birth!

Except that my body didn't want to.  And while I know that a lot of this is probably my fault, because I did everything wrong (didn't exercise at all, agreed to an induction, etc.) I never figured that actually giving birth would be an issue. Instead I ended up having a c-section.  Which my head knows is not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, but giving birth was a huge dream of mine.

Every year during college I was in or went to the Vagina Monologues.  One of my very favorite pieces was the closer, "I Was There in the Room" in which Eve Ensler records her thoughts on being present during a birth.  The following excerpt evoked a physical longing that I could not fully explain:
[I was] there as her vagina became a wide operatic mouth
singing with all its strength;
first the little head, then the gray flopping arm, then the fast swimming body, swimming quickly into our weeping arms.
But my body would not cooperate.  And I felt like was robbed even I was given the biggest gift that I have yet to receive in this life.

And then, there was the breastfeeding drama.  I had these giant bewbs that should have sustained 4 babies, and instead we struggled.  We struggled and struggled for 4 months and then they just dried up.  I would pump and pump and pump and get 1/2 an ounce.  And no amount of oatmeal or fenugreek or prayer would increase my supply.  So I gave up.  You win again, body.

And so now I'm left with this shell that feels like a failure.  Where things have been rearranged into odd places and there are marks that will fade but never fully heal.  And I try to internalize images like this:
Via Pinterest

But all I can think is... but she's so skinny!!

Yes, I am angry at my body.

So I have been abusing it with food and slothfulness.  And that's why I still have 15lbs of baby weight to lose (not to mention the 25 I gained after our wedding... woopsie daisy).  Although, if you lose it and then gain back I'm not really sure you can still technically call it "baby weight", can you?

But the hopeful part is, I'm working on it.  I'm buying a few outfits that make me feel at least okay with how I look.  I've started eating better (well, mostly, except for today when I may or may not have had Starbucks coffee and candy for dinner) and exercising some.  I'm keeping up with positive and inspirational stories like my friend, Carlie.  And I'm really going to try to keep it up, because while my body and I might be having issues, we are kind of stuck with each other for life.  So, I'd like for us to make up at some point and at least be civil.  Because there will be (God willing) more babies, and I'd really like for us to work together (unlike you, thighs, who fight each other with every step!).   We're both worth it, and remember how hot we looked at the wedding?  Let's get back to there (or at least some mole-ier saggier bewbed version of there), how 'bout?  I'm in if you are.


  1. Allison- you are not alone! There are many things I can identify with that you wrote about here... what courage to write your truth! There are times when I look in the mirror and barely recognize my body. I here ya- the end result is such a perfect GIFT, but man... what i'd give to not have a permanent 'shelf' at the c-section scar. :) thanks for sharing. it made me feel better about my own journey back to a healthy body.. and like you, there are (most) days that i dont work very hard. i've gotta remember that it wont just fall off in the middle of the night. (but a girls gotta dream!)

  2. Alison I think you are so brave and beautiful to write this post! I'm so glad I read it. You have such a great way of writing about the love/hate relationship a lot oF us have with our bodies.
    I'm not a momma yet, but I know what it's like to have a body that does not do what you want it to do (I already have people telling me about the beauties of breast feedings...knowing that will never happen for me).
    I guess we all have to just try and be as kind as we can to our bodies and try to remember they're doing their best.
    Okay, off the soap box ;) Thank you for writing this! You're an inspiring woman and mom!

  3. Thanks for sharing this in such a beautifully honest and vulnerable way. You are def not alone -- I struggle with some post-baby bits too. And I struggle to come to terms with some parts of my birth experience, which went from a midwife assisted home-birth to a hospital transfer with pushy doctor insisting on forceps, despite a lack of need for them. I grew extra "skin tags" (what the heck?!) and despite losing the weight, lost an inordinate amount of hair which never seemed to grow back, and generally witnessed my body rearrange itself in a way I've come to terms with. You're NOT gross, but I know what you mean about the persistent subconscious feeling of being gross or "less-than" before. The only thing I can offer is that the further I get from Indra's birth, the more my body seems normalized again -- maybe the hormones have balanced out better or maybe its just that I've had a solid year of uninterrupted sleep (finally). It will get better. And you're beautiful even if you stay the same. ~ Erin M