I remember the first time I attempted to try on my favorite pair of jeans, the ones I hadn’t worn in at least 9 months. I remember the desperate ache in my heart begging for the possibility they would slip right on, and I remember the self-loathing I felt when they didn’t.
I remember catching the first glimpse of my unclothed body in our full length mirror and how I instinctively wanted to grab my robe to shield my eyes from the torment of seeing my very own body. I remember feeling defeated, sad and wondering if my husband would ever desire me again. I remember how almost every part of my body was barely recognizable and I remember sitting on my bathroom floor as the tears flooded my eyes. Tears of insecurities. Tears of loss. Tears of shame at caring so much about my outward appearance
It didn’t matter only two weeks had passed since the birth of my child or the fact my doctor had gently reminded me it could take up to a year to get back into my pre-baby body. It also didn’t matter many people said I looked great “for just having a baby!” None of this mattered because this new body, the one everyone said looked great, didn’t feel great to me at all. The body I was left with in the aftermath of growing a tiny human for nine months was completely foreign to me.
My once thin face was much fuller than before and any definition I’d had in my arms was replaced by a layer of fat I’d never seen. My breasts which used to fit my shape nicely had grown in mammoth proportions, barely fitting into the largest sports bra I could find. My stomach, the same one which only a few months earlier had donned a bikini and tanned for hours in the sun, now held unsightly stretchmarks, sagged in areas I never knew possible and looked as though I was still 4 months pregnant. My thighs and rear end looked as though they had doubled in size, were dimpled in places I’d never seen before and I was now uncomfortably aware how close they were to touching. I wasn’t prepared for what pregnancy would do to my body. I was young and thought I would bounce right back. But I didn’t. It took awhile. It took a lot of work. It took a lot of growing up too.
Looking back I wish I could tell the younger, less secure me, to stop obsessing over the weight and changes to her outward appearance. I wish I could tell her to enjoy the amazing fact she brought life into the world and was now a mommy. I wish I could tell her how beautiful her new shape was and how one day, she would get back into those jeans and the body she yearned for. But the younger me would never have listened. She would have wondered if she could ever be okay with a body that has lumps, dimples and stretch marks. The younger me simply wasn’t ready to hear the truth hidden behind her childbearing body. A truth which would take many years, tears and strength to overcome. A truth she would probably fight for the rest of her life.
You see, as I look back at the younger me, as I wish I knew then what I know now, I realize some truths can never be told and can only to be learned when we’re forced to live them.
For me, this truth is… my body, the one forever changed by the birth of two babies, will never go back to what it was. I can jog and exercise and diet. I can lift weights and do yoga, but I will forever have the marks on my stomach telling me life was in there. I will always have a harder time losing weight in my hips and thighs because they needed to expand to bring life into this world. I will forever have breasts that may not be perfect to the world, but perfectly fed my children if even for a short while.
I struggled for a very long time to appreciate everything my body did for me. I struggled for perfection, for what I had lost, for what I would never get back. But through the struggle of accepting this flawed body, I also grew. I grew to accept it for what it is…it is mine. I grew to see the beauty in the imperfect, to look at the marks and remember the love. I grew to be okay whether heavier or lighter, to value the strength inside me to create life, to fight for my health, to be strong even when I’m not skinny and to love me even when me isn’t perfect. And if given the chance to tell my younger self this truth, to inform her of the battle she’d wage to be okay with her outside, I don’t believe I would, for, as many of us know, some truths can only be learned when we’re forced to live it.