Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Aftermath

Early last week, I declared an impromptu wine night.

We started at the wine shop and then went to the wine restaurant. There, we sampled two flights of wine. Somewhere between Beautiful Blends and Ridiculous Reds we ordered a third – Perfect Pinots. Before we even left for the first flight, Chris labeled himself as smashed. How is that fair? I declared wine night! Yet I, with either high powered metabolism for milk production, or strong Italian genes, was only feeling slightly tipsy. I think I need to swim in a barrel of wine to get drunk these days.

But then again – I still can’t swim.

Before we left, I used the restroom. On the way out, I noticed Chris standing by the owner of the restaurant. I figured maybe they were talking. Chris loves conversation with strangers. I subscribe more to the stranger danger theory. Anyways, we were about to leave when the man said…

Good luck with everything.

Chris and I looked at each other, puzzled. We looked back at the man, puzzled.

With the baby, he said while pointing to my stomach.

Maybe I was drunker than I thought but for some reason, I didn’t register what he just said. I stood there looking at him. Meanwhile, my husband, in a brilliant comeback from being three flights to the wind, said:

The baby’s already out. It just takes awhile to go down, he said while pointing to my stomach.

The owner sticks his foot in his mouth. He actually didn’t but he probably should have. He apologized and said a very awkward awkward. If only I had a shepherd’s hook to pull him off his stage. When I finally realized what was going on, I laughed and said don’t worry about it.

When we got outside, it hit me.

Did he think I was still pregnant?

The question needed no answer. The answer was a very obvious yes, one that was looking back at me as I looked down at my dress. There is was – my stomach. Now, I’m pretty small. Correction: I was pretty small and whenever I eat it tends to explode outward making me look pregnant. But after spending the past 10 months pregnant, the last thing I want to look right now is still…pregnant.

I didn’t realize how big my stomach my still look until started studying it. I stood, side profile in the mirror, and realized – he was right. By the end of the day, I look 5 months pregnant with a belly hard and bloated. By some miracle, I avoided the loose skin and instead my body decided to rock the pregnant look – maybe forever.

I got scared. Oh my god. What if I look like this – forever. What if this is it. I realize I’m only 6 weeks from giving birth but really I thought I would fall back into shape quicker than this. I thought I would at least be able to wear my old “fat” clothes by now but I can’t even wear my fat clothes’ fat clothes. And if one more person tells me it took 9 months to get this way and will take 9 months to get back to my old self – I will slap them. BECAUSE IT IS NOT HELPING!

Of course it’s probably true. But who needs the truth when we have the internet? I decided to do some searching of my own. And I found some not so good things. Oh you know how the internet is. You can find one million stories of misery which when dealing with the post-pregnancy belly equates to YOU WILL NEVER LOSE THE BABY FAT.

I got scared. What if this is it. This is my new body. How can this be!? WHAT is going on!? It’s kind of like when you have a little pain in your little toe on your left foot. You do some self-diagnostic reading and decide that you have fractured your little toe to the point that it will fall off so you spend the next week only pushing off the pool wall with the other foot. You found the worst case scenario and started believing it. That was me. I was convinced I would be the next housewife who never leaves her house because she was too embarrassed to show the world her belly.

Now, listen – I realize I just gave birth and it takes time to get back to (somewhat) normal. Before you have an intervention to save the body image of E.L.F. let me just say this – I know that matter what I look like I still have a beautiful baby, a wonderful husband and a heck of a set of boobs. But at the same time, I feel despondent, worried, dare I say betrayed about so many things post-pregnancy. Know what I mean? You read all these books and they tell you the same shit about pregnancy - you’ll gain weight! You’ll urinate more frequently! Your chest will hurt! What they don’t tell you is what I needed to know about what happens after all of that. The aftermath. How after 6 weeks after giving birth you’ll measure your waist to discover it is nearly the same size as your husband’s (OH MY GOD!), how you’ll probably piss yourself for the rest of your life from a weakened pelvic floor and every time you walk by a child your breasts will feel like someone has a shock collar attached to them – they’ll ache, fill with milk and get ready to feed the next living thing you pass or how you will see yourself but you will not look the same.

And I’m convinced that post-partum depression isn’t so much depression, rather it’s a deep worry, frustration or ache women get about the life/body they had versus the life/body they now have. It becomes problematic because we, as women, don’t talk about it. We don’t talk about it because we think we’re the only ones thinking it. Why do we keep quiet like this to ourselves? Am I the only one who walks by a mirror and thinks WHO is that looking back at me? Am I the only one who is convinced I will go bald from the amount of hair I am losing as hormones drop? Or, wondering if when I stop breastfeeding if I’ll have nipples hanging down to my now permanently poking out belly button? Am I the only one just a little holy f*cking freaked out about these things?

Friday afternoon I stood on the driveway. I told Chris I wanted to go for a walk.

Why?

I feel fat.

But you look boobalicious!

That is not helping.

A few weeks ago, he told me I was his MILF. But I don’t want to look boobalicious or MILFtastic. I just want to look like me.

I know he means well – and husbands, keep saying stuff like that to us. If we don’t find it reassuring we at least find it entertaining. And every new mother could use a good laugh.

Maybe it all seems a little petty. Doesn’t she have bigger things to worry about? I do. And I do worry about those things. But these are my thoughts and sometimes they aren’t rational or intelligent. Sometimes they are just ugly oh my god did she just say that/think that/feel that thoughts. Yes. Yes, to all of it. It’s a matter of insecurity – sure. Admitting your insecurities is better than pretending like they aren’t there. It’s also a matter of inconvenience. Like I have time (or money) to buy yet another set of clothes! Maternity clothes were expensive enough! It’s a matter of feeling like you’ve lost a version of yourself and in between adjusting to a new life, taking care of a new person and adjusting to a new phase in your marriage…while doing all of those, oh, little things, you also have to come to terms with your new self – learn how to relate to, love and respect your new self.

And honestly, that might take some time.

I expected a lot of changes from pregnancy but the one I did not expect was having to re-learn to like myself. It took years to become comfortable with who I am and how I looked. And I know I’m not the only woman who has struggled to find acceptance like that. Just know that if you find yourself on the other side of pregnancy with a little self loathing and disappointment, it’s not uncommon. Nor is it the end of your self-confidence. I may not be super skinny ripped anymore but I am stronger. I’ve got better perspective. I’m resilient and no matter how beat up this body looks after all of it – it’s still beautiful. I tell myself that and now it’s just a matter of learning to believe it.

I’m certain I’ll get closer to where I was – maybe never fully back to that place but close enough. Perfect doesn’t have a place here anymore. It actually never did have a place in my life, I just made a place for it and it caused all sorts of problems along the way. Perfect is over-rated, perfect is costly. In the meantime, I’ll settle for being boobalicious and learn to hold my breath. Because I’m going to have to suck in really deep and long to hold this belly in for now.

Which begs the question: can that be considered hypoxic training?


DAMMIT I WANT TO SWIM!

9 comments:

Melissa said...

Perfectly written.

meredith said...

i miss my old body and want it back, and i do think about it a lot, even tho there are SO many things i should worry about. :( i think you will get it back. i have no doubt. but i do hate it when experts tell you that mothers lose all their weight due to breastfeeding. they don't even cover their butts and say 'most women'. i know i haven't given birth yet....but everyone i know seems to have lost it after they stopped BF. and most say it takes a year!! WTF!!

Helen said...

What I'm concerned about is why the wine shop owner thought you were still pregnant when you'd just been sampling wine. Bringing up the fact that you could have been giving your child birth defects- awkward.

sllygrl said...

Ok again - you don't know me. I do believe I felt the same way at 6 weeks and freaked the F out. One day - and I can't remember what week it was, probably 8 or 9 it started going away, but in places I didnt expect. I've read its at 3 months that everything really kicks in and starts going away, I'm still not happy with my stomach - I try really hard not to look down when I'm feeding/pumping, but I weigh 7 pounds less than I did prepregnancy. Everyone is different I know, but just give it a few more weeks, I think it will happen. I was not in as good of shape as you were, I worked out quite a bit though so just give it a few more weeks. I completely relate, completely. It's not a pretty thinner, but its thinner.

Sarah Giacomarra Schrader said...

I hear ya Meredith. I did not lose my weight until AFTER breastfeeding, when my hormones levels changed to normal. And I didn't stop breastfeeding until my daughter was 16 months...that is a long time to wait!!
And Elizabeth, I agree with you about leaving perfection behind, like I ever really had it to begin with. My butt isn't what it used to be but I am thankful that it is behind me so I don't have to look at it very often. :o) You are a brave soul for telling it like it is, warts and all, and I think I can speak for most of your readers when I say that we are grateful for that fearlessness.

Katie said...

I feel like I should bookmark this post because I'm sure I'll just want to copy and paste it post pregnancy. I've only got 7 weeks left (assuming my little man goes full term) and like most other mothers reading you, I'm trying my damndest (spelled wrong) to make recovery go quickly but I know it will all be out of my control.

I don't have any other words of encouragement other than you're going to get there at some point, where there is a will there's a way but in the meantime, I'll continue to curse all those genetically gifted women I see who seem to walk out of the hospital looking fabulous. I'm pretty sure I'll be exactly the opposite.

Laura said...

'Who needs the truth when we have the internet?' Awesome!

Have you ever met Maggi Finley? Three kids and she looks crazy amazing - much better than me with zero kids. So it is possible. She told us at a party one time, oh don't worry about the cellulite you will get when you're pregnant - it will go away.

(Does it still go away if you have it and you've never been pregnant?)

Running and living said...

Your body will most likely never be like it was before. I think you will start loving it again when you'll be able to train hard, to swim/bike/run, to get the muscle back, the drive, when you'll get to see all the athletic things your body can still do, maybe even better than before.

Courtney Staton said...

been there. Living that. Seriously. I think you type what I think. Did you type that I think you type what I think? Cuz I thought of it.

Really though, spot on.