“You Look Great!” and other lies I want to believe

I don’t gain weight when I’m pregnant. It’s one of the only happy side effects of pregnancy I get other than the baby at the end. I spend a lot of time either barfing or feeling like barfing.  When I’m not sick, I just don’t feel like eating. When I do feel like eating, it’s almost always fruit I want.  Or peanut butter. When I crave junk, I let myself eat junk because at least it stays down.

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All that to say, after my baby is born, I am lighter than when I got pregnant with said baby. Every time. It was most drastic this last time with Alice. I think I was even surprised because she was my first baby who gave me junk food cravings (“fried” is a food group that can be craved, yes?), and because I knew she was the last, I really let myself just eat whatever I wanted because I was so SO sick the first trimester.

I knew it would bite me in the butt later, but pregnant women care not for “later” when it comes to food.

After Alice was born, I lost a LOT of weight. A lot.

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In fact, I was almost 40 pounds lighter than when she was conceived. After “she’s beautiful!” the very next thing people said to me was, “you look great!  Really! So great!”

I thanked them and blew off the compliment because I died a little on the inside every time.

Because I know you meant the compliment in all the wonderful ways possible, but I also knew that the weight loss was temporary.

You see, after I have a baby, I am completely uninterested in food. Nothing really tastes good to me except coffee. So for a good 2-4 weeks, I live on almost nothing but coffee and the occasional peanut butter sandwich. The weight falls off because I’m not eating or sleeping well and my hormones are still all out wack. When you tell me how fabulous I look, I know that as soon as food tastes good again and my hormones start evening out, the weight will pile back up, and no one will tell me I look fantastic again.

Here I am, almost five months postpartum, and the weight is all back.

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I’m disappointed in myself.

I had high hopes of keeping it off this time. Of getting into a work out routine. Of eating healthy.

I have all the excuses: hormones are still acting dumb (my hair is all falling out, my complexion is under the impression I am thirteen again, etc.), I am tired all the time (baby + two active boys = not enough sleep), cardio makes me wheeze (yes, I need to talk to my doctor about this because it is a new turn of events that I need to know if I need to work through or what), I’d rather read a book.  You know all the typical stuff.

The thing is, five months ago when everyone was complimenting me, I knew my aspirations to do better this time were empty. I didn’t want to accept those compliments because I didn’t feel that I did anything to deserve them. I didn’t work on myself or take care of myself to earn a healthier physique. I had a baby and lost a bunch of blood and water and a human from my body. And I didn’t eat.

Back then, I felt that if people knew what I knew, they wouldn’t be telling me I look great because they would also know that given a few months, I would not look great anymore.  Or at least not the “great” they were currently complimenting.

Now I struggle with my body image daily, and I feel that I have somehow let people down.

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I always said, once my last baby was born, there would be no more excuses for not getting my body back to feeling great. But here I am again.

I know it’s not “too late”. I know what I have to do.

I also know thinking about starting makes me want to cry.

Not just because it’s a lot of work (well, that too), but because it overwhelms me. I know I need to start by making an appointment with my doctor. I need to get blood work done and check my thyroid and all those good things that haven’t been checked. I need to talk to him about the wheezing (because DUDE. That never happened before) and find out if my knee is good for some brisk walking (and hopefully more).

I know I need to eat more spinach and less bbq potato chips, more water and less lemonade.

I also know that more importantly, I have three kids watching me. I have a daughter now who will be determining what looking “great” means, and I want her to associate that with “healthy”.

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But most of all, I want to believe that I will do these things because I want to believe that I look great, and I am not in that place yet.

my flaws, my beauty

“How old is he?  Wow! You look so great!

In the past week this has been said to me exactly three times.  And yes, I remember each time because each time they were words I so desperately needed to hear.

I do not feel good in this body.  At all.

Just like with Eddie, I immediately dropped all the weight and then some.  My friends joke that if I want to lose weight, I just need to get pregnant, wait nine months, and boom.  20 pounds lighter than I started.

Seriously.

But it only lasts five minutes.

Then I get the real postpartum body.

The droopy skin.  The new spider veins.  The new stretch marks that didn’t look so bad on super stretched taut skin, but on loose flabby skin, no thanks.  The pimples.  The bald spots from hair loss.

Each time someone tells me I look great, I have to swallow hard to just say, “thank you,” and not try to talk them out of the compliment that they just gave me. 

Because I am paranoid that they are lying to me.

It’s true. I hate my body so much right now, that I am carrying around a lump of anxiety and paranoia that people are judging me.

“Be kind to yourself, you just had a baby.”

Just? I don’t know about just. It has been 13 weeks.  Charlie will be three months tomorrow.

Maybe it’s Hollywood’s fault. Maybe it’s because I have tiny skinny friends who went from pregnant to hot mom in 12 seconds.  Maybe it’s because I feel like everyone in the world is prettier than I am.  I don’t know.  But what I know?  Is that I feel so ugly lately.

I told myself I would give myself my 12 week maternity leave before I worried about weight.

And I feel like I did a pretty good job of just focusing on being comfortable and happy for 12 weeks.

Then I went back to work this week and saw people.

And felt like they were looking at me.  Not just looking…but scrutinizing.

They probably weren’t.

But I feel like they were.

I feel like everything I put in my mouth is judged by someone.

It’s probably not.

But it feels like it is.

My mind is creating whispers that aren’t there (or are they??): She looks bigger than she did before the baby. Sheesh, she still looks pregnant.  Someone get her some spanx!  She should probably order water and a cracker, not the enchiladas and a diet coke.  What was she thinking wearing that? Does she think she looks good?

No. I don’t.

“You look great!”

It’s so hard for me to hear…and yet…I need those compliments.  And I so badly need them to be real.

I find myself searching the face of the compliment-giver to see if she is being sincere. I listen intently to the tone.

Please don’t say it if you don’t mean it.  My heart can’t take it.

I find myself even wondering how Cort can continue to call me “Pretty Lady”.

My body image insecurity is peaking right now.

And then I found this picture that Cort snapped last week.

I remember when he took the photo, but I didn’t know I was in the picture.  I thought he was just zooming in on Charlie.

I distinctly remember feeling flabby and icky that day.  I was on Day 2 hair (you know, the shower, but don’t wash the hair kind of day) and I was frustrated trying to cover the sun damage on my face.

I had been very tired this day after running around all day and I was grateful to finally cash out with the small one for a bit.

I didn’t want my picture taken.

And now, looking at it over a week later, I see a small glimpse of why people tell me I look great.

It has nothing to do with how much I weigh.

It’s because I am happy.

I am loving being a mom right now.

And it shows.

Through all of my flaws and perceived “uglies”, through my bad skin and hair, through feeling fat and icky…

I am a beautiful mother of two.

Did seeing this picture erase all the bad feelings?

I wish, but no.

Did it take away my paranoia about people judging me?

No.  I am still sure others are looking at my waist wondering why I don’t have at least some semblance of one back yet.

I think it’s my stupid anxiety that does that to me, but at least until I can make a dent on the flaws, I know I am not a lost cause.

There is beauty amongst the flaws.

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