My eyes are all puffy and swollen and my face is all blotchy with red spots. I’ve been crying. I thought I was doing so much better! It has been awhile since I bawled my eyes out- it has been almost two weeks! I can’t believe I am STILL mourning. I am mourning the loss of my body. No, I didn’t lose it in a car accident or get caught on fire or anything……..I had a baby. It has been five months since my precious Ella baby was born. She weighed a healthy 9 lbs 7 oz and was 21 inches long. She is one of the most perfect gifts that God has ever given me (after my husband, of course). When she smiles my whole world lights up and it makes everything brighter. She is my little fairy princess, my little cupcake, and my little snuggle bunny. I could never have imagined the vastness of love that could fill my heart for her – from the very moment I found out I was pregnant. I am privileged and blessed to be her mommy.
I could go on and on about her…but I guess I should get back to my story. I gained about 65 lbs during my pregnancy (my first). I KNOW this is WAY more than I should have gained. I was so nauseous and pukey-feeling the first 4 months of my pregnancy that the only thing that made me feel better or take away the nausea was carbs. Top ramen, grilled cheese sandwiches, pasta, and macaroni and cheese were my medicine miracles of choice. I also was so incredibly exhausted that getting off the couch to do anything was hard enough, not to mention as soon I stood up I felt like I had to run to the porcelain throne, dry-heaving. Besides, while I was pregnant – I kept telling myself that if Jenny McCarthy gained 65 lbs during her pregnancy and looks damn hot now – so could I! (Per her book, Baby Laughs.)
In most of the pregnancy books that I read while I was pregnant (and I read a LOT) – you could count on them warning you of post partum depression. We’ve all heard about it now, I’m sure. That it is a clinical diagnosis – not just a new mommy going berserk for no reason. When I think back to ALL those books – I don’t think even ONE of them warned me about Post Partum BODY BLUES. AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO FEELS THIS WAY??? I never once had thoughts or feelings of hurting Ella after she was born. I did however; go almost two weeks without showering. Even after that, I only showered about once a week. Did I just say this out-loud? Yes – I am admitting this to the world. You’re probably thinking that is disgusting! I rationalized it at the time as not having any time – hello, my baby needs to be fed and held and taken care of 24/7. But, as I let my mind wonder back to those fragile moments – I know now that is was because of the daunting, terrifyingly, HUGE mirror in our bathroom.
One of my sisters who has been pregnant, warned me maybe once to expect that I would look about six months pregnant after giving birth. She was right- only I probably looked more like I was eight months pregnant! Two days after my c-section birth – it was time to take a shower. I was still at the hospital…floating on cloud nine. After ALL these months, I finally had gotten to meet and hold my sweet baby girl! I could hardly move though from all the pain of the c-section, so my mom helped me into the bathroom and helped me take off the gown and the largest mesh underwear EVER. The memory of seeing my stomach for the first time floods back to me in a sea of anguish. It was the most disgusting thing I have ever seen. I had deep red stretch marks from my hip bones all the way over my belly button and half way up my boobs. My stomach had become a road map of gnarled lines going every which way leading nowhere. My belly button had become this awful dark brown-almost black hole and my scar from my previous belly button ring had stretched out and turned the same awful dark brown color. The skin on my belly resemble a 90 year-old’s stomach – all saggy and stretched out – even over my still very large stomach. My eyes gushed with a waterfall tears and my body started to shake with each heaving sob. I SOBBED and SOBBED. WHAT HAD HAPPENED TO MY BODY???? My mom just held me.
My poor, poor tummy. I didn’t even care about the other purplish/red stretch marks that I got – all over my butt, my thighs and my boobs. Those were NOTHING compared to my now distorted, repulsive, stomach. I tried to not look at my stomach as much as I possibly could after that. Even now, I cringe at the sight of it and have cried countless times pitying the appearance of it. I hate changing my clothes and I’m not going to lie – I still turn out the lights when I shower nine times out of ten. I’ve even lost about 45 lbs so far from the weight I was right before I gave birth. You’d think I’d be so much happier now – even if I only have about 20 lbs left to go to get to my pre-baby weight and my stomach has decreased from looking like I was 8 months pregnant to looking like I am only 4 months pregnant. But, I’ll be honest. I still see my stomach the same way I did the first time I was shocked with the sight of it. Maybe the shock is gone and I’ve become familiar with its existence – but the repulsiveness I feel towards it hasn’t changed. I suppose the redness of my stretch marks has gotten somewhat lighter – but the depth of them is the same. The road map of lines going nowhere is still there reminding me that they won’t be going anywhere. You can hardly see my belly-button when I’m standing up - because of the skin that is sagging over it and my stomach is still so mushy – you’d think I had never had abs.
Some of my close friends and family know how I feel about my tummy. I’ve even allowed some of them to see it (shock!)– so they can try to understand my pain. They’ve told me countless times from the beginning that it will only get better. They said that the stretch marks will fade and that my tummy will go down and look closer to normal in no time. I know they’re just saying the “right thing” but in the back of my mind, I think that if I were them, I’d be thanking my lucky stars that my stomach didn’t look like that.
My husband. He’s actually the BEST thing that has ever happened to me. He has the most amazing heart and couldn’t be any more loving to me and Ella baby. He took care of me all through my pregnancy – waiting on me hand and foot – lavishing the kind of love on me that a girl only dreams of. He was so patient through all my crazy pregnancy moments. He has been so good to me. He has held me tight in his arms countless times after I’ve broken down sobbing while we’ve been in bed together. It was after he’d want to get it on and I didn’t want him to see or touch my grotesque body. I WANT to look good for him. I WANT to have a perfect body for him. I think he deserves it. I want to feel comfortable in my own body and to get naked with him– even if it is only under the covers. He still tells me I’m beautiful though. He even tells me that I turn him on – or every now and then that I look hot. I fight the urge to yell in my mind that he’s lying – because I know in his mind he’s telling me the truth. I just have a hard time believing what he’s telling me in my OWN mind.
I didn’t have the perfect body before I got pregnant. I’ve always been super self-conscious of my boobs and my butt. Both, have always been too big if you ask me and if I ever gain weight – it always goes to those two spots first. My stomach though, has always been pretty flat. Maybe that’s why the thought and look of it now makes me feel so depressed. It was the one part of my body that I didn’t have to worry about or be self-conscious of. It was the one part of my body that I can actually say I liked.
I have carefully compartmentalized my pregnancy/body blues and my precious baby Ella into two different categories. I have had to do this for my own sanity and well-being. In the beginning, I kept telling myself I should get over myself and that I should just be thankful that I could even get pregnant. There are plenty of people out there that can’t get pregnant and would trade anything (even a normal looking stomach) to get pregnant. So, I should be thankful for Ella and I just get over it! I would wallow in his heavy laden guilt for feeling this way and then swing back to wallow in the pitying of my poor, poor body. The cycle would continue like that. That was up until I decided that I needed to separate the two. MOST people don’t like something about their body. Mine has just changed to this- separate from having a baby or not. I want a perfect body too. Actually, I’m lying. I just want my tummy to look and feel the way it used to.
I’m not against plastic surgery. I’ve decided that eventually I WILL have a tummy tuck and gosh while I’m in there – a boob lift too. (Don’t even get me started on my deflated boobs!) I suppose that up until that point though (and I’m sure even after) I need to work on getting my mind fixed. Body image can be such a fickle thing. I’m sure that a lot of us may have at one time or another been obsessive about our body. Or maybe it’s an ongoing, daily thing for you like this thing is for me. Gosh – I really do sound vain…or…. real…or…..maybe just COMPLETELY honest? But, please believe me that I really do know that the most important thing is what is in a person’s heart. I’m just allowing you in to see this tiny tiny part of mine.
I need to start praying that God will help me to see myself and my body through His eyes. I need to take control over my thoughts and not let them take off into a spiraling oblivion of self-loathing. I need to appreciate all the wonderful things I DO have and am blessed with (and I have a LOT to be thankful for). I need to work on being confident even now in the 20 plus pounds from-my-ideal-weight-state that I am in. In the words of my wise obstetrician who has witnessed more than a few red-faced, tears-streaming-down-my-face-moments from me, “You need to be kinder to yourself.”
(thanks to my bro - Lonnie - for capturing both of these beautiful moments!)