No, I'm not pregnant.
I've been sitting on this post for awhile. About 2 months now... and while it feels uncomfortable, and I know there's a "risk", I feel like that's what makes it so important. We're all just presented with this glossed over, airbrushed, face tuned highlight reel... but that's NOT real life. And when I'm consistently confronted with expectations and judgment - it's too freaking much. (And by the way, have you read this? Love it.)
So I'm being brave, and not in the "doing something heroic" way. I totally understand that there are a lot of important things going on elsewhere in the world. But trying to be brave in the sense that I'm being vulnerable and authentic and real, and knowing that it's going to challenge some perceptions. Hopefully this can contribute to the understanding that there are MANY variations of normal. That there isn't one size fits all, or one approved path.
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|Taken in early June 2016, when Thomas was about 7 months old.|
Written June, 2016.
I initially asked Alan to take this picture of me because I was frustrated. Frustrated that I can only fit into two camps: slender or pregnant. A woman asked me at work when I was due… But I’m not. I’m several months past giving birth to my second son. I responded directly: "I'm not, I'm just fat from my last baby." The woman was decidedly uncomfortable and embarrassed.
Recently, another person asked a close friend of mine about her “next” baby – because she just delivered her baby a month ago - and has a belly… because she’s NORMAL. I’m NORMAL. We’re NORMAL.
Basic etiquette aside, it got me thinking. At first, I brushed my comment right off, because I have more to do with my time than worry what other people think of my body. My DGAF game is much stronger this time around.
But slowly, a sense of shame crept in. A feeling that I had to apologize for my post partum body. That I should scramble to “fix” it, so no one else had to feel uncomfortable.
And then, after I looked at these pictures, two things stood out to me. The look in my eyes – ME in these pictures, as myself and as a mama. I see quiet strength there. A sense of self that I didn’t have when I was younger. Another mama recently said – “that tight skinned version of yourself wasn’t a mama” - speaking to the fact that chasing the you that you were before kids isn't realistic. And she’s totally right. Striving or expecting to look the same as I did before is a zero sum game. Even if and when I drop some weight, I’ll never look the same. Feel the same. Act the same. Because I’m not the same. I’m putting myself back together as a woman, as a mother. Not as a young girl. My pieces will reflect that.
I’m going to be brutally honest. I gained more with each of my pregnancies than I “should” have. What’s the recommendation, 25-35 pounds? I gained 60 each time. I tried not to eat terribly, but I also didn’t stress out about my consumption. I was starving = I ate. My midwives were never concerned about my health or the health of my babies.
My body makes these incredible bellies for my babies. Huge, stretchy, magical places where a whole human grew from a tiny bundle of cells into a PERSON. I didn’t carry petitely, or within my body. The whole belly and baby were thrust out in front of me like a welcoming committee. “Watch out, everyone! Alex’s pregnant belly and Alex are coming through!”
So after a back and forth total of 120 pounds, and a post-second baby blitz of winter holidays and buying a house in the completely bonkers seller’s market in Denver and moving into said house and working full time and loving and fighting to pump and nurse and running around being a mama… I’m not surprised that my belly is staying around a little longer. I certainly haven’t helped things along. There’s been no real exercising or intentional meal planning. (I don’t need help with these concepts, I’m simply stating facts.)
I’m still me. I still love 80s rock and singing too loudly in the truck, and cuddling my dog, and reading an enchanting piece of poetry. I still love breathing in my boys, listening to my husband’s laugh, and the sound of my parents’ voices. I still love to find that inner quiet within me, and to think big thoughts and to feel big feelings. My “me”-ness is still here, regardless of my shape on the outside.
I do want to be a healthy participant in my life, a strong example for my sons, and be able to try new and different things. My path is my own, and it’s taking me time to figure it out. Like it takes everyone their own time to figure it out. Whatever “it” is.
Stop making me feel as if I’m less-than. Not enough. Like I have to try harder. Stop expecting women to be either pregnant or slender. This ignorance and expectation cultivates shame and frustration and confusion – not like being a new mama isn’t already full of those things. The shape of my body is none of your business. I refuse to be boxed into your expectations. I am worthy of love and capable of happiness, just as I am right now - not when I lose weight, or when I have this much in the bank, or someday. Right now.
And mamas – you are gorgeous and worthy and strong and capable and enough, just as you are.
“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.” – Alan Watts
“Have good trust in yourself… not in the One that you think you should be, but in the One that you are.” – Maezumi Roshi