My finger hovers over the button .
Cancel, or Delete?
I look at the picture again. Ellis is giggling. The gravel road is perfectly framed by late summer birch trees. There is movement, life. My hair is flying as I spin Ellis around. It is a good picture, except for one thing that really irks me.
My belly in all of its post baby glory, hanging over the waist of my skirt, stretching out the pattern on my cotton tank top.
Cancel, or Delete?
The good part is that in the moment, I wasn’t thinking about my stomach at all. I was thankful for a walk that didn’t involve one or more kids screaming. There was sun, and there was warmth that spread out across my shoulders. I was happy to be playing with Ellis, cajoling her to walk a little further before nap time. I was even getting exercise that didn’t involve tromping up and down the stairs with two babies in my arms.
It’s easy to forget about your imperfections when you do simply that. Forget them.
But every time I walk past a mirror, I am reminded of my new contours. The extra weight I’m still carrying. And I’m also starting to notice something else creeping in around the edges.
It tastes of bitter.
The first time I looked at my post-pregnant-with-twins body in the mirror, I assessed the damage with a clinical eye. Stretch marks. Herniated belly button. Extra saggy baggy elephant skin under my navel. Pregnancy of any sort isn’t kind to the body during or after the fact. But pregnancy with twins is just downright mean.
And I’ve read the books. I’ve mentored young women, encouraging them to love themselves and the bodies they inhabit. I’ve written blog posts and essays and poetry about acceptance. About worth. About grace.
But it’s much easier to be the encourager than it is to be the one at the bottom of the pit with a rope I don’t want to climb.
I don’t particularly want to be nice to myself right now. I’m frustrated with how my clothes fit. I’m annoyed that my belly button protrudes out of anything I wear. I don’t feel like, well, me anymore. Which means something even worse.
I’m back to putting far too much stock in my physical appearance.
Last week, I scheduled my six week return visit to my doctor. After the nurse recorded all my vitals, the computer chimed a warning and a little black box appeared in the middle of the screen. She laughed, and turned the monitor towards me.
“Read this. You’ll like it.”
The monitor said something to the effect of “Warning. This patient has lost more than 10% body weight since the previous visit. Well check screening must be completed.”
My last clinic visit was six days before the girls were born. And my goal to gain fifty pounds? Accomplished. Thankfully it’s no small wonder that six weeks later, two thirds of it has disappeared. (I’m definitely a breastfeeding advocate for this (and many other) reasons.)
But now comes the hard part. The last fifteen pounds. Gaining back the muscle tone so that I’m not tired after a thirty minute walk pushing the stroller. And now, figuring out how to live with the reality of my stomach’s new topography.
If you’ve had twins, here’s the good news. The loose skin will tighten after a year or so. The herniated belly button is a bummer, but when you’re totally sure you’re done having kids, it’s a quick outpatient surgery to push it back in. The stretch marks will fade in six to twelve months, although their texture will always be there.
And the even better news? How you look does not have to change your ability to enjoy life.
Easy to say, less easy to practice.
But for what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve decided is a manageable set of rules to deal with my new body.
- Put away the clothes that don’t fit. It’s not enough to shove them to the back of the closet, unless you have a closet where you put them in a place you can’t see them.
- Buy a few cute pieces you enjoy wearing. Don’t break the bank here, because you may not need them forever. But it’s easier to curb the “I don’t have anything to wear” frustration before it hits, not after.
- Take the chaos out of meal planning. Focus on eating whole foods that require little prep and extra ingredients. No diet books. No powders. No pre-packaged mail ordered fifteen hundred dollar a month health food. I’m talking baked potatoes with broccoli, chives, and a little cheese. Oatmeal with berries. Apples with cinnamon and sugar. Chicken with veggies and rice. You’ve earned the right to go back to basic.
- Ignore your mirror. Okay, brush your teeth and comb your hair. We’re all fine with that. But stop measuring yourself with your eyes. Put on your loose fitting clothes, make sure you don’t have baby spit up on them, and get on with your day. Clothes are just a necessary vehicle to accomplishing your goals. Once you put them on, you still have to do the rest. I can take care of my babies just as well in a size 10 as I can in a size 4.
- Exercise when and however you can. Right now I’m taking a couple of walks a week, and am squeezing in couple of late evening pilates sessions. Never mind that my lower abs are shot and I can’t get through a regular routine. I’m still trying.
- Stop talking about it. The more you give your imperfections attention, the bigger they seem. In short, take license to tell your inner critic to shut up.
And if all else fails, I’m buying myself a container of lowfat icecream and calling it good. Tomorrow is another day.