Sunday, September 30, 2007

Body image

Before I had my daughter, I sort of took my body for granted. I was comfortable with my body: how it looked, how I dressed it, how it operated. I felt like I knew it well: its quirks, its abilities and its limits. I don't own a scale, but could usually estimate my weight by how loose or tight my clothes were fitting.

Having a baby changed all that.

Pregnancy was utterly fascinating to me. All those changes, the new sensations, the way my body morphed....it was like one big science experiment! I didn't really think at the time what my body would look like or feel like or be like once the baby came out. I just took for granted that it would go back to the way it once was....eventually.

Emotionally, I'm in a totally different place about my body. Seeing what my body was capable of, during the whole labor process, completely awed me. As I told a good friend afterwards, "I can never hate my body again after going through that." And I still feel that way.

Physically, though, it's clear that my body has changed, and will never quite go back to what it once was. I don't have stretch marks, but my hips are definitely wider. My stomach will probably always have a bit more "give" to it (hey, it sounds better than calling it "flab"). And my upper body is completely differently proportioned. (This is probably largely due to breastfeeding---but I'm not completely convinced that things will go back to the way they were once I'm done breastfeeding.)

Learning how to dress my new body has been challenging. This weekend, I went through my closet to see if I could find anything else from my former self that fit yet. I purged a lot of stuff that, it was clear, would never look flattering on me again. (Goodbye, super-skinny jeans.) I also purged a lot of stuff that, to be honest, was never flattering on me, but that I hung onto and wore anyway. It was much harder to find tops that fit and flattered my new body than it was to find pants and skirts. There are a lot of holes that need to be filled in my wardrobe. (On the bright side, I now have to go shopping! I just wish I had the time and energy to do so.)

The purging of my closet, and the acceptance of my current body image, is a great metaphor for all the other stuff going on in my life now. Accepting my current body image is forcing me to live in the moment and live with who I am here and now---not on who I might or might not be in 6 months or a year---and work with who I am right now. Building a new wardrobe that works with the current me, and focusing on just getting the staples for this wardrobe, reminds me that I should concentrate on the truly important stuff and let go of the superfluous and trivial stuff. (Quality, not quantity.) Purging the unflattering stuff...well, I'm trying to do that in my life as well, figuring out where I'm wasting my emotional energy, revisiting how I react to certain things and people in my life (especially in my job), etc. (And, I guess, trying to determine if my current job is a good "fit", as-is or with some alterations.)

13 comments:

Jaclyn said...

This is a very nice post. You're a wise woman.

Addy N. said...

Consider yourself lucky that you didn't have body issues UNTIL having a baby! I envy you.... Also- be prepared for "deflated" breasts once you stop nursing- that shocked me more than anything else after pregnancy! Take care.

Laura said...

I told my sister-in-law that my hip bones had literally expanded and that they might not go back to the way they were before. I thought she was going to vomit right there. She went on to have four kids. Eight years out from having my second, I can say that my body is definitely different, but some of that is general aging in addition to children. I'm working exercise back into my life and that makes me feel mostly like my old self--or a new self that I'm happy with. It's smart to focus on the present. I honestly wouldn't trade this body or soul with my old one. There's wisdom in those changes.

Rebecca said...

I agree with jaclyn and I'm glad that you have such a positive body image. I grew up with a very negative body image, mostly because I felt so uncoordinated and awkward from being tall.

I also have extra "give" in the tummy area, and I have less than 25 lbs to lose in order to return to my pre-pregnancy weight, but I suppose when I get there, I will not have the same shape that I once did.

What Now? said...

Jane, thanks for this post about the changes your body has gone through. You sound so positive about where you are right now -- really encouraging to hear.

PhD Mom said...

I've heard it said a lot "9 months up, 9 months down," and believe this to be true. It's true that some changes will never be reversed (like that 1/2 shoe size I went up for no good reason), but many changes to reverse over time. I was able to fit into my high school jeans a few months ago (2.5 years after 2nd baby). But am sad to report that a summer of travel has me back in the fat pants (oh well).phplvtld

EcoGeoFemme said...

Great post.

Helen said...

You may not want to toss those old jeans yet, I have a friend who gave birth a few years back. She was super super skinny before becoming pregnant, but during the pregnancy and birth she acquired about 15 extra pounds and wider hips and larger breasts. Frankly, she looked wonderful and way better than before. But, about a year later, all the changes were gone and she was back to having her old stick figure.

Veo Claramente said...

Bravo! I wish more people had your healthy mindset, witness
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/04/fashion/04skin.html

Jane said...

Thanks for the positive comments, everyone! For those of you who asked about my positive body image: I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I "discovered" sports around junior high/puberty time. I really think that being athletic (and having a mom and dad that encouraged that behavior) saved me from a lot of unhealthy behaviors. (That, and a close friend who was anorexic and bulimic....nothing like witnessing someone you love hurt herself so badly to scare you straight.)

addy n, I've been warned about the deflated breasts already. Yikes! But it's not like I'll be posing topless for anyone, so I guess I can deal. :)

phd mom, I've heard the same rule. And congrats on fitting into your high school jeans!

helen, I would be really surprised if those super-skinny jeans ever fit again---I couldn't even get them *near* my hips!

veo, wow, that article made me sick. How very sad.

Flicka Mawa said...

Like Addy, my first thought when reading this post was: oh my, she sounds like she's just having these body issues for the first time! how lucky!

I wrote a term paper once about women, sports, and self-esteem: as someone with extensive experience in a competitive, SUBJECTIVE sport (from 9 yrs old to 17, and recreationally still), I think it's important to note that being in sports helps a girl's body image when it's an OBJECTIVE sport. Subjective sports, like gymnastics, figure skating, diving, ballet, etc., are a completely different ballgame. Keep that in mind when your daughter gets old enough to try out different sports - I think these sports are great and I love the one I do, but lots of extra support and reinforcement are needed to maintain a strong body image in a subjectively judged sport.

Jane said...

flicka mawa, that's a great point! I was involved in objective sports, but I had good friends involved in subjective sports (dance and cheerleading) and I've seen first-hand what that environment can do to a girl's self-esteem.

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