Today my 6-year-old looked at me from across the kitchen counter as I was making lunch and asked:
“Mom, when is your body going to look like you aren’t pregnant with twins anymore?”
I sighed as I automatically straightened up my posture, hitched up my yoga pants, and ran a tabulation in my brain of how many times I’ve thought this myself recently.
For the record, the twins are now 18 months, and I weigh the same as the day I delivered those two full-term baby girls. It’s funny how the number on the scale that once gave me joy because I was finally able to gain weight during pregnancy now makes me say “oof.”
It’s not the first time he’s asked me this question. And to be fair, I don’t look like the mom he remembers before the twins. The mom of his memory was fit and active and 30 lbs lighter.
The first time he asked me this, I didn’t answer the question. I asked him why he was asking. Digging into why he asked me the question instead of reacting either positively or negatively reminded me that he’s a curious kid trying to figure out the “why” questions of life, not a petty hateful body shamer. It was pretty straightforward really. His mom’s old body was a little more capable of the things he enjoyed. She could fit into his forts without her booty getting stuck, could easily fit next to him in his twin-sized bed when he needed her at 3 a.m., and could wear the dinosaur shirt bought just so he could be twins with her. There are of course a million other things that were different, but when I asked him why he was curious about my body shape, these were the things he specified.
Postpartum bodies are such a weird subject, if my body is even still considered postpartum at this point.
On one hand, it feels like a great opportunity to teach my older kids that bodies are beautiful no matter their shape. I should fully embrace body positivity and say, “Never! My body has made four babies now, two of them at the same time, and so my body might just always look like it’s pregnant from now on. That’s an okay thing!” This is actually the response I gave him.
I’ve told it to him before, and I’ve explained that question can sometimes hurt a woman’s feelings for a variety of reasons so to please not ask it. We talked about how some women look like me but have not had a baby even though they very much want one. Or maybe they look like me and are going to have a baby but aren’t ready to talk about it. You just never know the story. In fact, the family rule is that we simply do not comment on someone else’s body. But I’m not just some random person he’s asking, I’m his mom. And while all of that “this body grew a baby” stuff is the truth, it’s also not really exactly how I feel.
I don’t like the way my body feels. Like, not at all.
I’ve had weight issues since always, and I worked hard after I thought I was done having kids to get to a place where I had a good relationship with food. I’d learned to curb the binge eating, the compulsive need to eat way past comfort, to find other, more positive outlets to handle my feelings. I talked with a counselor, and aside from an attempt at intermittent fasting that triggered my binge eating disorder, felt like my eating issues were solidly behind me. But there’s nothing like a surprise pregnancy followed by over a year of sleep deprivation and nursing hormones to bring back old habits and so, despite all of the work I’d done in the past, despite having a super healthy pregnancy, despite giving myself grace and self-love and blah blah blah… I’m back to living in exactly two pairs of yoga pants and (previously considered oversized tops).
I am no longer at the point where I feel like the size of my body is attached to my self-worth, but I am also not blind to the fact that carrying extra weight as I do (around my middle area to be exact) puts me at increased risk for a variety of long term health concerns. Even if the BMI chart currently in play is recognized as generic garbage by most people, I can’t pretend that I’m currently living in the healthy zone of anything.
So I’m caught in the middle. I want to show my kids that it’s okay for a person’s body to change as life changes and that my squishy tummy doesn’t bother me. Equally, I want to model healthy eating and in fact, my squishy tummy bothers me a heap and I miss my darn cute clothes that I finally bought a couple of years ago.
I’m searching for the end in this situation – I love my body for what it has done AND I want to treat it better. But in order to do that, I need to start actually believing in both parts of that statement myself.