Parenting

Five Things Becoming A Mother Taught Me About My Body

I wouldn’t say that my relationship with my body has, historically, been an especially positive one. Not because I don’t “like” it, in the “do you like what you see when you look in the mirror?” sense (I do, more so on some days than on others, but generally I do), but rather because it’s always been a bit of a danger zone.

In my twenties I starved my body. I let it be used by others in ways that now make me feel like screaming. I analyzed every pore and follicle and strip of skin looking for things to fix, ways to make myself better. If I could just get skinny enough, pretty enough, perfect enough, maybe all the things in my life that felt wholly beyond my control would just…fall into place. (Such a simple solution to life’s woes! Obsess over your body, and all the rest will work itself out!)

I think it’s safe to say that my body was something that I thought about a whole lot. It was consuming. And exhausting.

Read: An Abridged History of My Body

Read: On Second-Time Motherhood (And Still Being A Mess)

How I feel about my body is so different now that it’s almost comical. Of course I still care about what I look like, but the degree to which I do has been winnowed down to “Will I scare the other parents at drop-off?” and whether my jeans fit; there is no longer space in my brain for something like a calorie count (nor room in my day for a trip to a Power Yoga class, even though I have to admit that would be lovely, minus the sweating and pain).

I wish I could say that having been entrusted with two little lives made me start treating my body like a temple, being careful and precious with my magical, life-creating force, et cetera et cetera, but nope: With little breaks for declarations of how FROM THIS DAY FORTH I am going to take vitamins/eat my vegetables/go running every day/chill out on the caffeine/whatever (I excel at doing all of these things for up to four days in a row, and would like a medal each time, please), I’m careless about my health to the point where I have to fudge the truth at checkups if I don’t want my doctor to lecture me (“You don’t exercise…ever?).

Read: The Body Acceptance Question

Read: The Story of Who I Am

I walk into steppy stools and bicycles and sharp greenery on the regular, and my legs now have permanent lumps up and down the shins (that is, of course, in addition to the scrapes and wounds that are in various stages of healing). My eyes have bags; my stomach skin continues to be loose and wrinkly since my ectopic pregnancy stretched it out and my body apparently no longer springs back into shape like a little elastic band like it did during my first two pregnancies (aging, ugh). I have gross feet and gross fingernails, and my chest is starting to wrinkle up in the middle like a grandma’s…and I mean, I wish all these things weren’t true, of course, but do I care enough to obsess over them? To put them in the category of Important Things That Must Be Dealt With?

Nope.

I’ve got other stuff to obsess over. Like interest rates and school deadlines and car registrations and did I pay the insurance yet and termites and the sparkle bow that I have to order for my daughter’s upcoming ballet recital and I better do it on time because the only thing in life that she cares about right now is having a sparkle bow and owning it and touching it and then putting it on her head and spinning around in it.

(P.S. Just ordered the sparkle bow. It will arrive on time. Crisis averted.)

So I suppose that’s the first thing becoming a parent taught me about my body: That self-care is good, paying attention to your body is good, and even changing it can sometimes be good, if those changes come from a positive, healthy place…but allowing your body to become a point of preoccupation that makes you feel bad? That’s just a waste of time, energy, and precious, precious sleep.

Here are a few more things I’ve learned about my body over the past six years.

1/5

It Wants To Look Sexy Sometimes, And That's Okay

After my second child stopped breastfeeding, I started thinking about the possibility of getting breast implants (or a breast lift, or more likely both). But I felt so guilty about the idea: How could I possibly spend all that money (not to mention recovery time) on something just for…me? Also, I mean…what do I need perky breasts for? I’m married. And a parent. In my thirties! Isn’t that…vain?

It is, indeed, vain. But I did it. And the only part of it that I regret is the fact that I didn’t do it sooner.

2/5

Its History Matters

Having children hasn’t only changed my relationship to my body as it is right here, today – it’s changed my relationship to how I feel about my body’s past.

I know what it feels like to be ashamed of your body or of something it did or had done to it…and  that’s not a feeling I want my kids to experience. The first step, I think, is putting what I – like so many women – have been through it right out there in the open.

Because secrets, as we know, make us sick.

3/5

It's Resilient Beyond Belief

I remember, in the weeks leading up to my son’s birth, fairly panicking about the idea of never sleeping again, ever. I couldn’t imagine how I’d function, let alone CARE  FOR A HUMAN CHILD, on the negligible amount of sleep that parents assured me I’d be getting for the foreseeable future. …And then I’d have to WORK?

Are you mad?!

Guess what? Totally could do it, totally did do it. For months. And then years. There have been nights when both kids are throwing up and I’ve spent my “restorative” hours (haaaaaa) running back and forth with loads of laundry and vomit-buckets, and then guess what? I got up the next morning and did the other stuff I had to do, like making money and running errands. And it sucked, because I was tired. But I did it.

When you’re a parent, something kind of magical happens: Whatever you’ve got to do, you get it done. Like a superhero.

4/5

It Is Happy When It Is Comfortable

I used to be the kind of person who wore high heels to go shopping. Like, in the daytime.

Never. Ever. Again.

I want the clothing that I wear to make my body feel something other than miserable, especially because I’m probably carrying between one and three creatures at any given time. And so I have decided that sneakers and sweatpants are a fully acceptable sartorial choice for virtually any occasion. Happy body = happy me.

5/5

It Benefits Enormously From Dancing To "Whoomp There It Is"

Here is a sad, sad, fact: No matter how many times I say “I really need to start exercising; it’ll make me feel so much better!”, this is a thing that is never going to happen. Or at least not at a gym, or while my kids are of the age where they need assistance with things like underpants.

So I gave up. And then my kids discovered GoNoodle, and the joy that is dancing in front of the computer screen while watching a bunch of perky teenagers sing “Duck Tales,” and I discovered that joy right along with them…and now I think I may end up running a triathlon.