Post-Partum Body Image: Accepting Imperfection5:00 AM
Hello. I'm Danielle's older sister, Sarah, and I'm a perfectionist.
I blame a lot of this on my birth order. I'm the oldest child. It's a pretty common characteristic in oldest children. I got straight A's in school. I only got sent to the principal once, when I was 18 and a senior for something stupid and I cried. I stick with the system. I'm a planner. I like to know what's going to happen and when and how. I like to feel in control.
If I had my way I'd have 5 children. All of them would be perfectly well-behaved, straight "A" students. We would all look like a Christmas card 24-7. We would eat 100% natural. My house would be spotless. I would always look perfect and my body would be in amazing shape all the time.
This is very far from reality at my house. I have 4 children. They look fashionable and put-together about 50% of the time, the rest of the time they look homeless. Sometimes I yell because they are not perfectly well-behaved every second of the day. I try to make them eat fruits and veggies and decent food, but it's not 100% natural and we eat sugar and fast food. There is usually toothpaste smeared in my kids' bathrooms and dirty socks on my floors. My body is not perfect either. Not even close.
This brings me to the main topic of my post today. I've had to accept imperfection in my life in a lot of areas, mainly because I also need sleep and I can't have everything perfect AND get sufficient sleep to function. One new area that I am learning to accept imperfection is with my body. I just had a baby 12 weeks ago. He's a doll. I love him to pieces. But people, when you've inflated your uterus to insane proportions multiple times, it doesn't just pop back into place the next day, at least not for most people. (Side note: if you're one of the lucky few that does bounce back fast, keep it to yourself. And remember you may not be so lucky with every child. I bounced right back with my first two. My second two have been a LOT more work.)
So here I am 12 weeks postpartum. My body is MUCH better than immediately after giving birth (that's a story for another day), but now I'm left with the residue. The part that isn't going to just go away on its own. My boobs are enormous. I'm usually a small B, right now I'm a full D. I've got weight to lose. I've been working my butt off counting calories and exercising, so I've only got 9 pounds to my pre-pregnancy weight, but I'm far from fitting into my skinny jeans. On top of the weight I've got a saggy stomach. It's loose and wiggly and deflated feeling. And then there's my legs and arms. They're out of shape and I've lost a lot of muscle tone. While we're at it, just to finish the gorgeous picture I'm painting of myself, I've got some nice big bags under my eyes from sleep-deprivation.
I bet that description makes everyone want lots of babies, right?!
Here's the thing, though. I'm learning to accept my imperfect body. Now I don't mean accept as in "oh well I've had 4 kids this is just what I look like right now." No. I'm determined to lose the weight and regain the muscle tone and get back to my pre-pregnant shape. By accepting my imperfections I mean I'm learning to look at my body as in-transtition. I've got work to do, but I can do that work. I've got a long uphill battle to fight, but I can fight it. Being in shape isn't easy. Getting back into shape after having a baby is really, really not easy. But I WILL get there.
And on the way I will still allow myself to feel beautiful even if I am not at my ideal. I had a revelation one day. I was out running errands, driving down the road, and I thought to myself, "I feel cute today." But then I immediately thought, "No, I can't feel cute, I still have 16 pounds to lose." That thought stopped me cold. I realized that I was not allowing myself to feel cute because I wasn't perfect. That's ridiculous. Why can't I feel cute in a size medium, instead of a small? Why can't I love my jeans that are a size 10 instead of a size 6 or 8? I still have the same face. I can still wear the same styles. I can still do my hair and makeup and wear cute jewelry. And really the only person in the whole world who really cares about a few extra pounds is me. Even my husband doesn't care. I've been updating him on my weight-loss progress and he barely even reacts. Cause how much I weigh doesn't matter to him.
Since that revelation I've tried to have a much more positive outlook on my current body. I'm trying to celebrate my weight loss success, rather than be discouraged about the pounds I have left. I'm allowing myself to feel cute even if I have a tummy and my boobs are huge and annoying. Most importantly, I'm not focusing so much on what I look like. I'm wearing clothing that fits and I'm moving on with my life and enjoying my baby.
This isn't my first time at the circus. I've had to go through this 4 times now. I know what I have ahead of me. Even when I lose the weight I'll still have a loose tummy and my boobs won't be normal again until I stop nursing. (And even then they will be so saggy they will be barely recognizable.) The key, at least for me, is focusing on the things that I do like about myself and how I look right now and then being willing to keep working on the things that I want to improve.
My body may not be back to normal, or even close. But it was definitely more than worth it to put it through this whole ordeal!