Once in a blue moon (and we're talking the astronomical event, not the beer) there is a blog post that sits in the back of my mind and pokes me constantly in the brain. At first it is subtle....poke...poke...poke..."You know you should write about this".After I ignore the idea for awhile,it begins to use Dwight Schrute high pressure sales tactics on me."Write this post. Do it! Do it now! Before I count to ten. 1-2-3-do it-4-5-6-do it now..." You get the picture. Sure enough, this lovely topic,a topic that I wish I knew nothing about, has been haunting the back of my mind.So here it is. Please proceed with grace- for me and for yourself.
In the last seven years I have gained 180 pounds in pregnancy weight. I've lost 145 of it. Let me take you back to some of the snap shots of my journey:
Scene 1: March 2005, 2 months after birth of my firstborn
(Cue foreboding music)
Random friend: How are you doing with the baby weight?
Me: You know,I've lost most of it already.Kind of just came off by itself.
Random friend: Yeah, that's how it is...with your first.
(Someone pounds on the organ in the background, piercing scream hinting at sinister things to come.)
Scene 2: Had two babies and pregnant with third.
Setting: make up sales party
Random guest: (after telling us that the cute baby with her is #5)Yeah, after a few babies you don't have the baby belly, you get the muffin top.
(Gasp of horror from single girls. Moms of many nod their heads in agreement; some pinch their "muffin top" in solidarity. I faint.)
Scene 3: Easter Sunday 2012. Four babies total ranging from 7 years to 8 months.
(A young and beautiful but exhausted looking woman scrounges around her room for something to wear. She glances toward the basement and then turns away from the door. After searching for several more minutes, she sighs and heads down the steps,making her way towards her basement which smells like cat poop.She searches among several bins until she finds the right one. Opening the bin, she digs around and comes out with several pairs of shorts. Another rummage produces the jeans she was hoping for.She sighs, sheds a small tear, but then pushes back her sorrow as she knows there are children to be readied. She places the lid back on and as she flicks off the light, the faint glimmer of light poking through the door lights up the words on the bin: MATERNITY CLOTHES.)
Me: I don't want to talk about it.
There are just a few realities that I live in. I've had four kids. Life is a little hectic. I've developed some bad habits, pushed my own health and wellness on the back burner, and as a result, have some baby weight still hanging around.
I hate it.
And then I hate that I hate it.
Here are some random thoughts on the subject:
1- I'm tired of having one wardrobe in 4 sizes- pre-baby, maternity,post-partum, and post-baby- all varying depending on the weight that was left from the last pregnancy. Not only does it create a mess to try to manage, it makes me not want to throw anything away because, "Who knows when I will be that size again?" It also makes me not want to buy clothes that would work better at my current weight because I don't want to stay this weight or invest money in this size. The result? A wardrobe that is out of style, the wrong size,and leaves me feeling discouraged about my appearance.
2. I don't want to be obsessed with being 'skinny'.
Awhile back, Drew (observant 7-year old) asked, "Is it bad to be fat?" Where did he get this idea- I'm not sure. My answer to him was,"Not necessarily. But it is bad for you to be unhealthy." I want my focus to be on my HEALTH and not my APPEARANCE.I don't want to raise kids who are paranoid about the number on the scale. I don't want to communicate with my life that I am unhappy or less fulfilled because I have gained weight.
3. I'm so tired of the world's message about femininity. Women should be thin. Sexy. Flawless. Fit. Great hair. Smooth skin. At any age. Heaven forbid our bodies should show the realities of motherhood or aging. Wrinkles? Uncalled for! Extra pounds? Inexcusable! Signs of pregnancy? There are procedures for that! What the world has embraced as "feminine" is really nothing more than a polished shell that is only attainable through vast amounts of money and time.
The media constantly tells us that celebrities look awesome just two months after childbirth. Celebrities have personal chefs, plastic surgery,and personal trainers. (And often a nanny who pulls the night shift for them.) This is not newsworthy in my book.
4. "She had a baby and got huge; she just let herself go! I'm like, just cause you had a baby doesn't mean you can't exercise." This quote came out of the mouth of a single guy. He was standing in my kitchen.
I hit him with a frying pan.Then he was laying unconscious in my kitchen. I have forgiven him for it because I realize he doesn't get it. If I could have the conversation with him now,this is what I would say.
"Of course your friend let herself go. To have a baby is to let yourself go.You let your career go, maybe totally or maybe just for a time. You let sleep go. You let your body be invaded and stretched and overtaken by this huge task of nurturing a life. You let personal freedom go. You let hobbies and interests go. You let your figure go, knowing that even if you lose the weight you will never look the same again. There is no way to have a baby without letting yourself go; yourself has to go to make room for the baby!"
Wow, there it all is. Feels kind of good to get this all out there; to finally blog about the elephant in the room (Was that a fat joke? Classy.) Hopefully you might realize you are not alone.Hopefully you might look at yourself or someone you know with grace. To be intolerant of a woman with baby weight is like being critical of a soldier with post-traumatic-stress disorder. It comes with the sacrifice; so be patient.
So maybe you're like me, cursing the scale and the muffin top and the little evil elf who keeps shrinking your jeans. Here are the things I am trying to do about it.
1- Focus on my self-defeating patterns of behavior: a love for snacks and an aversion to exercise. I've stopped buying things I shouldn't eat. Period. And I started exercising. That simple. (On a related side note, at what point in this exercise process should I be feeling increased energy that is supposed to come? I'm at 2 weeks and more exhausted than usual. Boo.)
2- Stop weighing myself. If it isn't about a number, then why is it so important for me to know the number???? Focus on health not size.
3- I want to be more careful about how I portray beauty- especially to my 2-year old daughter. I want her to truly believe that her beauty comes from her gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4), her moral courage (thank you, Marmee) and the other noble things that are within her. So often I say, "You look so beautiful in that dress!" Instead, I want to say things like, "Your sweet answer to Drew made you so beautiful to me." Or "Your kindness to Tessa is beautiful".
4. I'm trying to talk about the weight issue to people around me. I know, it's not such an earth-shattering idea, but you may be struggling with these thoughts and it is all bottled up inside you. Find someone you trust and tell them about your frustrations. Let them in on your plan and ask for their encouragement. There is so little we can do alone; so much we can do together.
5. Live in reality. The pounds you've gained does not make you a worse wife, a bad mom, an unlovable creature. Sometimes I imagine myself saying, "Lord, I'm so frustrated that I cannot lose this weight!" and I picture His face looking confused for a moment, "Weight? what weight? Oh, that weight." Now I know God wouldn't really be confused, but the point is that my physical appearance means so little to Him. I am his daughter. I'm trying to honor Him by loving my husband and shepherding my kids and living out His truth. I know He is not up there shaking his head, writing tally marks on the chalkboard labelled "Becky's Weight Gain." He cares about my heart. He wants me to be healthy- physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And I have to keep all of those things in perspective.
I'm not sure how to close this very long and scattered post. I want you to know, dear friend, that there is hope for you no matter where you are. Don't let the pounds you put on in having babies rob you of the joy in raising them. You had a baby...or two...or seven. And you gained a few pounds...or twenty...or, in my case, thirty-five. Though I don't quite feel myself, the pounds don't make me less myself. They are part of my story, just like the varicose veins and the c-section scars and the ever-increasing silver hair on my head. All of those don't make you irrelevant- they make you real. They testify of your sacrifice and of the life that you were so privileged to bring into this world.
If you want to wage war on the baby weight (and I am!) it has to start with your thoughts. You have to fight the lies that paralyze you and overcome them each day with a dose of truth and a jog around the block. You won't lose it in a few weeks- but you didn't gain it in a few weeks either.
Remember, you are not doing it to be loved- that was never in jeopardy.You are doing it to be healthy and to model health and life for those smiling faces in the backseat.
And that's all I have to say about that. <phew>