Thursday, June 25, 2015

For better or for worse


After I had Riel the confidence and empowerment that I felt were like nothing I'd ever experienced before.

I remember getting out of the shower one morning and looking at my naked body in the mirror-- my saggy belly, my engorged breasts, my thick thighs -- and I remember thinking to myself how strong and powerful my body was after what it had been through.

It's weird and I can't explain it, but for a short time after giving birth to Riel I experienced complete and total happiness with my body. It was a temple; a tank; a beacon of life. For some reason I felt nearly perfect. The meaty reflection staring back at me in the mirror was one that had not only survived childbirth, but it was like a trophy that I had earned.

Perhaps it was the surge of hormones from just giving birth, or perhaps it was the fact that I was in my own little world where the focus was on my little girl, and not on myself or anyone else. Whatever it was, it was wonderful.

With time, however, those feelings started to fade. While they're not gone completely, my outlook is changing. I no longer look in the mirror at my naked body and feel empowered. Instead I can't help but see all the meaty flesh that seems more like an obstacle than a trophy. Wearing stretchy pants and loose-fitting tops is uncomfortable in a whole new way.

My body and my eating habits are so foreign after having a baby. I have never known hunger like I know now as a nursing mother. I am, for lack of a better term, like a bottomless pit. I am always hungry and never full.

I'm not going to fat shame myself or pledge to spend my days working out and eating a strict diet, because that's not going to work for me right now. The key words being 'right now.' Some people may call that an excuse, considering that other moms of nine week old babies can do this. But right now, I am still learning how to live my life as a dynamic duo with my ever-changing little girl.

In this new world it takes me hours to get ready to go anywhere, I rarely wear much more makeup than face powder, I willingly wear crocks, and you'd be hard pressed to find me without baby puke on my clothes at any given time. I'm exhausted, yet functional.

My whole lifestyle changed when Riel was born, I can't fit anymore big changes into my life until I figure out the big changes that have already happened.

That said, right now I can make little changes. I can lead a healthy lifestyle, even if it's not going to make me lose all of the weight I gained during my pregnancy. I can take Riel for more walks and heed my own advice when I kick the older kids outside to the yard to play rather than watch TV. I can choose better meals and snacks and be mindful about the foods I am shoving into my mouth at any given time. More important than that though, I can be easy on myself when my former "fat jeans" don't even go up past my butt, or when the two and a half year old tells me that I'm big now while patting belly.

I can enjoy mat leave with my baby without worrying too much about getting to the gym or achieving some sort of fitness goal, because after this year is over there will never be another time in our lives that Riel and I will have this much time together. And that's the most important thing to me.

I can learn to look at my body as the temple it is, the way I did after Riel was born, and trust that small changes will benefit me. I can go easy on myself when I feel fat and remind myself that out of my big, beautiful, healthy body came a beautiful, healthy baby girl.

I can love and appreciate my body, even though it's not what I want it to be like right now, and I can practice being a good role model for my daughter.

Knowing I have the ability to make small changes and a big impact is empowering. Loving my body for better or for worse is one of the best lifestyle changes I can make.

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