Stopping at the Top of the Spiral

My new life with a baby has been a beautiful, wonderful rollercoaster ride so far. If rollercoaster rides include 4 am feedings and diaper rashes and extremely chubby cheeks.

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SO CHUBBY

I feel like I’m really getting the hang of some aspects of motherhood. We’ve got a nice bedtime routine going, and the little chunk is obviously gaining weight (his little tummy is so efficient, in fact, that he barely poops. Apparently this can be normal for a breastfed baby. I’m not complaining).

What I am not getting the hang of is the whole “after-baby body acceptance” thing. I don’t know why it has to be so hard. I just can’t be forgiving of myself. A breastfeeding woman needs more calories than she would otherwise, and this manifests itself in the form of feeling hungry constantly. It’s hard to get your body back to the way you want it when you have a constant need to shovel food down your gullet. I am terrified of getting too restrictive with my eating (I contemplated a Whole 30 for a while) because I don’t want my precious milk supply to suffer. All the experts say to eat when you are hungry while breastfeeding and don’t introduce too restrictive a diet. I am trying to eat as clean and Paleo as I can, but I find myself succumbing a lot these days to whatever source of quick easy carbs is close by.

What really bothers me about this whole struggle is that I don’t have a clue how I really look. All I know is what I feel (like I have a giant floppy gut hanging over my pants when I sit down) and what I see when I look in the mirror (soft limbs, a doughy middle, pasty skin). I know I don’t look exactly the same as I did right before I got pregnant, at probably the peak of my physical fitness, but what really scares me is that even then I felt the same way about myself as I do now. I look back at the very early “belly shots” I took for comparison right when I found out I was pregnant, and I’m stunned because I know that at the time I often despised my body and felt very uncomfortable in my own skin. I thought I was fat, and I just couldn’t see the truth. This is both a comfort and a problem for me. On one hand, I know from looking at pictures that a year ago when I felt enormous, I was not at ALL enormous and was in fact quite fit. So it comforts me to think that my own brain is not exactly trustworthy, and that I probably don’t look quite as much like a disheveled beluga whale as I often feel these days. On the other hand, this really concerns me because I have a lot of bad days where I feel powerfully self conscious, and my bad thinking habits prevent me from seeing the truth about myself.

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A few weeks pregnant. Truly felt like my midsection was flabby and gross. Felt very fat.

For a couple of weeks after Charlie was born, I felt amazing about my body. I was thrilled to see the bump disappear, and having just survived the physical challenge of a lifetime I was feeling like my body was a really powerful and capable machine. I looked at my new belly with pride, thinking fondly of how recently it had housed this precious new addition to my life, and how special and worthy of respect that made it.

All good things, of course, come to an end, and I feel like I’m right back where I started before the baby belly forced me to look at my body in a new light. I wear Charlie every day in the stretchy baby carrier, and I obsess over the way my body bulges between the straps. I go for as many long walks as I can, do yoga almost every night, and work around the house for hours every day with a 15 lb weight strapped to my chest, but it’s never enough for me to avoid feeling like I must be lazy because my midsection is still soft. I’m wearing all the clothes I wore pre-pregnancy, which I should feel thrilled about, but they fit my a little different through my wider hips and so I can’t just feel happy that they fit at all.

I don’t have any answers for how to fix this problem for myself. I happily welcome tips from others who understand what I’m going through. But today I want to make the choice to stop myself while I’m still relatively close to the top of the shame spiral. I don’t want to fall down and feel stuck obsessing over my body when there is LIFE to enjoy. So I’m taking a few moments to focus on things that are awesome in my life right now, and to be thankful that the worst of my problems at the moment is a bad body image.

Here’s what I have to be thankful for:

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Colonel TeenyPants. Duh.

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This big hairy dork, whose horrible skin problems we seem to have (knock on wood) FINALLY gotten under control, and who is gaining weight after a scary bout of sudden weight loss due to a flea allergy.

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THIS big hairy dork, whose blossoming relationship with our son brings me greater joy than I could have thought possible.

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A commission in progress, the most glorious painting I have ever had a chance to work on. How lucky am I that I get to do something like this? I love it.

It’s funny how choosing to focus on the awesome things can help to drown out the negative internal voices. And of course, I am resting in this verse today:

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Everything you do is marvelous, of this I have no doubt.” Psalm 139:14

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2 thoughts on “Stopping at the Top of the Spiral

  1. Sharayah, I think you are one of the most beautiful people I know in real life (and I have many beautiful relatives so that is saying something!). I can relate to what you are saying though. I have had insecurities at pretty much every weight I’ve ever been at, but now I wish I was back at that weight I thought was fat 10 years ago. I guess to some extent without some dissatisfaction with ourselves we won’t make efforts to stay fit and healthy, but I think it’s important to love ourselves even when we recognize we’re a work in progress.

    Today I’m being forced to watch football (the things we do for boys) and there was an interview with Tom Brady, a very successful and much loved quarterback. At the beginning of his career, he was a later round pick and sat on the bench for a long time, until the main guy got hurt and he was thrown into a game, where he did well and fame and fortune shortly ensued. He was saying in the interview that despite his success and skill, he still feels like that same kid who was picked later and sat on the bench because no one had faith in him. What I took from this is that no matter how far we come we still are driven by our lowest moments of insecurity. They never go away. Our lifelong project is just to tell them to shut up and leave us alone so we can revel in our victories instead of wallowing in our failures and shortcomings (as we see them).

    Just because we see our own flaws doesn’t mean they define us. More often than not others don’t see what we see. They see our beauty, and they don’t mind our imperfections. What if your gorgeous baby boy looked at his own chubby cheeks in the mirror and berated himself for his chubbiness? It would break your heart to see him so insecure about something that is beautiful to you. Embrace your imperfections. I think, as always, you look gorgeous, even more so when you are radiating happiness as you hold your sweet boy. All the workouts in the world can’t create the beauty of happy.

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