I finished up a series of childbirth classes last night and on the way out one of my students asked me if I had ever used an after birth belly band to get my stomach flat again. I said that no, I never have (partly because I have never had a very flat stomach to begin with, thanks short torso), but that she should let us know if she decides to try one. I then quickly added, "Of course, your body may never be the same again after your first baby because your ribs and hips have probably widened." I often speak before I think and didn't realize how utterly horrified that last sentence would make her. "What? I won't fit back into my clothes???" "Maybe, you will. And maybe you won't." I whispered. She is due on Saturday and that was just the last straw for her. She just could not wrap her head around it and continued to rant and rave about the injustice of all the sacrifice for a few minutes. I have been thinking a lot about this very topic for a few weeks as my body once again expands supernaturally to help grow a baby. It seems to stretch even further every time. Initially this is alarming and upsetting, especially because my actual weight was higher to begin with this time (five more pounds than when I delivered Ella) and I am almost to a significant large number that I have never had the pleasure of seeing on my scale before. I was hoping to avoid it, but there is only five more pounds and more than four more months to go so the math isn't too difficult on that one. I struggle with body image at the best of times, but I am trying to subdue the inner beast and just enjoy letting my tummy hang out for a few months. I am also trying to put myself beyond self-reproach by eating healthily and going to the gym almost every day. What more can I really do anyway? In yoga class the teacher always asks us to set an intention for our practice so the last few times I have decided to set the intent of simply loving my body. Being grateful for all that it can do. Not saying mean things to it when I look in the mirror. Not wishing it could be altogether different. Not begrudging the discomforts I feel so keenly lately. Not obsessing about how it will look for the few months after the baby comes. Sometimes all of these things can be really, really difficult, but they can make all the difference in outlook. Today in class she asked us to really think about how our bodies felt, "Observation without judgement." Is that even possible? I realized that I can be very hard on myself and in turn I think it makes me more judgmental of other people as well. I see that one really does have to love oneself before truly being able to love others. So with all of this tossing around my mind I turned to my student and gently reminded her that she was doing all this for her baby, that sometimes mommy bodies don't look the same as they used to, but we still need to love them and be so very grateful for how amazing they are. A new human life! What can be more incredible than taking part in that? She still looked skeptical, but hopefully she will change her tune when she holds that baby in her arms for the first time.
Speaking of first babies, my oldest baby is turning 17 today. I remember those first moments with her so clearly. What a blessing she has always been for me. Those initial days I would stare at her with so much love and think that someday, when she is 15 or so, she would hate me and wouldn't that be sad? But she has never been like that and has been nothing but sweetness, along with her own unique dose of pragmatism that helps us all not get too dramatic about life. Happy Birthday Eleanora!