I remember the moment so vividly. It was just a fleeting glance, but it captured my manic body image frenzy as a new mom as perfectly as a photograph in my mind. There I was, a brand new mom of a beautiful baby girl, walking up the block of a café-and-office lined street towards the park on a sunny weekday.
I was with a group of other new moms with whom I’d started to form friendships, and we were taking our babies to the park because it seemed like a normal ‘mom thing’ to do. Forget that we were exhausted from lack of sleep. Forget that none of us had probably showered that day (okay week), and had telltale mom buns, no makeup, and nursing tops with milk stains all over them. None of that mattered to us. How could it, when we could barely form sentences at that point? We were all basically winging it, as all new moms do.
Anyway, I remember that as I was walking up the street in the middle of my mom-pack, I happened to glance over at my reflection in the glass of a dimly lit store, and saw myself staring back…only it didn’t seem like me at all. I didn’t even recognize the person in the glass. That person looked tired, worn down, disheveled, bewildered, and paunchy. I looked down at my belly in disgust, and tried to suck it in, like I had learned to do in dance classes. I looked in the glass again and saw that what had once worked to give me a slender profile through the stomach region, now offered very little change in bulk.
And I remember looking up at the new moms in front of me, wondering why and how in the heck their bellies appeared to be flatter than mine. Or were they? I didn’t really know for sure, but they were at the very least recognizable as the same people I had seen before and after giving birth. It didn’t seem fair to me.
Even more confusingly, I couldn’t really grasp why I was feeling that way. I knew as well as anyone that it takes awhile for your belly to go down postpartum. Never mind that I was at my pre-pregnancy weight less than a week postpartum. I was proud of that fact, don’t get me wrong, but it was my overall shape that took me by surprise. I looked…well…different. I didn’t feel normal. And I didn’t feel like I fit in with my peers.
It harkened back to the feelings I had the fateful Day of the White Jeans. I wasn’t good enough the way I was. I should have been able to pull it together the way all the other new moms seemed to do. I should have been exercising more, and taking showers, and putting on some makeup at least. I should have at least done that much if I was going to have a belly like that, resting atop hips that had also seemed to have gathered some excess baggage along the way.
I remember longing in that moment for the days before my baby’s birth, when I could sleep when I wanted, exercise when I wanted, and shower when I wanted. I felt a fleeting sense of resentment, followed by guilt for having those feelings, because I loved my baby girl so much! I vowed that I would at least try to exercise more, if only for my baby to have a healthy mama.
And I would also take a shower, for goodness sake.
Stay tuned for Part IV!