So, today I had breakthrough of sorts. Like a lot of American women, I have a hard time with Body Stuff from time to time. As a good third-wave feminist, I do my best to deconstruct the bull**** beauty standards I’ve been handed, but let’s be real, I’m still a product of my culture, and darn it, I want to feel pretty. And you know what doesn’t fit with the Ideal Body…that’s right, my post-baby body!
I’m bigger than I was before the baby, and saggier in places, and just different-shaped. I’m still in that place where a lot of my pre-pregnancy clothes don’t quite fit, whether it’s due to my larger waist and hips or to the pornographic cartoon size of my boobs (yay, breastfeeding!).
And of course, there are the racing stripes, as I dubbed my stretch marks at some point in my third trimester. “They make me go faster,” I would joke, in an effort to hide the fact that I was falling apart, and the fact that this change in my skin can feel like an indictment of me as a person, like something more than skin-deep.
I’m slowly losing the extra bulk (well, not in my boobs, but everywhere else), but it looks like the racing stripes are here to stay, at least for a while. And I’m really self-conscious about them. Like, when we got the 6-week go-ahead from my doctor, I was like “let’s just keep our clothes on,” or at least I’m keeping mine on. As in, I didn’t even want my husband to see me like this. The depression whispers in my ear, “your body is ruined.” And some days, I have it in me to push back against it, and other days I don’t.
Today, I do. Today, I saw my body in the mirror, stretch marks and c-section scar, and I thought to myself, “You can tell by looking at me that I’ve had a baby,” and it felt like a good thing. Before I got sick, I was a believer in the idea that my body tells a story, and as a tattooed lady, I have a thing about taking an active role in how that story is illustrated. And today, the racing stripes and incision scar feel like they are part of that story, written on my skin. You can look at my body and know I’m a mother, and that feels like a good thing. My daughter is part of my story, and she is written on my body.
I don’t know if this feeling will stick around or not. I’m so up and down, not quite the same from day to day, but maybe it will. Either way, this is the first time I’ve felt something positive about the way my body has changed. This is the first time I’ve had something that feels like enough to counter the idea that my body is ruined.
Now if only I could find something to say when the depression tells me that my pregnancy ruined my mind.