A few nights ago, while snuggling with my husband in bed, he asked me something strange. As his hand traveled from my outer thigh to my hip, he questioned if I was wearing “padded shorts”. Huh?? When I asked what he meant, he said, “Or like, Spanx or something?” WTH?? Now, I’ve claimed my husband is a “charmer” and it’s not like I expect poetry from him after 13 years of togetherness, but to insinuate I was so chubby I was wearing padded shorts or Spanx to bed, well, that was a new low. Needless to say, he received the cold shoulder for the remainder of the night, regardless of the amount of time he said, “I’m sorry!”
I know my postpartum body is a mess. Perhaps men do not understand, but girls are programmed (usually before puberty) to be hyper-aware of their bodies and how they are different from the images seen on TV, magazines and the internet. I had two babies in two years. And even though I’m roughly at my pre-baby weight, the way my body carries that weight is completely different.
After my first child, I jumped head first into fitness and dropped 30lbs of “baby weight”, plus 10 more, in 3 short months (I hadn’t been that trim in YEARS). Then I was pregnant again, probably because I was so damn hot my husband just couldn’t leave me alone – am I right?! After my second child, the baby and water weight came of fairly easy, but everything was so stretched out, lumpy and messy, it’s been hard to feel like I’ve accomplished as much as I did after my first pregnancy. My second child will be a year old soon, and I still feel awful in my own skin. What do I do about it? I jump on and off the healthy eating bandwagon. I go to the gym 4 days one week, then can’t make it at all the next week, then work out for two days in a row in my basement the following week (equipped with treadmill, weights, and a TV and DVD player to do my P90X videos). Consistency is my problem, but with a two-year-old and a baby, some days I’m surprised I have the energy to keep upright at 6pm.
I am important. My health is important. Fitness is important. I want to have no trouble chasing my kids (and maybe someday, grandkids) around outside. And as shallow as it is, I want my husband to still want me – not just because I’m his wife, the mother of his kids, his best friend, and because he loves me. But because he truly wants me. I know I truly want him. And if I’m being completely honest, I’ve never done well with power imbalances like this. I want to be as special to him as he is to me, in every way. The feminist in me screams, “You ARE good enough! You ARE beautiful! He SHOULD love and want you as you are!” And I’m sure those things are true. But that’s not how women are conditioned. It’s a hard yolk to break.
When I asked my husband the following day for some sort of an explanation (first mistake), then asked if he was thinking of my bike riding shorts, that were padded, etc, he really couldn’t come up with a reason for his questions. And he is smart enough not to say it, but I told him that his statements were the equivalent of calling me fat. That as a woman, I have enough hate towards my own body and that I didn’t need his help. That since he rarely expresses himself verbally to tell me I’m attractive, if the one time he does open his mouth, it’s to say something negative, I am not going to react well. I’m happy to report he seemed to truly understand, was absolutely apologetic, and perhaps has a better grasp on how such words make me feel. And he did confirm he loves me as I am, which was nice. But more importantly, we have a daughter to think of. We need to set the tone for her as she grows so that she can have a healthy relationship with her body.
So ladies, there’s nothing wrong with your bodies, before or after kids. Health is absolutely important, but no two bodies are the same. The reality is, you will most likely get stretch marks at some point in your life. After having a baby, your labia are HORRIFYING (who the hell designed the bathrooms at the hospital where I gave birth to my kids? And why did they think it was smart to put a full length mirror opposite the toilet?!) And everyone’s boobs are weird, one way or another, after kids (after my first, my boobs were adorable floppy pillows, which I loved – now they are big again and starting to sag, which I don’t love). And if you have multiples, “Irish twins”, or just big babies that stretched you out, your tummy may not ever be the same – I haven’t lost total hope yet, but it’s not looking good. But our bodies are strong. We built miniature humans. Or if we didn’t, we use our bodies for all sorts of wonderful things – running, yoga, carrying as many bags of groceries in one trip as humanly possible. Our bodies deserve a little love and patience. As do our partners, even when ask if we’re wearing padded shorts (*eye roll*).