Love in the Time of Selfies

Sex and body image after baby are obviously hot topics. It’s a universal struggle, just look at the cover of basically any magazine after any star has a baby.

“How I got my body back!” is such a played out headline and there are a million posts out there that take on that topic much more articulately than I can muster up the energy to attempt right now.

Jeans with buttons and sex, these are the mommy milestones after baby, am I right?

The magical 6 and 8 weeks passed uneventfully save for the unopened box of condoms that mocked me from the bed stand. It’s not just that I just had a baby, I mean my vagina is back to her normal self thank you very much, I’m just not sure I am. Obviously there is the normal exhaustion, the fact that everything on my body points to the ground at the moment and, oh yeah, the TWO humans I am in charge of keeping alive now. How do you find time for sex when I can’t even find time to finish unpacking my house? Add onto that the chance that I could get pregnant again and that’s a whole other category of NO NO NO.

I used to love send my husband sexy pictures. It boosted my self confidence and put me in control of my sexy-ness, but now the only way I care to look at my body is when I am horizontal in a dark room. I do not love my postpartum body. I accept the way I look right now, but I am not happy with it and I will not lie or force myself to think I should be. I don’t hate myself, I am not ashamed of the way that I look, but I am not happy with what I see in the mirror.

I have struggled with anorexia, depression, and anxiety starting at about 12 years old; dropping to 83 lbs. by my junior year before finally seeking treatment. For me anorexia was more about control than anything and it will never go away. I still struggle with my weight and body image and it is a battle I will fight for the rest of my life.

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When my husband introduced me to power lifting and body building it changed my life. It made me feel empowered, strong, and in control. Now I am passionate about fitness, eating well, and treating your body with respect.

When I got pregnant with my daughter, I had been “in recovery” for about 5 years. I never thought I’d struggle with the weight gain. I was growing a baby! I was supposed to feel beautiful and glowing with life. The truth of pregnancy is that it isn’t all about glowing and growing. For me it was 10 weeks of constant vomiting. I lost weight and frantically worried that the baby wasn’t getting what she needed. The only things I could keep down were burger king whoppers and french fries and once I stopped throwing up I started gaining fast. I stayed active throughout my pregnancy. I went to the gym 3-4 times a week, walked, ran, and hiked all of the time. Still, by 38 weeks (the last time I got on a scale) I had gained over 70 lbs. and it wreaked havoc on my body. My skin stretched so much it tore open. I was miserable. After birth I was rippled and deflated, I was overwhelmed with a baby who slept too little and cried too much. I was drowning in my own self-hate and the only thing I could think about was how ruined I was. I wasn’t covered in the stripes of a tiger, strong and powerful; I was locked behind the bars of my own skin, forever trapped in a body I hated. I threw myself back into working out; I dieted hard even as I was nursing. I slipped back into my eating disorder so easily that I didn’t even realize I had done it until I saw pictures of myself.

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I didn’t want that to be me. I didn’t want to be so weak, to so easily fall back into something that not only hurts me, but hurts my daughters as well. I’ve read that having an eating disorder in your family history makes your children 10 times as likely to have one. How could I do that to them, doom them to that before they ever had a choice?

My second pregnancy was even harder. I got pregnant less than a month after a miscarriage that already left my body feeling foreign and me out of control. I had gained weight all over and with early complications and lots of life changes; I was left unable to work out at all or with any regularity. I was under so much stress with the bleeding, cross country move, and transient life that I constantly worried about the baby’s brain development on top of everything else.

It’s a vicious cycle. I tried not to worry much about weight gain, but I did anyway. I hate that I struggle with this, ashamed I can’t love myself the way I know I should and the way I deserve to during such an important and amazing part of life. Don’t get me wrong, there were days I felt beautiful pregnant, moments I loved my bump and did feel like I was glowing, but not as many as there should have been.

Now I am 2 months postpartum and still frustrated with my body. I struggled with postpartum depression hard in the first few weeks of Ella’s life and am only just feeling like I might be able to do this mom-to-two-kids thing. I’m still trying to find a balance between my responsibility to my kids, to my husband, and to myself but I admit I sacrifice myself for them more often than I should. I started dieting again and it back fired, my supply dipped so bad I had to supplement with some of my small stash of pumped milk. I thought I was being smart, I didn’t cut my calories too much, but every body responds in its own way and even though I thought I was eating enough my body disagreed. I stopped it as soon as I realized what was happening, but the pain I felt holding a bottle knowing I had caused the problem was quite acute.

Life is complicated and full, throw in parenthood and marriage and it’s easy to get off track. I can’t find the time for myself, to hire a baby sitter once in a while and go dancing with my husband, and to embrace the non-mom side of my life yet, but I am trying. I’m trying to cut myself some slack, it’s only been two months and I am still sustaining a life with just my body. My body that is amazing even if I struggle to remember that. Eventually I’ll get back into it, figure out a routine, sleep through more than one night in a row, leave the house without breaking down in tears… I just haven’t quite gotten there yet.

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