Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Blogging Beauty ~ On Post Pregnancy Body Image


noun  beau·ty \ˈbyü-tē\

:  the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit : loveliness

“a woman of great physical beauty exploring the natural beauty of the island”

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever …” — John Keats 

—Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Almost two years ago now, I gave birth to my first child. It was a long painful road just getting to the point I could carry a baby full term. It was surreal and a dream come true I had somewhat abandoned in my mid-twenties. But once it happened and I held him in my arms for the first time I felt the most overwhelming powerful love and knew I would life for and die for this tiny little person.

I struggled with pregnancy and trying to feel that same excitement everyone else seemed to have for me. Mostly because we had lost two within the same year. I guess when you get used to disappointment and that sort of pain, it's hard to let yourself feel excited again. We planned on inducing right before Christmas because I didn't want to go into labor on Christmas. Things seemed to go well, but then he couldn't come out. He was positioned the wrong way. Doc tried turning him a few times, but finally like ten hours later things got serious. They decided on an emergency Cesarean which was pretty overwhelming even doped on drugs. But I went for it, whatever would be best for our kid. Surgery went great without a cinch. When our baby came and was not just alive but perfectly healthy, precious thing, I was ready to face the challenge ahead.

A couple months down the road, my wicked looking scar only ached a little, like when my infant planted an accidental kick down there. But for the most part things were better. I was nursing, writing and loving on my kid. After the initial haze of postpartum cleared and I started to find moments to be "myself" again, I realized I didn't like myself. I was happy being a mother and all. I tried to be a good wife too. But I was heavier than I used to be, plus the loose skin above my scar seemed like it would never go away. My self-esteem dipped a bit and I came to a breaking point near the end of last spring. I wasn't going to keep eating away my image issues or wallow in self pity. I wanted to do something about it.

So, I dragged out my old workout notes from the one-and-only workout class I've attended, plus my old college ballet notes. We live out in the boonies, in a hundred year old farmhouse in the middle of the woods, no joke. So I didn't have a fancy gym or even a neighborhood street/sidewalk to get out and run on. I couldn't very well hop up and down too much on our antique floors, not unless I wanted to fall through them. What was a girl to do?

My husband put forward the obvious, "Drag out my workout mat and do it in the drive, then."

I gaped at him a moment, "What, like in the dirt?" I'll admit it was a prissy moment, coming from a reformed tomboy to boot. But that was my initial reaction. How was I supposed to get on the ground here in the land of freakishly large ants and hybrid spiders, not to mention chiggers and ticks?

He, too, gave me a long wide-eyed stare. "Um, yeah, in the dirt. In the army we worked out outside all the time."

I was doubtful at first, so I dragged him outside with me. "Help me out this first week at least so I can get a routine going." And, sweet man, he did.

Starting out was rough. I got sweaty and dirty and the ground was not only uneven but rocky. The humidity was laying on thicker every day the temperature grew higher with that lovely East Texas summer. But I found the more I did it, the harder I pushed myself, the better I felt about myself. I didn't show results right away. Only metahumans do that, or people who can afford 24 hour fitness trainers and dietitians maybe. Since I was still nursing (and I won't go into the particulars, your welcome) running wasn't so easy at first. But again, I did it until I could do two half-mile laps without stopping. Gradually, with the aid of nursing plus better eating choices, my belly tightened up again. I kept losing weight until I weighed ten pounds less than I had started pre-pregnancy. My confidence grew with it, but also my pride.

Pride, in the right dosages and circumstances can be a very good thing. I was raised in a culture where pride is frowned upon. "Pride comes before the fall" as it's written. In many cases, I've found that to be true. Nobody likes a boastful person. But I am proud to say I put in the hard work and every time my husband tells me I look even more beautiful than when we married, I feel that warmth well up inside again.

Finding beauty isn't as important to me as it was before my kid. While I still crave the money to buy lovelier things, my little boy is first priority for me. Most of the beauty I find now through him, every time he holds my face in his little hands and gives me sloppy kisses. Every time he says "Momma, I wan' hog," and squeezes me tight, I feel that same intangible beauty.

I turned twenty-nine this year. It was a surreal day, for many other legit reasons. But mostly because I could look back at my twenties with fresh perspective. The things I worried over as a tween and teen don't matter so much anymore. I find that if you take pride in yourself, if you let yourself believe you are beautiful, you will find that you are. Because it really is true, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it comes in many shapes and forms. I still have my vain insecure moments, but love tends to wipe those worries away.

To those of you who struggle with post-baby body image, I wish I could give you real hugs. Instead we'll have to settle for virtual hugs ;) And I hope you take some encouragement from my story. I hope you know you are strong and you can do it with enough determination. Don't ever give up. Above all, know you already are beautiful, whether you're plus size or think you're too thin. You're loved and love is beauty.

Last time I shared my personal journey to finding the beauty in myself and spreading it to others. As I recently shared with a fellow author, it's difficult being raw and honest outside my books. I'm not a fan of over-sharing on Social Media. It's been a peeve of mine ever since Facebook turned into "spew every detail of my life at you" version of Myspace. However there is a big difference I realize, between oversharing the mundane details of my not-quite-exciting life vs. being transparent. So that's partly what Blogging Beauty is about for me. I want to use this feature to not only share my favorite lovely things, but also be honest about beauty related issues I see in the world. I hope you are inspired and encouraged. Feel free to share your stories in the comments below.

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