A Love Letter to My Body After 3 Kids
Learning How to Embrace My Imperfect Self
I'm only 28, yet my belly is not as tight as it used to be. My breasts don't sit quite as high, and, if we're being honest, are not even close to being the same size. My nails are more brittle, and I'm starting to see laugh lines appear by my eyes.
If you're like me, you probably spend a lot of time on social media sites. Which probably means that you are bombarded every single day with beautiful pictures of people, families, experiences, homes, and everything in between, that portray that image of perfection that we all strive for. We see perfectly prepared food, toned tummy's, stylish kids, and spotless homes that we wonder if anybody actually even lives there (how do they do it? Seriously?).
If you let it, it can really take a toll on your self-confidence. I found myself constantly comparing myself and working myself into absolute exhaustion, trying to live up to these impossible standards of perfection, and there was ALWAYS more to be done! I wished I could look perfect like the fitness models and make up artists I see on Instagram. I wished my house looked as good as the ones I see on Pinterest. With three kids, that is a task in itself. There are always peanut butter hand prints on a wall, yogurt on the floor, and how did this pair of dirty underwear get on top of the fridge?
I would spend my days just completely immersed in my chores trying to clean up faster than messes were being made. I would obsessively pin organization tips for how to FINALLY GET MY LIFE IN ORDER, FFS! I constantly judged myself, and it made my feel like a complete and utter failure. No matter how hard I tried, my clothes were never good enough. My house was never organized enough. My life was never scheduled enough. I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Not only did it effect my own self-esteem, I inadvertently started judging others for it too. I don't mean I would go to my friend's houses and scoff at their dirty floors or sink full of dishes, no. In fact, I didn't even notice or care about these things when I was visiting with my friends and family. So, why couldn't I treat myself the same?
What I mean is that, and I can only assume, living with me was exhausting, and my constant drive for perfection was driving my (ex) partner, and our children, insane. (Granted, my ex-partner was above and beyond messy, and refused to clean up after himself, which only served to exacerbate my anxiety even further in a vicious cycle, but that's besides the point, for now.)
Ten days after I had given birth to our daughter, and my first child, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight of 145 lbs. I heard over and over again how lucky I was that I had "bounced back" so quickly. Yet, I didn't feel lucky. Those comments were like daggers because I was continuing to lose weight. The first to go was my butt (noooo!) and by the time November rolled around, I was down to 115 lbs. No matter how hard I tried, I could not gain weight. I blamed it on breastfeeding. I blamed it on anxiety. No matter what I did, I just could not figure it out.
Then, two years later, now sitting at around 110 lbs, I became pregnant with my second child. Same thing happened after I gave birth the second time. I shot right back down to my pre-pregnancy weight. My legs were so skinny that no matter how hard I tried, I could not make my thighs touch. My collar bones jutted out. My butt was so flat, it actually hurt to sit down.
Right after I left, I was down to 105 lbs—the skinniest I had ever been in my adult life. I looked, and felt, like a skeleton. It wasn't until a year after I had left my (ex) partner that I started to gain weight. It was a hell of a lot of work. I started tracking my meals to make sure I was actually eating enough calories throughout the day, and doing yoga regularly. I was building muscle and enjoying the benefits of all my hard work, yet I still didn't feel healthy. My mental health was still horrible. I was tired and snappy all the time, and my compulsion to have the perfect body, the perfect home, and the perfect life didn't stop there. I was still comparing myself to other people. I still wasn't happy. Why was I still so unhappy?
I met my current partner and eventually became pregnant with my third child and his first. You'd think that by now, I would be a pregnancy pro. That I would be able to just scoot through this one with no issues and know what to expect and everything would be just fine. BUT NO! Life has a way of laughing in your face when you think you've got everything figured out.
This time, I got the pleasure of dealing with my iron levels dropping through the floor. No matter how much I slept, I was still tired. It wasn't a sleepy tired, either. It felt like my body was 500 lbs. I felt incredibly weak. I was sleeping 12-14 hours a night, and then napping most of the day away. (And, no, I'm not exaggerating.)
Then, throw some rapidly changing hormones into that mix, and you've got an exhausted, uncomfortable, depressed, rage machine that gets anxious from disorganization and messes, yet can't do any of the cleaning and organizing, herself. UGH! My whole family was miserable. They were probably thankful for when I would fall asleep. I was taking iron supplements, but they were just not touching the exhaustion I was feeling. I don't know how my partner managed to stay so calm, cool, and collected through it all. If he was having a hard time dealing, he certainly didn't show it. It really tested our relationship, and... eventually... brought us closer together.
Thankfully, after I gave birth, my weight did not drop so significantly, this time around. It actually took about a month and a half before my belly stopped looking pregnant. Yet, I was still so tired, and it wasn't just sleep deprivation from having a newborn, because my partner and I split the children's care pretty equally. I can only postulate that, with every pregnancy, my iron levels were dropping lower and lower, each time. The third time being the worst.
When our son was about 1.5 months old, and I had just started taking my anti depressants,again, I decided I should continue to take my iron pills that I had been taking when I was pregnant. I just couldn't shake the exhaustion and weakness I felt. I also added in a probiotic and calcium/magnesium. I bought myself a pill organizer, and I take them all religiously every day. So, since my physical health is on the mend, I've been able to focus more on my mental health, which tends to get ignored, especially once you have kids. Everyone else's needs come first, and we forget to take care of ourselves.
What I learned from all of these hardships, be it pregnancy, relationship issues, money problems, etc., was that I was being waaay too hard on myself. I was setting myself, and my family, up for failure again and again. I learned to embrace the "wabi-sabi" of life; the perfect imperfection. But it didn't just happen overnight. It's been a roller coaster ride of smiles, tears, fights, sleepless nights, failures and successes. My partner and I had to work our asses off to learn how to communicate, and how to love each other for who we are, and not who we think the other should be. We've had to learn boundaries, not only for ourselves, but each others. We both needed the support, and freedom, from each other to be able to figure it all out in our own time, and love each other even though I always eat all the leftover pizza and he uses five bath towels in one day.
I had to start meditating every single night, making sure I am taking my medication, not surviving off junk food, and getting a haircut that I actually like. I had to break down my own walls, and confront my insecurities and my shortcomings (and I don't mean perceived shortcomings that we have no control over like having short eyelashes or something). I mean making sure I'm treating other people how I want to be treated, and taking back control of my life to relax and enjoy it, and setting goals, and meeting them, so I can create the life I want to live.
I don't want life to happen to me, anymore. I want to happen to life. And throughout it all, it's my body that gets me through it all. This amazing, beautiful, flabby, wrinkled body. This body created life. These hands write beautiful words, and draw beautiful pictures. This mouth speaks kind words. These feet take me where I want to go.
So, these days, I'm remembering to say "thank you" to this old, meat coated skeleton of mine.
I guess what I'm trying to say is to remember to be gentle with yourself. Even the models in the magazines don't look like that. You are real. You are raw, and you are what makes life so exciting. All of you. All of our differences and our quirks.
So thank you to my un-manicured toes for keeping me balanced. Thank you to my jiggly arms, that although you may not be magazine ready, you give great hugs. Thank you to my hands that are not dainty and don't photograph well, but are perfect for wiping tears, holding hands, and creating art and music. Thank you to my droopy breasts that no longer look good in a swimsuit, but have nourished my three children for six years total. Thank you legs, for climbing mountains and riding bikes. Thank you face, for being indelibly carved with laugh lines, so I can remember all the silly jokes we told, and all the times the people I love made me smile.
Here I am, in all my imperfect glory. I'm sorry for judging you for so long.