I knew exactly what to expect as I walked down the narrow hallway. Through four full-term pregnancies and one miscarriage, I had visited the ob/gyn an estimated seventy-nine times. And though I hadn’t been back to the office since my last postpartum check-up almost four years ago, familiar feelings welled up inside me.
There it stood, innocent enough. I recognized it as my foe, not my friend. That box was the enemy and its read-out had great power.
I tried to act casual as the nurse chirped, “Let’s just get your weight.” I took off my jacket and shoes. How many pieces of jewelry could I indiscreetly remove before I was officially taking too much time to get on the scale? Hmmm…
One foot went up and then the other. Look down. Close your eyes. Don’t. Look. At. The. . .
Oh my word! I hope I didn’t see that right. Surely that couldn’t be the right number. Was it actually stopping there?
Shame flooded me. How could I have let all that weight creep up on me? The nurse asked me to sit down so she could take my blood pressure. She rattled off a few medical history questions for me to answer, but I could barely focus on her words. That number. All I could think about was that number.
Inside, a battle waged between my rational side and my overly emotional, not-at-all able to be reasoned with one. How could I have missed gaining all that weight? Why had I not been better about checking it? What could I do to get it off, like tomorrow?
Deep, cleansing breath.
Women have, on average, thirteen negative body thoughts a day. I used a whole week’s worth in the fifteen minutes I spent waiting for the doctor to come in. Would she tell me I needed to drop a few?
My kind doctor knocked on the exam room door, came in, and sat down. We small talked our way through topics like crazy forty-year-old hormones and the mammogram I never got. “Do you have any questions for me?” she asked.
She hadn’t mentioned that number, maybe I should.
“Well, I’ve gained some weight…”
She glanced down. “Okay. Hmm. . . What kind of stress are you under? What have your last few months been like?”
I listed our recent home sale and move, homeschooling four children, the pressures of traveling to speaking engagements every week and building a career, while trying to support a husband doing the same. I almost cried a little as I added “endless amounts of laundry and trying to decide how to cook the barely defrosted chicken every night” to the list.
Her response redeemed me.
“Then I’m surprised you haven’t gained twice as much. It’s unnatural to lose weight; your body is trying to protect itself from all that stress. Just relax. It’ll balance out if you keep making good choices.”
Not an ounce of negativity or scorn could be gleaned from her tone. She accepted me just the way I was and said it was okay to be a woman…a real, normal, not-airbrushed to perfection, busy mom type of woman.
One who can’t spend all of her time at the gym and making organic vegetable smoothies.
One who carries a little extra weight in her butt now because she spends hours shuttling kids around in a minivan instead of carrying them about the house to lull them to sleep.
Truth is, I hadn’t even considered how significantly my mommy life had changed. These days, I can’t breastfeed to expend calories, and I no longer have occasion to push a stroller. We try to take a walk everyday but pacing a soon-to-be four-year-old on a Big Wheel barely burns off my daily two tablespoons of salted caramel mocha flavored creamer.
Adjusting to my mommy body after the birth of my first few children was difficult. Things shifted and changed, stretch marks showed up in places I didn’t even consider putting the cream, and parts that used to be firm now were layered with cushion. But, getting used to my mommy body now, at this new stage of motherhood, turns out to be just as tough.
Somewhere along the line I thought that if I could just make it through my baby making days, then I could get back to working on my body. Yet, as you might have already discerned, it didn’t happen that way. And, now, I just don’t want to panic.
Though tempted, I refuse to return to a life of fad diets, self-loathing, and daily mood setting as determined by the bathroom scale. Instead, I may cut back on the number of kids’ granola bars I consume and try to get an actual run around the block into my schedule on the weekends. But, I also want to be realistic with my goals. Missing this stage of my children’s lives because I was too caught up in trying to meet some cultural standard of beauty seems like a waste of valuable time.
My kids love me without six pack abs. And, I doubt my husband has ever noticed all the cellulite on the back of my thighs. I know I don’t need a hot body to be a great mom. I just need a healthy one…and an even healthier attitude about the way it continues to change.
This post was originally published May 12, 2015.