Tag Archives: body image

When the royal bump makes as many headlines as the royal baby

Britain's Prince William, right, and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge hold the Prince of Cambridge, Tuesday July 23, 2013, as they pose for the media outside St. Mary's Hospital's exclusive Lindo Wing in London where the Duchess gave birth on Monday July 22. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Britain’s Prince William, right, and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, hold the Prince of Cambridge, Tuesday July 23, 2013, as they pose for the media on Monday July 22. The duchess’ postpartum profile made just as many headlines as the arrival of her newborn son. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Big news hit this week when Prince William and Duchess Kate appeared with their new bundle of joy for the whole world to see. There was much ado about something – from the excitement over the new heir to the unofficial town crier.

But one thing that shouldn’t have made waves among news headlines and the wide world of the mommy blogosphere was Kate’s “bravery” in showing off her post-baby belly.

What a back-handed compliment that is, isn’t it?

It’s a sad day when “bravery” is the word used when a new mother is shown sporting the natural inflation of her belly one day postpartum – as if she should be expected to hide all proof of pregnancy once her baby is born. The honest truth is, bravery shouldn’t even be associated with the acceptance of this reality – that a swollen abdomen is the natural state of a woman’s belly in the weeks, even months, after birth.

And yet, not everyone accepts this truth.

In an AP article, one woman was quoted as saying the best piece of advice she got before her first child was born was to pack a girdle in her maternity bag, and admitted to even wearing it to bed at night to hide her changed figure. (Read the article here —> http://bit.ly/11gZSxA)

One shapewear company wasted no time in using Kate’s figure to remind new mommies to hide their protruding belly.

If we were to believe Hollywood, women skip out of the delivery room wearing the same size they wore pre-pregnancy. In fact, many actresses take to hiding from the public until they’ve lost all effects the pregnancy has on their bodies.

And the pressure continues for women to feel awful about themselves if they look anything less than perfect.

Here’s the truth. The weeks after having a baby, a new mother should expect to still look pregnant. And after having a child, her body will NEVER look the same as it did before pregnancy. Some may never lose the weight, some will only hold on to a few pounds, and a few will manage to work their way into the same size. But a post-pregnant body is changed forever – from a few new stretch marks, wider hips, smaller or larger breasts, increased shoe size (seriously)….

Sixteen years ago, my mother tried to tell me this truth. I was three months pregnant, still holding on to my teeny tiny pre-pregnancy frame despite a cute little bump where my flattened stomach used to be. I had just gone shopping earlier that day, and found the cutest form fitting dress in a size I could have worn easily three months earlier. At this point, it still looked cute, though my baby belly stretched out the material at the waist. My plan was to save it for after the baby was born. But my mom pointed out that after carrying a baby for nine months, my body would never fit into that small size again.

I didn’t believe her. I reluctantly returned the dress, but I told her that she’d see, I would walk out of that hospital wearing a size 0 carrying my delicate little bundle of joy.

That little bundle of joy ended up being 9 lbs, 12 oz of solid baby. And my body was most definitely transformed after gaining FIFTY pounds throughout the whole pregnancy. While I lost 30 pounds in the hospital (thank you, gestational diabetes and extreme water gain), I held on to the rest of that weight long after the day my daughter was born.

Sixteen years later, and I don’t think my stomach has ever been back to flat.

By refusing to girdle her stomach, Kate was not being brave, she was being honest, and she was showing the public where her priorities landed – on her new son and his first appearance in front of the world. Isn’t that where all our priorities should land – on the miracle of new life instead of how large or small the mother’s belly is?

A body that has been through carrying a human being to full term should not be expected to stay the same – whether the day after birth, or when your child is getting ready to start driving a car. And the pressure of perfection being placed on a woman’s shape at any point in her life needs to stop – especially when it comes to what her body looks like after giving birth.

Bridge over troubled water weight

Here comes the bride
17 pounds ago

Roughly 9 months ago, I was wearing a white wedding dress, and was the smallest size I had ever been in my adult life. I had worked hard to get there, eating healthy foods with no cheating whatsoever, and exercising daily. I was motivated to look my best on my wedding day. Once I set my mind to it, my willpower became unbreakable. I was so successful, in fact, that my wedding dress was a little too big on my wedding day.

I had spent so many months being “good”, that when the honeymoon came, I allowed myself a week of indulgences. “I’m married now,” I joked to my husband. “I can now be fat and happy.” I enjoyed high calorie alcoholic beverages, lots of rice and beans (we were in Costa Rica, after all), BREAD, desserts…pretty much anything I wanted. I figured I was allowed to enjoy myself, that I had earned this after so many months of discipline, and that once I got back home I could get back on the wagon.

17 pounds later...and NOT pregnant
17 pounds later…barefoot and NOT pregnant

I gained 7 pounds on that honeymoon, weight I figured could be chalked up to food weight and lost easily. But I never did lose it. In fact, I ended up gaining 10 more pounds. And here I am, stuck at 17 pounds heavier and NOTHING I do can make it drop lower than that.

I’ve been eating healthy, watching everything I eat and packing my lunch daily. I am exercising, though I just can’t get myself to work out with the intensity I had before. Perhaps it’s because I just don’t have that one thing that motivates me. There’s no wedding dress to fit into, no hundred or so people to stand in front of, no photos to look my best for.

And yet, I am in a slump because I am keeping myself from eating foods just like everyone else, and I might as well be eating cupcakes and hamburgers and ice cream because the scale is not moving and my stomach is starting to look like there’s a bun in the oven.

I’ve done it before. I’ve done it several times before. So why is it so hard to lose weight now? Is 35 that age when the weight comes on….and just stays there?

P.S. Speaking of NOT being pregnant, somehow my name got on a baby mailing list. It might be because I got married last year, who knows. But I have been getting free samples of formula, free diapers, ads for baby life insurance, etc. It’s quite humorous to see my almost 50 year old husband have a near heart attack whenever these mailers arrive at the house. Perhaps it will encourage a little snip-snip, if you know what I mean… Until then, I like to tease him that we can always have another baby so he can watch his kid graduate high school when he’s 70. He’s getting closer to making that call. 😉

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How to answer "Does this outfit make me look fat?"

DQ was in our room this morning putting her hair up and borrowing my make-up – our usual morning routine while I’m getting ready and Mr. W is getting his coffee on. “Does my hair look bad like this?” she asked me. And I paused long enough for her to realize I wasn’t crazy about the look. “You hate it, don’t you,” she asked.

“No, I don’t hate it. It’s just not my favorite,” I admitted. She messed with it some more before finally taking it out and brushing it to start over. Mr. W came back in the room and I booted her out so he could shower. “Sorry, DQ,” I said, knowing she was struggling for her hair to work the way she wanted it to.

“It’s ok,” she said, leaving her mess on the counter for me to clean up. “I think my hair looks better down.” And she closed the door behind her.

“Sorry you have to kick her out,” Mr. W said once she was gone. “I guess this is like your bonding time, right?”

“Sort of,” I replied. “It’s more like her opportunity to use up all my make-up and hairspray, get an opinion on her hair and see if her outfit makes her look fat.”

Mr. W paused thoughtfully, mulling that over before turning back to me.

“How exactly do you answer that question – ‘Does this outfit make me look fat?’” he asked me seriously.

“Well you never say ‘yes’,” I told him. “Even if it does, you never say an outfit makes a girl look fat.”

“So what do you say?” he asked me.

“You say ‘Well, I’ve seen you look better,’ or suggest an outfit that is really flattering on them.”

“Really? That’s like 6 words compared to 1.” He held up his fingers to mimic people talking.

Finger 1: “Does this make me look fat?”
Finger 2: “Yes.”

Or…

Finger 1: “Does this make me look fat?”
Finger 2: “Well, I’ve seen you look better…”

“See?  It’s just way more effort than just telling her that it does,” he said.

“Except that’s not exactly how it would go,” I corrected him, then held up my own fingers.

Finger 1: “Does this make me look fat?”
Finger 2: “Yes.”
Finger 1: “Really. So you’re calling me fat?”
Finger 2: “No, wait. That’s not what I meant.”
Finger 1: “Oh I know what you meant. You think I’m fat.”
Finger 2: “You’re not fat. That outfit doesn’t make you look fat. In fact, it makes you look really skinny.”
Finger 1: “It’s fine. Whatever.”
Finger 2: “I’m serious! Have you lost weight?”
Finger 1: (no longer speaking, but finger manages to give a dirty look)
Finger 2: “I’m really sorry, sweetie.”
Finger 1: (still not speaking, but gives him the finger)
Finger 2: (sighs) “Can we just go now? You look really great.”
Finger 1: “I’m no longer in the mood. Just go without me. I’ll be here starving myself so I’m not so fat.”

Or…

Finger 1: “Does this make me look fat?”
Finger 2: “No, but I think those other pants make your butt look really hot.”
Finger 1: “Hmmmm…. You know, you’re right. I think I’ll wear those. Thank you sweetie!”

I smirked at Mr. W and went back to doing my hair. “See? It actually saves you a ton of time.”  He laughed out loud.

“Really?” he laughed.

“Really,” I told him matter-of-factly. I concentrated on my hair that was having it’s own issues. I had blow dried it, curled it, put it up, brushed it down…and it was flat as a pancake and just not cooperating. “Ugh! I hate my hair! It’s just not working!” I said. I managed to finally get it up in a messy bun that looked almost decent, and then checked it from the back.  I looked at Mr. W and raised my eyebrows quizzically to see what his opinion was.

“Well, I’ve seen it look better,” he said, then ducked behind the bathroom door to take his shower before I could smack him with the towel.

My Flabby Friends

Mr. W and I decided to tackle our first building project together. We had been at Cost Plus World Market, my favorite candy store for home décor I covet, when we came across a shelving system that doubled as a full length mirror. It was gorgeous, made of dark wood, and swiveled so you could use the shelves on one side to store all your miscellaneous crap and then turn it around to hide it all while you checked out your appearance on the mirror side. For a clutter monger like me, this was a brilliant way to make my mess look chic. So we bought it and brought it home, and successfully tackled the project together without even bickering once (mostly).

I already have a full-length mirror in our bedroom. I bought it years ago for my own apartment, hanging it on my bedroom door. I used it all the time to check every side of my outfit. But since it’s a hanging mirror, it nearly fell down every single time I closed the door. So when I moved in with Mr. W I decided to just lean it against the wall rather than hang it for my daily outfit checks. And since it leaned at an upward angle, it had the magical feature of being incredibly slimming. Naturally, this became my very favorite mirror to check my outfit in. I lost about 10 pounds every single time I did the obligatory butt-check in front of it. But when we bought our new swivel mirror, I passed my cheap version of a full-length mirror on to my daughter and anxiously anticipated the completion of our beautiful dark wood mirror.

When our building project was done, we placed the mirror in the corner of the room right near the sink where we had 3 other mirrors on the wall. This was so I could see every single side of me at once while getting ready – a 4-way mirror if you will. And then we swiveled it towards the room and stood in front of it, Mr. W behind me. Except I couldn’t even see Mr. W. He was hidden behind my hips and thighs that seemed to have gained quite a bit of girth since switching mirrors.

Oh my jeez, where did those come from???

Over the weekend I had felt like the belle of the ball. On Saturday I had attended a 1950’s themed Anniversary Party wearing a dress my grandmother had made and worn in the 50’s. It was cinched at the waist and flared out like a bell at the hips. On Sunday was my sister’s bridal shower and I wore another slimming dress that was white with flowers, loosening at the exact place my pooch began to disguise my figure into something way thinner than reality. But in those two dresses, I felt like I was my teenage self again, pretending my butt was dainty and my body lithe. But here in front of the mirror wearing old sweat pants, a shapeless shirt, and nothing to hold up the droopiness of my mom bags, I was suddenly a very distinct pear. It was like I was seeing my body for the first time ever. And it was worse having my boyfriend totally lost behind the fullness of my hips.

Wanda Sykes went on tour sometime after she and her partner adopted a set of adorable twin babies (The “I’mma Be Me” tour). Becoming a parent, Wanda’s material has become that much funnier as she described the antics of her baby boy and girl, and the words we parents would love to say to our own children before they’re old enough to know what “Go the EFF to Sleep” means (sidenote: Have you seen this book?  Totally brilliant. I think I might buy it for my teenage daughter who has forgotten sleep happens at night, even in the summertime). But I nearly died when she started describing her stomach pooch – giving it the identity of “Esther”. Esther loved bread and alcohol, The Cheesecake Factory, and hated Spanx.

Here’s a clip (caution: a tidbit of bad language):

And in her book Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott described “Butt Mind”,  when she goes on vacation and then obsesses about everyone’s butt in relation to hers. On good vacations she’d see a wide variety of butts where hers fit in somewhere in the middle. But on tropical vacations, there were generally a lot of younger and smaller butts, making her butt feel especially wide. And then there were her dimply, jiggly thighs. Thing is, Anne had grown accustomed to the ol’ gals, tenderly referring to them as “The Aunties”, regarding them like faithful friends. She squeezed the Aunties into her favorite swimsuit and made her way down to the beach without even a cover-up. And she felt beautiful and womanly…until she happened upon a group of slender teenage girls. Worse, they looked at her. Worse than that, they turned to each other and gave a look – the same amused look Anne confessed to giving her own friends once upon a time when they’d happen upon a middle-aged flabby woman in her swimsuit.

But then Anne saw something else – a secret. These young girls in their perfect bodies and sunkissed skin, with butts that were tiny and no thighs to speak of whatsoever – they didn’t view themselves as perfect. And in the look they gave each other as they regarded Anne and the Aunties, there was also an unsurety about their own appearance and what they felt they were lacking.

And Anne was suddenly ok in her body once again, and apologized over and over to the poor Aunties – the very same Aunties who had been regarded as beautiful before the teenagers appeared on the beach.

This morning I stood in front of my 4-way mirror as I got ready. While I put on my make-up, I watched how I looked from the side. When I brushed my teeth, I regarded how parts of me moved even after the toothbrush was placed back in its holder. When I secured my hair in a ponytail, I studied the shape of my arms against my sleeves. And while part of me made promises to firm up the parts of my body that were no longer firm, the other part of me remembered the acceptance I had gained over the years for my body. In my youth I had picked apart every single aspect of a figure that needed no changing. My skin was too pale. Fat existed in invisible pockets. My nose was too big. I had too many freckles. What I hadn’t realized was that I would wish for that body more than anything in my later years. What I gained now, however, was the comfort that still existed in my image even when I sometimes wished it were more perfect. I didn’t mind that my skin wasn’t tan. In fact, it was better that way to help prevent lines in my face, or even the somehow more real danger of skin cancer. My nose no longer feels too long. My face may have grown into it, but it’s more likely that I just got used to it. And the freckles I once hated are now one of my most favorite features of my face.

We all have insecurities. It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 2 or size 22, there are parts of ourselves we wish were different. And at the same time, there are parts of our bodies and features that are stunning. An even bigger truth – all of our parts together equal something totally unique and exotic – different from everyone else in this whole entire world. When we compare our bodies with those of other who are younger, fitter, lighter than we are, we are betraying ourselves. We are putting ourselves up against something we will never live up to. I will never be Heidi Klum, no matter how much I exercise or diet. I won’t even be my gorgeous sister or my fit and toned friend. They are not me. And I am not them. All I can be is me. And I am beautiful, as are YOU.

We owe it to ourselves to celebrate in that.

As for the thighs, butt, and mom pooch? I’m not going to lie, I’m still working on that. It’s not an overnight process. But I think I’ve found the answer. I just need to name them something cute and think of them like friends – dimply, flabby friends – but friends nonetheless.